Local News

  • NM Legislature opens doors to pre-filed bills

    SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico lawmakers are getting their first opportunity to file bills for consideration ahead of next year’s regular legislative session.
    The Legislature began accepting “pre-filed” bills on Thursday in advance of a 60 day session.
    Lawmakers convene on Jan. 17 to resolve a budget deficit linked a downturn in the oil and natural gas industry and consider a wide variety of policy initiatives. Lawmakers are honing proposals to crack down on reckless driving, increase funding for childhood education and shore up state finances by legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana, to name just a few anticipated initiatives.
    Democrats will outnumber Republicans 26-16 in the Senate and 38-32 in the House of Representatives.

  • Community stakes high with levy vote

    The University of New Mexico-Los Alamos will ask residents in January to vote for a 1-mill increase in property taxes. The vote will be through a mail-in ballot that’s in resident’s mailboxes in early January.
    UNM-LA is hoping the increase in funds the levy increase will bring will help make up for the steady decline in state funding the school has seen since 2008.
    “At UNM-LA, we have positive momentum, but we are running on very limited resources,” said UNM-LA Campus CEO Cindy Rooney. “We need additional operational funds to be able to restore, continue, and expand strategic programs.”
    Since fiscal year 2008, funding for the Los Alamos campus has declined by 32 percent, or $855,625.
    Between that time, the campus has taken steps to try and offset the decline. The campus has increased tuition by 6 percent every year since 2008 to try and offset the balance. Revenue from contracts and grants has increased from 12 percent to 19 percent during that time period.
    If voters approve the increase, the levy increases property taxes by $33.33 per $100,000 of market assessed property value, $66.67 per $200,000 of market assessed property value and $100 per $300,000 of market assessed property value, etc.

  • McD’s prepares to open
  • Legislative challenge will be budget

    At a Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce breakfast Wednesday, New Mexico Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard (D-Dist. 43) called the state’s budget, “the most pressing issue we’ll be facing.”
    According to Garcia Richard, the estimated shortfall for the coming year is at minimum $150 million dollar. She stressed that filling that gap would only maintain solvency, with no additional money designated to shore up the state’s reserve funds.
    The predicted deficit piles on this year’s $500 million dollar shortage, which the legislature addressed during a special session in September.
    Garcia Richard expects legislators to vote for a tax increase, but noted that Gov. Susana Martinez has said she would not sign such a bill.
    She also stressed the limits of that solution.
    “We cannot balance a budget on raised taxes alone. It’s like the people who say, you cut until you can’t cut anymore,” Garcia Richard said. “It’s the same way with raising taxes. You can’t raise taxes to balance your budget.”
    Garcia Richard also anticipates efforts to close tax loopholes, but she sees such actions as short-term solutions. For her, the real solution is diversifying the state’s economy.

  • New Fly Santa Fe offers non-stop flights to Phoenix

    Northern New Mexico residents can now catch a nonstop flight to Phoenix from the Santa Fe Municipal Airport.
    Fly Santa Fe – an initiative of the Northern New Mexico Air Alliance – had its inaugural flight on Thursday. The alliance is a non-profit group of businesses, cities, counties and attractions that sees Fly Santa Fe as the first step to opening northern New Mexico to new economic opportunities.
    “We’d like to have all of Northern New Mexico using Santa Fe Airport as their hub to connect to the rest of the world,” said Simon Brackley, president and CEO of the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce, one of the partner organizations.
    “If you fly locally, that keeps the money locally, it generates jobs locally and it makes it easier for people to come here and spend money, whether it’s on skiing or real estate or art or technology.”
    Brackley sympathized with Los Alamos’ struggles to initiate air service, emphasizing that Fly Santa Fe is a regional effort.

  • Feds award $2.6B contract to manage Sandia National Labs

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Federal officials have awarded a $2.6 billion contract to manage Sandia National Laboratories to a subsidiary of Honeywell International.

    The U.S. Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration said Friday the winning bidder was National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia.

    Bidding began earlier this year, marking the first time in years that there was any competition for the lucrative contract. Lockheed Martin has operated the Albuquerque-based weapons and research lab for the past two decades.

    The current contract expires April 30. There will be a four-month transition period that officials say will provide stability for employees and operations.

