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Local News

  • 2018 State Legislature: Legislative roundup, Feb. 11, 2018

    The New Mexican

    Days remaining in session: 5

    Fender bender: Legislators hear from constituents on all manner of issues.

    But several lawmakers said Saturday they had gotten more emails about a proposal to require two license plates on each vehicle than about any other piece of legislation this year.

    The inconvenience seemed to outweigh the potential public safety benefits as the House voted down the idea by a vote of 27-38.

    Sponsored by Rep. Patricio Ruiloba, a Democrat and former Albuquerque Police Department officer, House Bill 158 would have raised the vehicle registration fee by $2 a year starting in 2018 and require a front-end license plate starting in 2022.

    New Mexico is one of 19 states that require only a single license plate on each vehicle. And as crime has risen, Ruiloba has argued the bill is a commonsense measure to address crime.

    Backers, including the New Mexico State Police, argue the requirement would help law enforcement identify vehicles involved in crimes.

    Still, others questioned the merits of raising the fee and about the hassle for New Mexicans who do not currently have a place on their vehicles for a front license plate.

    And there is no accounting for taste, as they say.

  • 2018 State Legislature: Bills earmark funds for school security

    By Andrew Oxford

    The New Mexican

    As gunshots rang out in Aztec High School one morning last December, a substitute teacher was left to improvise.

    She did not have a key to lock the door to her classroom, but ushered her students into a neighboring room and barricaded the door with a couch.

    The gunman entered the classroom the students had just left and fired several rounds through the wall that stood between them. The bullets did not hit any of the students, and the substitute teacher's swift thinking was credited with saving lives.

    The shooting left two students dead elsewhere on campus, and the gunman – who did not attend the school – killed himself.

    "It absolutely could have been a lot worse," Aztec Municipal School District Superintendent Kirk Carpenter told a legislative committee last month.

    Coming at a time when there seems to be another school shooting somewhere in America at least once a week, the episode has become a call to action at the Legislature this session for funding to pay for security improvements on campuses around the state.

  • 2018 State Legislature: Committee blocks bill shielding law enforcement officers

    By Andrew Oxford

    The New Mexican

    A legislative committee on Sunday tabled a bill that could have extended greater legal immunity to law enforcement officers accused of wrongdoing, snubbing a proposal touted by Gov. Susana Martinez amid heightened scrutiny of police misconduct in Albuquerque and beyond.

    Critics of House Bill 279 pointed to what the Department of Justice has called a pattern of excessive force by officers at the Albuquerque Police Department and the death just last year of a 6-year-old boy in a car crash involving an officer at the agency, contending there is plenty of reason to be wary of legislation that could make law enforcement less accountable.

    In an interview with The Albuquerque Journal before the legislative session, the governor said lawsuit settlements were being awarded to what she characterized as "crooks and thieves who are hurt or injured by police officers who are doing their job."

    But that comment came against the backdrop of ongoing controversy surrounding misconduct at the Albuquerque Police Department, which is in the midst of an ongoing reform process overseen by the federal government.

  • US stocks swing back to gains, Dow up 330 on turbulent day

    By ALEX VEIGA, AP Business Writer

    Wall Street capped a day of wild swings Friday with a late-afternoon rally that reversed steep early losses and sent the Dow Jones industrial average 330 points higher. Even with the rebound, this was the worst week for the market in about two years.

    Stocks struggled to stabilize much of the day as investors sent prices climbing, then slumping in unsteady trading a day after the market entered its first correction in two years.

    The up-and-down swings followed a drop of 10 percent from the latest record highs set by major U.S. indexes just two weeks ago. At midday, the market was on pace for its worst weekly decline since October 2008, at the height of the financial crisis.

    The Dow briefly sank 500 points in afternoon trading after surging more than 349 points earlier in the day. The blue chip average suffered its second 1,000-point drop in a week on Thursday.

    The Standard & Poor's 500 index, the benchmark for many index funds, also wavered between gains and losses.

    As of Thursday, some $2.49 trillion in value had vanished from the index since its most recent peak on Jan. 26, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.

  • Trump signs budget deal, government reopens

    By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press

    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday signed a $400 billion budget deal that sharply boosts spending and swells the federal deficit, ending a brief federal government shutdown that happened while most Americans were sleeping and most government offices were closed, anyway.

    The House and Senate approved a bill to keep the government funded through March 23, overcoming opposition from liberal Democrats as well as tea party conservatives to endorse enormous spending increases despite looming trillion-dollar deficits. The House voted 240-186 to approve the bill just before dawn Eastern time, hours after the Senate had approved the measure on a 71-28 vote.

    Trump tweeted Friday morning that he had signed the bill, writing that the U.S. military "will now be stronger than ever before." The budget bill "also means JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!" Trump tweeted.

    The twin votes put to rest a brief federal freeze that relatively few would notice. Many who did quickly labeled it a pointless, head-scratching episode. The shutdown was the second partial government shutdown in three weeks.

