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Today's News

  • Acting Interior secretary to visit New Mexico oil region

    HOBBS (AP) — Federal officials say acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt plans to visit a city at the center of New Mexico's oil country on Wednesday to promote energy development on public lands.

    A department spokeswoman says Bernhardt will visit residents and federal workers in Hobbs, where oil production has led to a recent economic boom in the region.

    Officials say Bernhardt will visit residents and Bureau of Land Management employees in Hobbs.

    President Donald Trump on Monday said he intended to nominate Bernhardt — a Washington veteran with lobbying ties to

    U.S. energy companies — to lead the department.

    Democrats and environmental groups say he's vulnerable to conflicts of interest.
     

  • Bills raise public records issues on costs, expunction

    By Robert Nott
    The New Mexican

    State Sen. John Sapien says he wants the general public to bear a greater share of the cost for public records.

    Sapien, D-Corrales, has introduced a bill that would require people to pay up to a dollar per page for electronic copies of these documents.

    "It's not nefarious," he said of his Senate Bill 442. "The reality is public records cost money, and the time and energy put into putting together an electronic copy of a request is the same as a print copy."

    Sapien said his proposal is not a step away from transparency.

    Melanie Majors, executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, disagrees.

    "Agencies should never attempt to prevent access to public records by charging excessive fees," Majors said.

    The state Attorney General's Office last September issued an opinion that said the University of New Mexico violated the state's Open Records Act when it charged a fee of $586.60 for an electronic public record.

  • Governor backs plan for outdoor recreation agency

    By Andrew Oxford
    The New Mexican

    Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Tuesday threw her support behind legislation establishing a state office of outdoor recreation, which an unlikely coalition of backers say would boost an industry they view as key to diversifying New Mexico's economy.

    The newly elected Democrat did not just put her political muscle behind the idea, either. She put her calf muscles behind it, bicycling from the governor's mansion to the Capitol in a show of support for Senate Bill 462.

    "Montana, you're done. We've got it all right here," Lujan Grisham later told reporters.

    She was probably only half-joking. Her administration has quickly put the tourism and outdoor industries at the top of its economic development efforts.

    And a crowd ranging from conservationists to conservative rural lawmakers are on board. They see the outdoors as a resource they can capitalize on to buoy communities that have struggled economically or are facing a future in which old industries might no longer be reliable.

    Senate Bill 462 would set aside $1.6 million to establish the Outdoor Recreation Division within the Economic Development Department.

  • Lawmaker aims to ease burden for independents to run for office

    By Andrew Oxford
    The New Mexican

    If you wanted to run for governor as an independent last year, you would have needed to get more than 15,000 registered voters to sign a petition to get your name on the ballot.

    It was a nearly impossible goal.

    New Mexico law sets a high bar for independent candidates to even qualify for an election.

    A new state legislator wants to make it easier for independents to run for office by drastically slashing the number of signatures they need to file with election officials.

    While the Legislature has consistently shot down past proposals to loosen up New Mexico's notoriously tight ballot access laws, one top Democrat appears to be on board with the idea.

    "I think it's really good," House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, told reporters Tuesday after putting the bill on a sort of fast track through the usual committee process.

    Current law requires independent candidates to get signatures from at least 1 percent of the number of voters who cast ballots for governor in their district during the last gubernatorial election.

    That often means independent candidates must get many times the number of signatures that candidates from the major parties have to collect.

  • Legislative roundup, 2-6-2019

    The New Mexican

    Days left in session: 38

    Keeping doctors: State senators voted 32-0 Tuesday for a bill that would generate more private money to recruit and retain osteopathic physicians.

    The measure, Senate Bill 21, would supplement existing funding in a medical school loan repayment program for osteopaths providing primary care.

    Proceeds from a $100 increase in the cost of an osteopathic physician's initial or triennial renewal license would go into the fund. A legislative staff analysis of the bill projects it will raise $31,500 a year.

    Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, is sponsoring the bill. It now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

    Transgender vital records: A bill to make it less complicated for transgender people to change the sex designation on their birth certificate cleared the Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 26-13.

    The sponsor, Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, said Senate Bill 20 is of great importance to transgender people. He said they want to identify their gender rather than having an old government record do so.

  • Governor orders withdrawal of Guard troops at the border

    By Daniel J. Chacon
    The New Mexican

    New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered the withdrawal Tuesday of most National Guard troops who have been deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border, reversing a decision by her Republican predecessor.

    The Democratic governor, who directed other states to pull their Guard troops out, too, announced her decision just before Republican President Donald Trump delivered a State of the Union address in which he continued to push for the construction of a wall along the border -- one of his signature campaign promises.