    Federal officials say the bid generated unprecedented interest from the across the country. Other bidders were Lockheed Martin and Boeing as well as a team that including the University of New Mexico, the University of Texas, Texas A&M University.


  • New Mexico taxation secretary resigns amid investigation

    SANTA FE (AP) — The head of the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department resigned Thursday after prosecutors raided her agency's offices and seized her personal tax filings amid allegations she gave preferential treatment to a former business client.

    Gov. Susana Martinez accepted the resignation of Secretary Demesia Padilla and ordered the department to cooperate with an investigation by the attorney general.

    The attorney general served a search warrant Wednesday at state offices to seize personal and business income tax records for Padilla and her husband, Jessie Medina.

    In a search warrant affidavit, an investigator described interviews with several department employees that suggested Padilla may have tried to circumvent an agency audit of a former business client, identified as Harold's Grading and Trucking of Bernalillo.

    Investigators also were examining whether Padilla failed to report income from the company on financial disclosure forms filed with the state in her role as taxation secretary.

    Padilla's attorney, Paul Kennedy, could not immediately be reached for comment. Padilla took office as the state's top taxation official in January 2011 at the outset of Martinez's first term as governor.

  • New Mexico finds no 'red flags' after inspecting nuke dump

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — No red flags were uncovered during a recent state inspection of the federal government's underground nuclear waste repository as the troubled facility prepares to reopen, New Mexico Environment Secretary Butch Tongate said Wednesday.

    The department's team of inspectors focused on reviewing issues that dated back to a 2014 fire involving one of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant's mining trucks and a separate radiation leak that contaminated much of the underground disposal area and forced the repository's indefinite closure.

    Tongate described the review as thorough, explaining that the state has a responsibility to make sure the U.S. Energy Department and the contractor that manages the repository have addressed the numerous violations that stemmed from the two incidents and that corrective actions had been taken.

    "We've waited for nearly three years. We don't want to get anxious and jump too far without taking a real close look at it," he said. "We're being cautious."

    Once the state inspectors finish compiling their observations, the state Environment Department will formally notify the DOE and the contractor of any shortcomings that need to be addressed before operations can resume.

  • Famine to Feast gives Secret Santa opportunity

    Do you know of an individual or family who could use food or clothing or a gift this Christmas, but you do not want to embarrass them by bringing the items to their door? Or perhaps you have a warm blanket or coat you would like to pass on to a homeless person but do not know how to go about that.
    Famine to Feast will do that for you. The 501c 3 organization has designated Dec. 16–25 as “Secret Santa” time.
    “We’re always looking for ways to try to help our community. And in keeping with what we do, we try to facilitate…it doesn’t always have to be food,” co-founder Jaret McDonald said.
    Famine to Feast is dedicated to getting food and other donations from donors to where they are needed.
    “But this is the time of year when we’re not really busy because we’re an instant food type of donation,” McDonald said, noting that during the Christmas season most people save their food to contribute to food drives.
    So instead of an “instant donation” to a food bank or another charitable organization, Feast to Famine decided to play “instant Santa.”

  • County council approves selling parcels through real estate agent

    The Los Alamos County Council voted 6–0 at its Dec. 6 meeting to try marketing parcels A-8 and A-12/A-13 through a real estate agent. Councilor James Chrobocinski recused himself, stating that although he had no intention of bidding any the Request for Proposals (RFP), some of the agents who work for him might do so.
    Councilor Kristin Henderson – whose term ends this month – proposed the idea.
    “My main goal here is that we try to proactively address our severe housing issue,” Henderson said.
    Henderson – a real estate agent – used statistics provided by RE/MAX to illustrate the need for housing development.
    Those statistics included the absorption rate: how long it would take to absorb all houses on the market on a given date. According to Henderson, six months is a good absorption rate, which is the average for the past four or five years. The current absorption rate is 15 days.
    Over the last three years, the average days on the market was 90, which Henderson called “a good, strong market.”
    “Right now, 70 percent of our houses sell in three days,” Henderson said.
    Henderson also noted that the average number of homes on the market for the 12 years she has been selling real estate was 175. As of last Tuesday, only 18 homes were listed.