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April 11, 2017

Shipping resumes to WIPP -- Santa Fe New Mexican

The nation’s only underground nuclear repository has received its first shipment of waste, more than three years after shipping was halted in response to a radiation release that contaminated part of the facility and sidetracked the federal government’s multibillion-dollar cleanup program.

The U.S. Energy Department said Monday that the shipment from a federal facility in Idaho marked a milestone for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and the government sites where tons of waste left over from decades of nuclear weapons research and development have been stacking up.  -- 4/11/2017


Forest managers plan prescribed burn in watershed -- Santa Fe New Mexican

The Santa Fe National Forest scheduled a 340-acre burn for Tuesday in the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed.

Crews plan to ignite the burn about three miles east of the city between the Nichols and McClure reservoirs and it should be completed by 4 p.m. Tuesday, the agency said in a news release.

Winds are expected to push the smoke north of Santa Fe toward Chimayó, Truchas, Peñasco and Dixon on Tuesday afternoon. Light smoke may be seen in Española and as far as Taos on Tuesday evening, but the smoke is expected to clear by midnight.  -- 4/10/2017


April 10, 2017

New Mexico to issue new chile license plates – Las Cruces Sun News

New Mexicans will still have the option to get license plates recognizing their affinity for red and green chile. It just won’t be done through legislation. Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed a bill Friday that would have allowed chile license plates to be issued for an extra fee that would have gone to support the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. – 4/10/2017


Myriad bills fall victim to governor's veto– Las Cruces Sun News

House Bill 174 was killed Friday by pocket veto, meaning the governor did not take action on the bill before the signing deadline of noon Friday. The legislation would have greatly increased voter turnout, Doña Ana County Clerk Scott Krahling said. – 4/10/2017


Cost-cutting strategies– Las Cruces Sun News

SB354 by Steinborn and Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, would have created a new interagency purchasing council to create cost-cutting strategies for all state agencies that purchase pharmaceutical drugs. Dr. Martin Hickey, CEO of New Mexico Health Connections, estimated that the bill could have saved the state as much as $100 million a year. It was pocket vetoed without an explanation. – 4/10/2017


Protections to Medicaid providers– Las Cruces Sun News

SB 217 would have given due-process protections to Medicaid providers. It comes following action by the governor in 2013 to freeze funding for all mental health providers in the state.

“New Mexico’s families and providers of services to vulnerable children and adults in need of critical mental health and substance abuse treatment are deeply disappointed today in the governor’s veto of this important bill,” Papen said. “All this legislation sought to do was ensure transparency and independent analysis in these situations when it is needed. What has happened during the last four years in behavioral health in New Mexico must never occur again.” – 4/10/2017


Domestic violence and firearms– Las Cruces Sun News

SB259 would have required those under restraint by a domestic violence order of the court to turn over their firearms to a third party. Martinez said in her veto message that the bill isn’t needed. “Our judges already have the power to prohibit individuals that are subject to a civil restraining order from possessing a firearm — whenever they feel that it is warranted — and I would encourage them to exercise this power whenever the facts and circumstances before them require it,” she said. – 4/10/2017


Prohibiting solitary confinement– Las Cruces Sun News

HB 175 would have prohibited the use of solitary confinement in cases where the inmate is under the age of 18, a pregnant female or suffering from mental illness. In her veto message, Martinez argued that the bill “oversimplifies and misconstrues isolated confinement in such a way as to eliminate flexibility and endanger the lives of inmates and staff alike.” The veto will mean more lawsuits against county detention centers. “New Mexican taxpayers will continue to pay millions of dollars in settlements for over-utilizing an outdated and inhumane jail management tool," he said. – 4/10/2017


Care for heart patients– Las Cruces Sun News

SB 80 would have required the Department of Health to coordinate with local medical providers to develop a plan for certain heart patients. “It’s beyond reason that the governor would choose to reject a bill that her own Department of Health testified in support of and passed the Legislature without a single vote against it,” sponsor Howie Morales, D-Silver City said. In her veto message, Martinez notes that the agencies can do so now voluntarily. – 4/10/2017


Expanded hours at border crossing– Las Cruces Sun News

HB91 sponsored by Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Las Cruces would have expanded hours at the Santa Teresa Port of Entry. – 4/10/2017


School testing– Las Cruces Sun News

HB 185, sponsored by Reps. Nathan Small and Ferrary, both D-Las Cruces, among others would have limited the amount of time that could have been spent on school testing. – 4/10/2017


Contributions to political candidates– Las Cruces Sun News

SB 96 would have required greater disclosure by political groups that contribute to candidates. Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, accused Martinez of siding with the Koch Brothers, but Martinez said the language in the bill was so broad that charities may have been required to give the names and addresses of contributors. – 4/10/2017


April 6, 2017

Border agency fields pitches for Trump's wall with MexicoLas Cruces Sun News

One bidder wants to cover President Donald Trump's border wall with solar panels. Another suggests building a wall large enough for a deck that would offer tourists scenic views of the desert. In the competition to build the wall, traditional bids are interspersed with more whimsical ideas.

As Tuesday's deadline for bids passed, U.S. Customs and Border Protection declined to identify bidders or say how many there were, which is standard practice in government contracting. The federal government expects to announce around June 1 which companies will be hired to build prototypes. - - 4/6/2017

April 7, 2017

New Mexico reins in payday loansLas Cruces Sun News

New Mexico is reining in high-interest loans from the storefront lending industry under HB480 signed by Gov. Susana Martinez. Signed on Thursday, the legislation effectively eliminates payday loans by definition and caps interest rates at 175 percent. Small loans that have terms less than 120 days are banned.

A proposal to raise New Mexico’s statewide minimum wage with HB442 to $9.25 an hour from $7.50 has been vetoed. Gov. Martinez said in a veto message Thursday that small business in rural areas cannot sustain the proposed increase and criticized the Legislature for proposing tax increases at the same time.

A SB227 to spur the installation of solar panels on New Mexico state buildings has been vetoed. Gov. Martinez said in a veto message Thursday the legislation would have required additional agency staff without providing the necessary financial resources. The bill from Democratic Rep. Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces would have directed the New Mexico General Services Department to pursue contracts with solar providers that save the state money on electricity costs over time with no up-front public investment. The General Services Department oversees 750 state buildings.

Gov. Martinez has vetoed SB393 that would have expanded financial disclosure requirements for lobbyists. Martinez on Thursday rejected new requirements that lobbyists report expenses under $100 that are spent on lawmakers and other public officials.

Gov. Martinez says she vetoed HB175 designed to curb the use of solitary confinement in jails and prisons because it could have endangered the lives of inmates and guards. Martinez on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have banned the placement of pregnant women and juveniles in solitary confinement. The bill also would have limited the use of solitary confinement on inmates suffering from mental illness. - -4/7/2017

April 4, 2017

Rolling Stone looks at N.M. medical marijuana bill -- Santa Fe New Mexican

Rolling Stone magazine last week published an article featuring a medical marijuana bill that passed the Legislature and is awaiting Gov. Susana Martinez's signature.

The story, headlined "How Medical Marijuana Could Help End the Opioid Epidemic," deals with House Bill 527, sponsored by House Minority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque. The bill would set into law the medical conditions that make a patient eligible to obtain medical marijuana in New Mexico. These conditions are now listed in rules issued by the state Health Department. But in addition, it also would add opioid addiction to that list of qualifying conditions. -- 4/3/2017