    A spokeswoman for the governor said 118 Guard troops are currently deployed to the border, including 25 from out of state.

    "I reject the federal contention that there exists an overwhelming national security crisis at the southern border, along which are some of the safest communities in the country," Lujan Grisham said in a statement issued Tuesday evening.

    "However," she said, "I recognize and appreciate the legitimate concerns of residents and officials in southwestern New Mexico, particularly Hidalgo County, who have asked for our assistance, as migrants and asylum-seekers continue to appear at their doorstep."

  • Winter storm moving in tonight

    Winter weather is expected to roll into the area again Tuesday night.

    The storm, headed eastward with wind gusts reaching 50 miles an hour, is expected to deposit snow across Los Alamos County up to three inches according to the National Weather Service.

    “It won’t be a huge storm, but it is the first time we’ve seen snow in about two weeks,” Guyer said. “The combination of snow with some strong winds tomorrow is going to make it pretty wintery out there. It’s only going to get up into the mid 30s, so that’s going to make it even colder with the wind.”

    At that time, temperatures are expected to dip below freezing with wind gusts of 50 miles an hour. While overnight, intermittent snow showers may occur, the snow is really expected to start after 8 a.m. tomorrow and stop sometime Wednesday night. Meteorologist Brian Guyer said while the commute to work may not be so bad, going back home may be more challenging.

    “People will be OK coming up the hill, but as we go through the day, conditions will deteriorate. The ride home may not be as easy. I think for a lot of folks it’s going to be the cold and the wind that’s going to be the most noticeable factor, and that will continue through Thursday.”

  • In The Lab: Asking the right questions

    LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY

    In 1980s Kharagpur, India, the patterns dotted on the punch cards caught Tanmoy Bhattacharya’s eye.

    Scattered across the paper, the clusters of tiny holes represented answers. The computer had all the knowledge. He just had to ask the right questions with the cards to get it — “talk nicely to the machine,” as he likes to say today.

    Working in a laboratory, Bhattacharya began to see the broader picture of how an IBM 1620 — a very early computer that was loud, large and cumbersome with flashing lights and dials — thought and worked.

    Head down, he clicked away, perforating his cards on a typewriter-like machine. All the little notches would create programming and data sequences for the computer.

    This work was tedious, but it helped him understand the machine’s logic and how it functioned, from the hardware to the operating system. 

    And it ultimately propelled his career toward the pursuit of some of the most advanced science ever known.

    “Once you know the difficulties of designing a language, the rules of the computer language are no longer arbitrary. Rather, they become ingrained,” Bhattacharya said.

  • Teacher named to seat on county council

    Los Alamos County Council is now whole again, having appointed Barranca Mesa School Teacher Katrina Schmidt to the council Tuesday. Schmidt, who described herself as undeclared politically, joins a council of all Democrats. 

    She replaces Christine Chandler, who won her race in November against Republican Lisa Shin to become the District 43 state representative. 

    Council Tuesday spent about three hours choosing between 10 candidates for the job at a council meeting. 

    Each of the candidates had three minutes to answer one question a round. During the session, each candidate was asked to share their work experience as it related to the councilor position, their values and their decision making process. 

    In the end, Schmidt was selected. 

    “I’m absolutely ecstatic. I’m looking forward to serving Los Alamos County,” Schmidt said after council took the final vote. 

  • Bill to raise penalty for school threats blocked

    BY ROBERT NOTT
    The New Mexican
    The divide over how best to punish those who threaten to commit violence in schools widened Thursday, as a panel of Democrats blocked a bill to make the crime a fourth-degree felony.
    Rep. Randal Crowder, R-Clovis, said he introduced House Bill 115 to create a specific crime for leveling terrorist threats at a school or other public building. He said it would be a means of deterring juveniles and adults alike from feeling emboldened in targeting schools.
    Democrats countered that his bill was so broad it could turn teens who do something stupid into felons for life.
    More important, a legislative staff analysis of Crowder’s proposal found that the state already has other laws that can be used to prosecute people who make threats.
    Crowder told the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee of fallout in 2017 when a 16-year-old boy opened fire at the Clovis public library, killing two people and wounding four others. Afterward, Crowder said, copycat criminals escalated fears with “numerous terroristic threats, via texts, via phone calls.”
    Schools “had to empty out” because of those threats, Crowder said. Parents then went into a panic mode as they scrambled to find out if their kids were in danger, he said.
    But Democrats who control the five-member committee were not swayed.