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March 17, 2015

Senate passes $6.23 billion budget -- Santa Fe New Mexican

New Mexico senators late Monday approved a $6.23 billion state budget that members called austere but reasonable, given that new revenue streams shrank because of declining oil prices.

The budget allows for modest funding increases in education, behavioral health care and other select programs. It carried on a 38-3 vote without any significant disagreements being raised during a brief floor debate. -- 3/16/2015


Pew: Nearly One-Third Of Americans Hide Information Online -- NPR's All Tech Considered

Almost a third of Americans have taken steps to hide or shield their information online since Edward Snowden publicized National Security Agency surveillance practices.

But as a country, we're deeply divided — nearly 50-50 — over whether to be concerned about massive government surveillance. And while there are signs that privacy is a partisan issue, it's not partisan in the way you might think.

All that is according to the latest privacy study by the Pew Research Center. -- 3/16/2015


House Republican Budget Overhauls Medicare and Repeals the Health Law -- The New York Times

House Republicans on Tuesday unveiled a proposed budget for 2016 that partly privatizes Medicare, turns Medicaid into block grants to the states, repeals the Affordable Care Act and reaches balance in 10 years, challenging Republicans in Congress to make good on their promises to deeply cut federal spending. -- 3/17/2015

March 16, 2015

Legislature considers how to regulate money in politicsNew Mexico In Depth

Less than five years since New Mexico capped contributions, Sen. Majority Leader Michael Sanchez of Belen is proposing that the state’s lawmakers repeal limits on contributions.

States can’t require “dark money” groups to disclose all their donors. But states can pry open the doors a little, which is what advocates hope New Mexico will do this session under a bill that would expose so-called “dark money” groups to greater sunlight.

House Bill 278, sponsored by GOP Rep. Jim Smith of Sandia Park, would require certain groups that currently don’t have to report where their money comes from to disclose the names of donors whose dollars are used for political purposes as long as those amounts are above certain dollar thresholds.  --  3/16/2015


Mining Bill Draws Concern About Threats To New Mexico Water -- KUNM News Roundup

The New Mexico House is considering legislation that would allow mines to remain on standby for as long as 100 years without obligation of restoration. The Santa Fe New Mexican says the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee has heard two debates on HB 625.The bill, which has the support of New Mexico's largest copper mines, would permit mines to defer operations for up to 100 years and reopen with little public notice. Opponents say the bill undermines critical portions of the Mining Act, which protects groundwater from pollution.

March 12, 2015

FCC Releases Net Neutrality Rules -- Santa Fe New Mexican/New York Times

Two weeks after voting to regulate broadband Internet service as a public utility, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday released 313 pages of rules detailing what would be allowed.

The release of the rules had been eagerly anticipated by advocates and lawmakers, as well as broadband and technology companies. The publication Thursday resulted in few surprises, with the FCC set to decide what is acceptable on a case-by-case basis. The regulations include a subjective catchall provision, requiring “just and reasonable” conduct.

The rules reclassify high-speed Internet as a telecommunications service rather than an information one, subjecting providers to stricter regulation under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Their aim is to protect the open Internet, advancing principles of so-called net neutrality by prohibiting broadband providers from elevating one kind of content over another. -- 3/12/2015


Groups sue feds to prevent drilling in Chaco region -- Santa Fe New Mexican

A coalition of environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Interior Department over the approval of dozens of oil and gas drilling permits in northwestern New Mexico. The activists said more development and hydraulic fracturing could harm the environment and sites such as the Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

The BLM is in the process of updating its management plan for the San Juan Basin in the face of an expected shale oil boom, and the groups have been pushing the agency to stop approving new drilling permits until the plan is in place. -- 3/11/2015


Los Alamos May Face Stricter Runoff Regulations -- KUNM

Should Los Alamos National Labs and Los Alamos County be held to the Clean Water Act standards for stormwater runoff that ends up in the Rio Grande? That’s the question the Environmental Protection Agency is weighing. A public comment period on the matter will begin soon.

Amigos Bravos, a New Mexico organization that works on river water issues, filed a petition with the federal regulator last summer. Rachel Conn, who runs the nonprofit, said they discovered high levels of heavy metals and radioactive contaminants were not coming from toxic industrial sites at LANL but rather from water cascading off of buildings and pavement after storms. -- 3/11/2015

March 13, 2015

Interior Secretary Jewell Launches 50 Cities Initiative to Engage Next Generation of Leaders, Outdoor Stewards -- U.S. Department of the Interior Press Release

As part of the Interior Department’s bold youth initiative to engage the next generation of outdoor stewards and inspire millions of young adults to play, learn, serve and work in the great outdoors, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell this week officially launched a nationwide effort in 50 U.S. cities to increase awareness, support and participation in outdoor programs. The announcement comes on the heels of yesterday’s $5 million commitment from American Express to help the Department reach its goal of one million volunteers on public lands annually. -- 3/13/2015

March 10, 2015

Senate panel kills measure to extend elementary students' school yearLas Cruces Sun News

Senate Bill 563 that would have added 25 days to the school year for younger students died Monday in the Senate Rules Committee. Members defeated the proposed state constitutional amendment on a 4-2 vote. Two Democrats and two Republicans joined together to stop the bill. The sponsor, Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, for years has been a critic of long summer breaks because he says they hurt student achievement. -- 3/10/2015


Cougar bill dies in House committee after outcry- Las Cruces Sun News

In a swift reversal, state Rep. Zach Cook decided Monday to kill his own bill to make cougars an unprotected species. Cook, R-Ruidoso, did not appear before the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee to present House Bill 586. Instead, he asked a colleague, Republican Rep. Jim Smith of Sandia Park, to move that the measure be tabled. Smith described the bill as one of the worst pieces of legislation he had seen. Committee members voted 5-0 to defeat Cook's bill, which had drawn opposition from sportsmen and conservation groups. -- 3/10/2015


Officials To Publicly Discuss Kirtland Jet Fuel Spill - KUNM News Roundup/The Associated Press

Federal officials will host a public meeting to discuss the latest on the Kirtland Air Force Base fuel leak clean-up efforts.The meeting will be held at the African American Performing Arts Center, 310 San Pedro NE, Albuquerque at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 12.

The Air Force has missed a deadline to design and implement an interim system for cleaning up contamination. Authorities believe anywhere between nearly 6 million and 24 million gallons of fuel were leaked, although Air Force officials say it's likely at the lower end of those figures. -- 3/10/2015