  • US flu season still worsening; now as bad as 2009 swine flu

    By MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer

    NEW YORK (AP) — The flu has further tightened its grip on the U.S. This season is now as bad as the swine flu epidemic nine years ago.

    A government report out Friday shows 1 of every 13 visits to the doctor last week was for fever, cough and other symptoms of the flu. That ties the highest level seen in the U.S. during swine flu in 2009.

    And it surpasses every winter flu season since 2003, when the government changed the way it measures flu.

    This season started early and has been driven by a nasty type of flu that tends to put more people in the hospital and cause more deaths than other more common flu bugs.

    But its long-lasting intensity has surprised experts, who are still sorting out why it's been so bad. Flu usually peaks in February.

    Some doctors say this is the worst flu season they've seen in decades. Some people are saying that, too.

    Veda Albertson, a 70-year-old retiree in Tampa, was sick for three weeks with high fever and fluid in her lungs. She said she hadn't been this sick from the flu since the 1960s, when she was a young mother who couldn't get out of bed to go to the crib of her crying baby.

    "It was like 'Wham!' It was bad. It was awful," she said of the illness that hit her on Christmas Day.

  • 2018 State Legislature: State lottery’s luck may have run out

    BY ANDREW OXFORD
    The New Mexican

    The state lottery’s luck may have run out at the Legislature.

    A House committee on Wednesday tabled a bill that would end a requirement that the New Mexico Lottery turn over 30 percent of the gross revenue of ticket sales for the state’s college scholarship program.

    The lottery argues that scrapping the revenue requirement would allow it to boost prizes, in turn raising ticket sales and providing even more money for scholarships, which helped defray expenses for some 26,000 students last year.

    Critics contend the bill would amount to a blank check for the state lottery and mean less money for students.

    The 8-8 vote by the Appropriations and Finance Committee did not kill House Bill 147.

    But it stalls a controversial proposal that has been the subject of an intense lobbying campaign.

    Reflecting perhaps just how contentious the debate is among lawmakers, the finance committee initially voted 9-7 to advance the bill to the floor for a vote of the entire 70-member House of Representatives.

    But one member of the committee changed her vote to “no,” leaving the bill locked at 8-8.

  • 2018 State Legislature: Front-end license plates proposed for New Mexico vehicles

    BY ANDREW OXFORD
    The New Mexican

    What do you have on the front of your car?

    New Mexico is one of 19 states that does not require a front license plate, leaving room for plenty of custom plates bearing the names of automotive dealers, the brands of car makers, the logos of sports teams and of universities and all manner of slogans.

    Plenty of New Mexicans do not have anything at all affixed to their front bumper.

    But the state’s dubious distinction as having the country’s highest rates of automotive theft and property crime is leading legislators to rethink that long-running policy.

    The House Transportation Committee approved legislation earlier this week that would require vehicle owners to get license plates for their front bumpers, with some exceptions.

    Backers argue House Bill 158 would make it easier for law enforcement to identify vehicles.

    But the bill, which is also backed by companies involved with the production of license plates, may also raise concerns about encouraging the proliferation of speed cameras or red light cameras and cause some New Mexicans to peer under their vehicle’s front bumper to make sure they have a place to attach another license plate.

  • Sheriff’s candidate Chris Luchini has eye on bigger picture

    The desire of Los Alamos County to close the county sheriff’s office is not a new idea.

    During the last two years, a round of lawsuits between County Sheriff Marco Lucero and the county have embroiled the two in legal battles.

    Lawsuits, sheriff’s candidate Chris Luchini said, are a waste of time and resources, and taxpayer money.

    He said the lawsuits the sheriff and the county have pending in the courts now would not solve the real problem.

    “No matter how that ruling ends up, it’s not going to be the end of the fight. It’s a waste of time effort and money. Let’s stop doing this. We’ve been doing this for sixty years. Let’s please stop,” Luchini said.

    Luchini, 54, a business entrepreneur who does contract work for the Department of Enery in Los Alamos County, runs an energy company dealing in oil and gas, and renewable energy. He does not have a law enforcement background.

    Luchini would be running against resident Greg White, who has also declared his intentions to run for sheriff. Sheriff Lucero is not able to seek a third term.

  • Authorities continue search for shooter

    Authorities continued to search Thursday for an apparent shooter who, while reportedly driving a white Jeep Wrangler with a blue Marine Corps license plate, pulled up next to another driver and fired shots at him on NM 502.

    The incident happened Feb. 1, at about 6 p.m. on near Pojoaque. The victim was a Los Alamos National Laboratory employee who was headed home from work to  Santa Fe.

    Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Juan Rios said his department has received some calls regarding the incident, but none of them provided any information of substance.

    The victim was taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital where a CT scan determined he had a bullet lodged between his scalp and skull. He underwent surgery later that night.

    The apparent case of road rage has spurred conversation about what drivers should do if they find themselves in an aggressive encounter while behind the wheel.

    That stretch of highway has a reputation of being tough to navigate, especially at the end of the workday when it’s filled with vehicles leaving Los Alamos.

    Even though the area is patrolled by various law enforcement entities, the amount of traffic adds to the hazardous conditions.