WED: Red-Flag Gun Bill Advances Toward Decisive House Floor Vote, + More

Feb 12, 2020

Red-Flag Gun Bill Advances Toward Decisive House Floor Vote - By Russell Contreras And Morgan Lee Associated Press

Democratic legislators in New Mexico are sending a red-flag gun proposal toward a decisive House floor vote. 

The bill pushed forward Tuesday would allow law enforcement to petition a court for the temporary surrender of guns by people who appear to pose a danger to themselves or others. 

Relatives of gun owners and school administrators can request through a sworn affidavit that gun rights be suspended. 

A House panel endorsed the bill on a 3-2 vote without amendments after hours of public comment and deliberation. 

Supporters of the bill say police need new tools to contain suicide rates and prevent gun violence in the wake of mass shootings. 

Advocates for gun rights have condemned the proposal. 

At least 17 states have enacted provisions for emergency risk-protection orders that allow the temporary seizure of firearms.

New Mexico Public Pension Reform Passes In Senate -Associated Press

The Senate has passed a proposal to shore up New Mexico's overextended pension fund for about 115,000 state and local government workers.

Senators approved the measure Wednesday in a 25-15 vote with some moderate Democrats voting against the measure.

The bill responds to concerns about $6.6 billion in unfunded pension liabilities that are weighing down the credit rating of the state and its largest city and driving up borrowing costs.

Managers of the $16 billion fund overseen by the Public Employees Retirement Association say an economic downturn could severely undermine the fund's long-term solvency and its ability to meet retirement obligations.

Sanctuary Status Clouds City's Access To Public Safety Funds -Associated Press

The top federal prosecutor in New Mexico says the state's most populous city stands to lose out on millions of public safety dollars because its status as a sanctuary city prohibits the sharing of information with federal immigration authorities.

U.S. Attorney John Anderson in an opinion piece published this week said the grant funding is desperately needed to address Albuquerque's high rates of violent crime and he's hopeful the city can find a way to accept the money.

But two city councilors are accusing the U.S. Justice Department of using the funding to pressure Albuquerque into changing its policies.

Wanted Man Pulls Over After Sheriff Calls During Pursuit -Roswell Daily Record, Associated Press

The pursuit of an armed man by New Mexico deputies ended after he called his mother and then got a call from the sheriff — another one of his relatives — who urged him to surrender.

Chaves County Sheriff Mike Herrington said he called Jeremy Graves as he was being pursued in the Roswell area.

Herrington told the Roswell Daily Record that Graves threw the gun out of his car and stopped but didn't get out until deputies tried to break a window to take him into custody.

Graves doesn't yet have an attorney who could comment.

State Auditor To Probe Travel By Albuquerque Councilor -KOAT-TV, Associated Press

New Mexico State Auditor Brian Colón has announced that he is investigating an Albuquerque city councilor's trip to three East Coast cities that cost $6,300 to taxpayers.

KOAT-TV reports Colón and the city's Inspector General's Office said Tuesday both were looking into the June trip taken by Albuquerque City Councilor Klarissa Pena.

Documents obtained by the station show the city paid more than $6,300 for Pena's 12-day trip to Philadelphia, New York City and Washington.

Pena told the television station she took a train because she's afraid of planes.

She also took her husband and two grandchildren and defended the move since she said the family rarely travels. 

Number Of Suspensions Increase At Albuquerque Public Schools - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A school district in New Mexico has released a report that showed over 4,000 more students were suspended last year compared to the previous year, revealing previous improper documentation. 

The Albuquerque Journal reported Monday that there were more than 12,000 student suspensions at Albuquerque Public Schools in 2018-2019, a 51% increase compared to the more than 7,900 students suspended the year before. 

The state Public Education Department says the increase can be attributed to the district not previously reporting all of the suspensions to the state as required, up until last year. 

More than 3,200 suspensions included in the 2018-2019 count were previously in the unreported category, district officials said.

District spokesperson Monica Armenta says the district believed it was reporting everything it needed to.

The government uses the information to designate "persistently dangerous schools" and also serves as a measure of how well students are accessing educational opportunities, department officials said.

New Mexico Panel OKs Plan To Spend $100M To Fix State Dams - By Russell Contreras Associated Press

A plan to spend $100 million to fix dams throughout New Mexico passed its first test Tuesday amid an urgent call to improve the facilities. 

The New Mexico Senate Conservation Committee voted 9-0 to move along a measure that would add funding to fix the state's dam infrastructure. 

Democratic Sen. Pete Campos says the state had no choice but to get started soon on fixing dams or risk a tragedy in the future. 

According to an investigation by The Associated Press, New Mexico leads the nation with the highest percentage of high-hazard dams in either poor or unsatisfactory condition.

Carcinogen Traces Found In Some Clovis Drinking Water Wells - Associated Press

Clovis' public water utility has decommissioned some drinking water wells after finding traces of a cancer-causing pollutant. 

According to the New Mexico Environment Department, the company in charge of Clovis' public drinking water found a known carcinogen in 10 of its 82 wells at the entry point where the water would be piped to households. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has no drinking water limit for PFAS, a group of manufactured chemicals. But the agency has an established lifetime health advisory level for two chemicals in the PFAS group — PFOA and PFOS — at 70 parts per trillion, which means there may be adverse effects if PFAS is ingested above this threshold for many years. 

Authorities believe the substances may have leaked into groundwater supplies from nearby Cannon Air Force Base. For decades, the chemicals were used in firefighting foam for training exercises on the nation's military bases.

The discovery of PFAS in Clovis’ treated water comes a month after the state Environment Department fined the U.S. Air Force almost $1.7 million for failing to monitor the contaminants discharged at Cannon and for letting its wastewater permit expire.

Booming New Mexico Oilfield To Get High-Speed Internet Soon - Hobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

Businesses and residents in the southern end of a southeast New Mexico county likely will have high-speed internet by the end of the year.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports the New Mexico Department of Information Technology on Monday announced a new public-private partnership expected to build much-needed broadband infrastructure in Lea County. 

Officials say the move will accommodate the current economic expansion occurring in the Permian Basin.

ExxonMobil, the state of New Mexico and Plateau Telecommunications Inc. will develop a $5 million fiber network offering advanced broadband services to businesses along a 107-mile route beginning east of Carlsbad and running to Jal, New Mexico.

Stringing fiber optic cables into the Permian Basin is expected to help other businesses, governments and private residents.