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Local News

  • 2018 State Legislature: House committee blocks abortion bill at emotional hearing

    By Andrew Oxford The New Mexican

    Two hours of emotional testimony from New Mexicans on both sides of the abortion debate did not seem to change anyone's mind at the Legislature on Saturday, as a House committee voted along party lines to block a bill that would have required abortion providers to notify parents before their child undergoes the procedure.

    The Republican sponsors behind House Bill 56 said the measure was a simple step to ensure minors make informed decisions with their parents before getting an abortion.

    But critics countered that the measure would hamper the rights of young women in making an intensely personal decision and delay care for patients. The House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee tabled the bill on a 3-2 vote, with Democrats on the prevailing side.

    The bill would have required abortion providers to contact a minor patient's parent or guardian by a certified letter delivered via courier at least 48 hours before their child undergoes the procedure. An exception would be allowed if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest. In such instances, the abortion provider would have been required to report the case to the Children, Youth and Families Department.

  • 2018 State Legislature: Swift end for House bill to reinstate death penalty

    By Andrew Oxford
    The New Mexican

    New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009, and it is not coming back this year.

    A legislative committee on Saturday quashed a bill that would have reinstated capital punishment for the murders of children, police officers and correctional officers.

    The 3-2 party-line vote was no surprise, but it brought out some of the most visceral testimony yet of this year's 30-day legislative session.

    The recently discovered death of 13-year-old Jeremiah Valencia of Santa Fe County and stories of his tortured life loomed over the discussion.

    But so, too, did the story of a former lawmaker's son who was wrongly accused of murder and locked in jail until his exoneration.

    House Bill 155 was just the latest proposal by Republican legislators in recent years to reinstate capital punishment for certain murders. They argued the measure would have made the death penalty an option again for only the worst of the worst criminals.

    Rep. Monica Youngblood, a Republican from Albuquerque and the bill's cosponsor, pointed to the high-profile murders of several children in recent years.

    "While we're all reading the stories of what happened to poor Jeremiah, last session it was Ashlynn Mike. The session before it was Victoria Martens," she told the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee.

  • 2018 State Legislature: Legislature calls on UNM to consider center for movement disorders

    By Steve Terrell
    The New Mexican

    Rob Barteletti falls down a lot.

    The 69-year-old retired teacher, who moved to Santa Fe from Portland, Ore., falls about 100 times a year, sometimes three times a day. After a recent interview with The New Mexican, Barteletti stood up and stumbled as he started to walk. His wife, Karen St. Clair, caught him and steadied him in time to prevent a fall.

    Falling is a common symptom of Parkinson's disease, which Barteletti has suffered for at least 16 years. "He just fell outside before we came in," St. Clair said.

    He's been dealing with the falling, the tremors and the other ravages of Parkinson's for a long time. But when Barteletti and Wells first moved to New Mexico almost four years ago, they discovered another problem, one they didn't have back in Oregon: a scarcity of medical options.

    "When we moved here to Santa Fe to retire, the one thing we didn't check out was how easy it was to get health care," St. Clair said. "And what we discovered was that it was going to take him six months or more to see a movement disorder specialist."

    Barteletti is one of an estimated 10,000 people in the state who lives with Parkinson's disease. The total number of those diagnosed with movement disorders in New Mexico is 250,000.

  • Milenski running for council

     Helen Milenski doesn’t seem to slow down much. 

    Milenski, who has been one of the more visible proponents for property code enforcement reform in Los Alamos County, was heading to a Los Alamos Women in Business Mastermind Group at projectY when the Los Alamos Monitor caught up with her for an interview about her plans. 

    Milenski is looking to win a seat on Los Alamos County Council. Four council seats are up for grabs in the next county election. 

    She picked Rose Chocolatier as the place for the interview, a perfect place to explain how she is going to help small business see better success in a county where many businesses are struggling.

  • LA crime stats show low crime, fewer tickets issued

     The Los Alamos Police Department released its 2017 crime statistics report, and while crime remains low in comparison to other counties in the state, the numbers make the percentages seem alarming.

    For instance, the report shows that violent crime increased by 47 percent over 2016. 

    In 2016, there were 17 violent crimes. In 2017, 25 were reported. 

    One of those violent crimes, aggravated robbery, increased by 100 percent. In 2016, there was one aggravated robbery in Los Alamos. In 2017, there were two. 

