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Today's News

  • 2018 State Legislature: Bill to fund new Code Talkers museum passes Senate committee

    BY ROBERT NOTT
    The New Mexican

    The Navajo Code Talkers were not so much the silent warriors of World War II as they were the indecipherable heroes of the Japanese theater of combat.

    The Code Talkers, many of whom were from New Mexico, used their native language to confound the Japanese in planning battles, calling for reinforcements and transmitting requests for food, ammunition or medicine.

    Many military historians credit them with helping to win the war.

    “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would have never taken Iwo Jima,” Marine Maj. Howard Connor once said of a famous and pivotal battle. He served as a signal officer for the Marines’ Code Talker unit during the Iwo Jima campaign.
    Now one of few Code Talkers still living, state Sen. John Pinto, D-Gallup, wants to honor their legacy with a museum.

    On Tuesday, he moved one small step closer to that goal after the Senate Indian and Cultural Affairs Committee unanimously voted for a bill asking the Legislature to allocate $1 million to build a Navajo Code Talkers museum and veterans center in New Mexico, near the Arizona border.

  • New Mexico lawmakers seek to protect net neutrality

    SANTA FE (AP) — Two Democratic state lawmakers in New Mexico have proposed consumer protection legislation in response to the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of net-neutrality rules, urging the state's Republican governor on Tuesday to allow a vote on the measure.

    Gov. Susana Martinez has discretion over whether non-budgetary bills can be heard during a 30-day legislative session and has not responded.

    The FCC last month repealed Obama-era rules and gave internet services providers a free hand to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit or charge more for faster speeds.

    Sen. Howie Morales of Silver City and Rep. Bill McCamley of Mesilla Park said Tuesday that their bill would prohibit paid prioritization of internet traffic as an unfair and deceptive trade practice under the state's Unfair Practices Act, and provide funding to state prosecutors for enforcement. They say the legislation would protect small businesses, schools and families from price gouging and unequal internet access.

    Several states have introduced bills to protect net neutrality, while the FCC's order bars state laws from contradicting the federal government's approach.

  • LA resident Keller killed in traffic accident

    Many friends are mourning the loss of Zach Keller, a Los Alamos resident who died in a car crash on State Road 30 Jan. 24 at around 7 p.m. Just 29 years old, Keller was traveling south on State Road 30 when his Toyota Corolla vehicle drifted over into the northbound lane into oncoming traffic.

    A GoFundMe page was set up by his sister-in-law, Ashley Keller, and a memorial page on Facebook has been established.

    In an email, Ashley Keller recounted what a great uncle and brother-law  he was.

    “Zach was the best brother in law I could have asked for. He had a warm and loving nature; taking his compassion, and warm smile's with him everywhere he went. He was always able and willing to help those in need, helping with anything from yard work, to one of his famous hugs,” Ashley Keller said. “He was a silly and loving Uncle always taking the time to toss his Nieces and Nephew in the air, or cuddling on the couch with a good movie. He filled the short time he had with the children with joy, laughter and love.”

    Ashley Keller said she was also thankful all the outpouring of donations and support the family has received since his passing.

  • 2018 State Legislature: New Mexico state spending plan heads to House floor

    SANTA FE — A plan to boost spending on roads and provide pay raises to top New Mexico elected officials, state workers and teachers is headed to the state House of Representatives for a vote.

    A House budget writing committee endorsed the $6.3 billion general fund spending plan on Tuesday. Amendments can be made as the bill moves toward House and Senate votes. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez can veto provisions line-by-line.

    A boom in local oil production and rising petroleum prices are bolstering state government finances. Government income is expected to surpass current annual spending obligations by $292 million during the coming fiscal year.

    The plan would provide a 10 percent pay increase to statewide elected officials including the governor, attorney general, state treasurer, state auditor and secretary of state, as well as members of the Public Regulation Commission who regulate investor-owned electric and gas utilities. Those pay raises would take effect January 1, 2019.

    Democratic House Finance and Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Patricia Lundstrom of Gallup said surging state income is being channeled toward compensation for state workers. She highlighted $80 million in proposed spending on road construction and maintenance, with one-quarter of that funding designated for local projects.

  • Commissioners reach rights of way agreements with 4 pueblos

    SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Santa Fe County commissioners have approved settlements ending rights-of-way disputes with four northern New Mexico pueblos.

    The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the settlements approved Tuesday clarify rights of way for 34 miles of roads through Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso and Tesuque pueblos through the year 2216.

    Under agreements with Pojoaque and Tesuque, the county is granted rights of way for roads it maintains within the pueblo boundaries. The rights of way for roadways within Nambe and San Ildefonso pueblos go to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

    All roads will remain open to the public, but San Ildefonso and Nambe have the right to close roads temporarily for cultural events.

    County Manager Katherine Miller says she believes the county and pueblos can resolve any other issues that arise.

     

  • Dems, GOP to debate newest early childhood ed plan

     A move to fund early childhood education through a constitutional amendment could be debated on the House floor as soon as today. 

