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Today's News

  • Local optometrist, community activist announces bid for Dist. 43

    Lisa Shin, a local business owner who has become active in the county Republican Party and local politics, is ready to take her mission to the New Mexico State Legislature.

    “This was an amazing opportunity for me to get involved in the political process,” Shin said. “I saw an opportunity and a door for something for me to talk about things I really care about.”

    District 43 covers Los Alamos County and parts of Sandoval, Santa Fe, and Rio Arriba counties. Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard has announced her plans to vacate the seat and run for the statewide office of land commissioner.

    Democrat Pete Sheehey announced in early December he would run for the seat. No other Republicans or Democrats have stepped forward.

    Tax reform, health care and the Los Alamos National Laboratory are all issues Shin plans to talk about in her campaign.

    If elected, Shin wants do more to help the Los Alamos National Laboratory safely accomplish its core mission of maintaining the country’s nuclear stockpile. She has read reports of LANL’s recent safety lapses.

    “We need to align ourselves with the concerns of the staff and the employees,” Shin said.
    One way Shin believes that could probably be accomplished is through a more independent review process.

  • 2018 State Legislature: Building comaraderie but squandaring time

    By Steve Terrell The New Mexican

    At the end of every legislative session, there are dozens of bills that die on the House or Senate floor. When asked what happened, legislative leaders invariably shrug their shoulders and say, "We just ran out of time ..." Which is true.

    But in the days and weeks that lead to the last moments of a session, lawmakers eat up untold hours – joking around, talking sports, engaging in ceremonial activities and spending time on legislation that doesn't have the force of law.

    Call these activities "time bandits." Gov. Susana Martinez last year struck a chord – even with some of her critics – when she blasted lawmakers for spending time on "meaningless bills," such as those to establish an official state dance or state holiday song or official state hamburger.

    Martinez was unhappy because the Senate did not hold confirmation hearings on many of her nominees and didn't pass bills she was pushing. The time the House and Senate spend on nonbinding pieces of legislation, known as memorials, causes much of the heartburn.

  • 2018 State Legislature: Dems again push to use land grant to fund early childhood education

    By Andrew Oxford

    The New Mexican

    A ballot measure that calls for using more money from the state's $17 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood education is a small step closer to going to voters this year.

    The House Education Committee on Monday voted 7-6 along party lines to approve the constitutional amendment that backers say could expand access to education programs for young children across New Mexico, the state with the highest rate of child poverty.

    Republicans on the committee voted against the proposal. They say it could deplete a fund that now props up the budgets of New Mexico's public schools and is supposed to last forever.

    Democrats in the House of Representatives have made a priority of getting the measure, House Joint Resolution 1, on the November ballot. The measure is likely to pass out of the full 70-member House on a close vote.

    Unclear is whether budget hawks from both parties in the Senate could be persuaded to support it. They have blocked the measure in the past.

    Founded after New Mexico's entry to the union in 1912, the Land Grant Permanent Fund has accumulated revenue from a booming oil and gas industry. That money has in turn been invested in a sprawling portfolio, generating yet more revenue.

  • 2018 State Legislature: Bipartisan bill would reform state’s troubled guardianship system

    By Bruce Krasnow
    The New Mexican

    Two Albuquerque lawmakers have introduced a 165-page bill that would revamp the way state courts handle adult guardianship cases, mandating open court records, more oversight and auditing.

    Republican state Sen. Jim White said he was approached by constituents who raised concerns about guardianship laws even before recent high-profile criminal investigations disclosed widespread problems with two nonprofit guardianship companies. The owners and managers of the firms in both cases have been charged with stealing millions of dollars from clients, and the need for more protection of vulnerable people in guardianships has drawn national attention.

    In one case, the Albuquerque firm Ayudando Guardians and its owner, financial manager and family members were charged in U.S. District Court with multiple counts in connection with the theft of some $4 million from trust accounts of more than 100 clients. The defendants were accused of using the money to purchase vehicles, and to pay for rent, personal expenses, vacations and even a luxury box in The Pit to watch University of New Mexico basketball.

    The case came to light when several employees of Ayudando approached federal agents in Albuquerque.

  • End to government shutdown in sight as Dems halt filibuster

    By ALAN FRAM, ANDREW TAYLOR and ZEKE MILLER, Associated Press

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress sped toward reopening the government late Monday as Democrats reluctantly voted to temporarily pay for resumed operations, relenting in return for Republican assurances that the Senate will soon take up the plight of young immigrant "dreamers" and other contentious issues.

    The vote set the stage for hundreds of thousands of federal workers to return on Tuesday, cutting short what could have become a messy and costly impasse. The House was expected to vote later in the day.

    But by relenting, the Democrats prompted a backlash from immigration activists and liberal base supporters who wanted them to fight longer and harder for legislation to protect from deportation the 700,000 or so younger immigrants who were brought to the country as children and now are here illegally.