    Los Alamos police officers wrote fewer traffic tickets in 2017, in comparison to 2016. In 2016, they wrote 2,825. In 2017 they wrote 2,110. 

    Police department spokesman Commander Preston Ballew said residents reviewing the report should look at the actual numbers, rather than the percentages.

  • Leg. Committee debates fatal child abuse penalty

    By Milan Simonich

    Santa Fe New Mexican 

    State lawmakers did not know Jeremiah Valencia during his short, tormented life.

    But 13-year-old Jeremiah’s death dominated debate at a lengthy legislative hearing Thursday. At issue was a bill to make intentional child abuse resulting in death a first-degree felony that carries a life prison sentence, regardless of a child’s age.

    Under current state law on child abuse, life sentences can only be given to defendants who intentionally kill a child younger than 12. Someone who abuses and kills a child between 13 and 18 can receive a sentence of up to 18 years.

    Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque, said the distinction is senseless and should be eliminated. At age 13, Jeremiah was no more able to defend himself against adult attackers than a younger child would have been, she said.

  • Council seeks plan to filling vacant store

     The vacant box store at the edge of town is a popular topic among locals, and it proved to generate a lot of discussion Tuesday, as well. The old Smith’s Grocery store at Mari-Mac Village Shopping Center is a tough sell for the owners, Kroger-Smith’s executives explained to Los Alamos County councilors Tuesday.

    Kroger Corporation closed the store when it opened the Smith’s Marketplace across the street at 751 Trinity Drive in 2014.

    While council expressed appreciation of the investments the Kroger Corporation has made in Los Alamos, council members had questions about why the corporation was taking so long to find another store for the now vacant storefront that dominates the Mari-Mac Shopping Center. 

  • State budget includes more money for Spaceport America

    By Andrew Oxford

    Santa Fe New Mexican 

    Just a few years ago, some legislators proposed selling Spaceport America.

    They called it a boondoggle or a lagging enterprise that ought to be severed from public funding.

    But this year, lawmakers are poised to put more resources into the $220 million center near Truth or Consequences.

    A $6.3 billion budget approved this week by the state House of Representatives includes $10 million to build a new hangar at the spaceport. It also includes a 45 percent increase in the spaceport’s annual operational budget.

    The proposed financial boost comes as some lawmakers say there are new reasons to be optimistic that the state can become a hub for the space industry.

    Legislators who once criticized the spaceport say the state has simply spent too much money on the project to walk away without trying to make it a success.

  • New Mexico House passes bi-partisan crime bill

    SANTA FE (AP) — The New Mexico House passed public safety legislation Friday that lawmakers say aims to put more police on the streets, and treat more inmates with a substance abuse or a mental illness diagnosis as a way to reduce recidivism.

    The omnibus package includes multiple measures proposed by both Democrats and Republicans.

    It won near unanimous approval in the House on Friday, and now goes to the Senate with about two weeks left in this year's 30-day legislative session in Santa Fe.
    Among the other bills in the package is a measure to increase prison time for violent felons convicted of possessing a firearm.

    There also is a measure to reduce penalties for very low-level infractions, like littering and improperly displaying a license plate. Lawmakers say the measure would allow prosecutors, the courts and public defenders to focus more attention on serious crimes.

    Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have given renewed focus to addressing rising crime rates this year, with an effort to find a bi-partisan approach after years of division over bills that sought to expand the state's three-strikes and mandatory-minimum sentencing laws.

  • Trump nuclear doctrine takes tougher stance on Russia

    By ROBERT BURNS, AP National Security Writer

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Friday announced it will continue much of the Obama administration's nuclear weapons policy, but take a more aggressive stance toward Russia. It said Russia must be convinced it would face "unacceptably dire costs" if it were to threaten even a limited nuclear attack in Europe.

    The sweeping review of U.S. nuclear policy does not call for any net increase in strategic nuclear weapons — a position that stands in contrast to President Donald Trump's statement, in a tweet shortly before he took office, that the U.S. "must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes." In his State of the Union address Tuesday, he made no mention of expansion, though he said the arsenal must deter acts of aggression.

    A 74-page report summarizing the review's findings calls North Korea a "clear and grave threat" to the U.S. and its allies. It asserts that any North Korean nuclear attack against the U.S. or its allies will result in "the end of that regime."