    Democrats want to fund early childhood education through New Mexico’s Land Grant  Permanent Fund. 

     

    The resolution calls for an amendment to the state constitution that would require 1 percent (Between $151-$161 million) of the Land Grant Permanent Fund be dedicated to funding early childhood education.

    State Reps. Stephanie Garcia Richard (D-43), Javier Martinez (D-11) and Antonio Maestas (D-16) are the sponsors of House Joint Resolution 1. 

    The legislation has been around since 2013, but has not been able to make it out of the Senate, as Republicans are calling for a more comprehensive approach. 

  • 2018 State Legislature: Legislative Roundup Jan. 30

    Days remaining in session: 17

    Soda tax study fizzles out: Senators do not like the taste of a proposal to study the effects of taxing soda.

    A memorial by Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino that would have tasked the Legislative Finance Committee with studying the potential benefits to health and the state’s revenue of imposing a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages met bipartisan opposition in the Senate Rules Committee on Monday.

    Ortiz y Pino, a Democrat from Albuquerque, said the study would give the Legislature information to better understand the health effects of soda, and whether taxing sugar-sweetened beverages would be beneficial in a state where obesity and diabetes are prevalent.

    But the proposal follows a campaign last year to impose a soda tax in Santa Fe. The beverage industry strongly opposed the tax. And voters in the state’s capital overwhelmingly rejected the proposal.

    Senators on Monday danced around the legislation, arguing it seemed unhelpful to single out sodas for study instead of a broader array of junk food. Some mentioned it would be better to revisit the tax rates on food generally.
    Democrats joined Republicans in voting down the idea 6-3.

  • Brighter forecast prompts lawmakers to beef up proposed raises

    By Andrew Oxford The New Mexican

    Teachers and state employees might get a bigger raise than legislators and Gov. Susana Martinez originally proposed. Following a brighter financial forecast for the state, the House Appropriations and Finance Committee on Saturday approved a $6.32 billion budget proposal that calls for increasing the size of raises for civil servants.

    It also would add more money for prosecutors, public defenders and economic development programs. The budget would amount to a 3.9 percent increase over this year and is largely in line with what the Republican governor has recommended.

    The committee's unanimous vote contrasted sharply with the partisan split that emerged amid efforts to fix a budget shortfall last year. But it is also just one step in a process that has a long way to go as the legislative session enters its last two weeks.

    Economists told the Legislature on Thursday that the state could expect more revenue than was anticipated for the fiscal year that begins in July, boosting the budget by $93 million.

    An improving oil and gas industry is responsible for the brighter outlook. The same forecast added some $158 million in expected revenue for the fiscal year that ends in June.

  • 2018 State Legislature: Sen. Pirtle: Exempt healthier food from tax

    A state senator wants New Mexico to resume taxing a wide variety of foods while leaving exempt a selection of healthier groceries, arguing the move could encourage better nutrition in a state where diabetes and obesity are prevalent.

    New Mexico ended the gross receipts tax on groceries in 2004, but Senate Bill 129, sponsored by Sen. Cliff Pirtle, would levy taxes on groceries except for meat, tortillas and anything covered by the federal Women Infants Children nutrition program, commonly known as WIC.

    And Pirtle’s bill also calls for restricting food stamp purchases to meat and products covered by the WIC program.

    Pirtle, a Republican dairy farmer from Roswell, argues this could support better nutrition.

    But health aside, the proposal comes amid ongoing debate about tax reform and whether New Mexico would be better off taxing food again in order to make it feasible for the state to lower the overall gross receipts tax rate shoppers pay for most purchases. It is also likely to meet staunch opposition from advocacy groups that argue reinstating the food tax would hit the poor hardest. And Democrats are likely to oppose limiting how the roughly 460,000 New Mexicans enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can use their benefits.

  • Aspen Elementary put on lockdown this morning; situation resolved quickly

    Aspen Elementary School officials locked down the school for about an hour at about 10:15 a.m. Monday when a resident reported seeing a person walking near the school with what appeared to be a rifle.

    “A community member called this morning saying they saw a young man near Aspen with a rifle; we are not sure if it was a toy or a real weapon,” School Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus said in an email.

    Los Alamos police immediately contacted Aspen Elementary School officials and told them to go into lockout mode, Steinhaus said.

    A lockout is when all the doors and windows to the outside of the building are locked and no one is allowed outside until the situation is resolved.

    According to police, the rifle was an air gun, and the person in possession of it was walking by the school to go to target practice in a nearby canyon.

    Aspen Elementary Principal Kathryn Vandenkieboom said the students and the staff were never in danger. The lockout was lifted at 10:35 a.m.

    School is scheduled to proceed with regular hours, Vandenkieboom said.

    Vandenkieboom also said the staff had just taken a three-hour safety course last week, so everyone knew what to do when they were informed of the situation by police.

    No citations were issued in connection with the incident.