    Democrats climbed onboard after two days of negotiations that ended with new assurances from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that the Senate would consider immigration proposals in the coming weeks. But there were deep divides in the Democratic caucus over strategy, as red-state lawmakers fighting for their survival broke with progressives looking to satisfy liberals' and immigrants' demands.

  • Federal workers frustrated by back-and-forth over shutdown

    By MATTHEW BARAKAT and RICHARD LARDNER, Associated Press

    WASHINGTON (AP) — As Congress appeared ready to reopen the government Monday on the third day of a shutdown, some federal workers said they are frustrated over a political battle had put their jobs on hold and left them in limbo.

    J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 700,000 federal and D.C. government workers, said his members are exasperated that the inability of Congress and President Donald Trump to negotiate a budget led to the shutdown, which effectively cut the federal workforce in half Monday, as hundreds of thousands of workers were sent home.

    "We can't be the ball for the ping-pong game," Cox said Monday, after Senate Democrats dropped their objections to a temporary funding bill in return for assurances from Republicans leaders that they will soon take up immigration and other hot-button issues.

    Before the government can reopen, the Senate must vote on final passage, the House must approve and Trump must sign the measure.

    "There's still a lot of confusion. There's still not a done deal. There's apprehension that this could still fall apart," Cox said.

  • Land commissioner urges state to halt oil drilling permits

    State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn is asking Gov. Susana Martinez and Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Cabinet Secretary Ken McQueen to stop misappropriating revenue from the Oil and Gas Reclamation Fund and instead use the money for its intended purpose, which includes plugging abandoned oil and gas wells located on State Trust Lands.

    In a letter delivered Friday to Gov. Martinez and Secretary McQueen, Dunn urged the Oil Conservation Division (OCD) of EMNRD to cease issuing new drilling permits until the Division adopts a five-year plan for plugging and reclaiming the estimated 600 abandoned unplugged oil and gas wells on state trust lands.

    The Oil and Gas Reclamation Fund was established in 1977 and authorizes OCD to make expenditures for surveying, plugging, and restoring and remediating abandoned well sites and associated production facilities.  
    In Fiscal Year 2017, OCD used the fund to plug only one abandoned well on the lands.

    “Abandoned unplugged wells devalue State Trust Lands and impact revenues we earn for public schools, universities, hospitals, and other institutions supported by the State Land Office,” Dunn said.    

  • Parties reach agreement in N.M. rate case

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — New Mexico’s largest electric utility and other parties are throwing their support behind a rate increase proposal adopted by state regulators.

    A divided Public Regulation Commission approved the revamped proposal earlier this week. It calls for spreading out a roughly 1 percent increase over two years.

    Public Service Co. of New Mexico estimates the average increase would be closer to 1.4 percent when other adjustments are factored in.

    The commission had set a deadline of noon Friday for the parties to sign off. With their acceptance, the contentious case is expected to be closed soon.

    Part of the negotiations among the utility, state attorney general’s office, consumer groups and others focused on coal-related investments. The federal tax overhaul also ended up playing a role as the utility plans to pass along savings from lower corporate tax rates.

  • 2018 State Legislature: Bill would allow spaceport to shield records

    Lawmakers are proposing to create a carve-out in the state’s open records law for Spaceport America that would allow it to keep secret any information about companies or government agencies blasting rockets from the Southern New Mexico site.

    The Spaceport Authority, which runs the $220 million public facility, has pushed in recent years to exempt part of its work from the Inspection of Public Records Act, arguing it needs to ensure at least some measure of confidentiality to high-tech aerospace companies that might be interested in doing business at the center near Truth or Consequences.

    Though boosters have pointed to the spaceport as a potential economic driver for the southern end of the state, its high cost has drawn criticism and raised concerns about proposals to shield information about its work or finances from the public.

    Transparency advocates argue that as long as taxpayers own the spaceport – and are still paying off its construction – the controversial facility’s records should remain open to the public. And the facility is already facing scrutiny for its handling of public records requests from journalists.

  • 2018 State Legislature: Martinez rebuffs speculation about post-term plans

    BY ANDREW OXFORD
    The New Mexican

    Guessing what Gov. Susana Martinez might do next after she leaves the state’s top elected office at the end of 2018 has become something of a parlor game in New Mexico politics.

    Just a few years ago, observers occasionally mentioned the two-term Republican as a potential vice-presidential nominee in 2016.

    Too late for that but might she run for U.S. Senate?

    “Why would I want to be one of 100?” she said Thursday.
    What about becoming a federal judge?

    Boring, the governor replied.

    At the end of a press conference in her cabinet room, Martinez invited reporters to toss out rumors about her next political move and proceeded to knock down one idea after another, seeming eager to address theories that have run rampant but leaving unanswered a big question that looms over New Mexico politics.

    The Republican’s political prospects were particularly bright just a few years ago. She led the Republican Governors Association and seemed to be just the woman the party needed to keep from working itself into a corner as a party for white men. But that was before the ascent of Donald Trump and a slide in her own approval ratings.