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January 27, 2016

House panel endorses adding cops to hate-crimes- Las Cruces Sun News

House Bill 95 to add police officers as a protected class under New Mexico's hate crimes law cleared a Republican-controlled House committee Tuesday after a debate about whether attacks against law-enforcement professionals should be included in a law meant to apply to inherent characteristics such as race.

The legislation comes against a background of public outcry over recent high-profile fatal attacks on police officers in New Mexico and elsewhere. While national data show a general decline over the past decade in the number of officers killed by gunfire in the line of duty, law enforcement officials say they increasingly fear they are being targeted because they wear a uniform. -- 1/27/2016


'Three strikes bill' heads for House floor vote- Las Cruces Sun News

A bill to expand New Mexico's "three strikes" law to send more repeat criminals to prison for life terms cleared the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday in a 7-4 party-line vote. Democrats opposed House Bill 56 by Republican Rep. Paul Pacheco, a retired Albuquerque police officer. Their main criticisms were that the measure would further clog an underfunded court system as more defendants seek trials, and that it could inadvertently ensnare some nonviolent criminals who need not occupy a prison cell for decades. -- 1/27/2016


Bill would ban solitary confinement for youth- Las Cruces Sun News

Even before President Barack Obama on Tuesday barred federal prisons from putting juveniles in solitary confinement, two state legislators had filed bills to create similar restrictions in New Mexico. Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, and Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas, D-Albuquerque, want to prohibit New Mexico jails and prisons from placing inmates 18 and younger in solitary confinement. They also are proposing other restrictions, including banning jails and prisons from holding inmates with "a serious mental illness" in isolation.

Both proposals to reduce the use of solitary confinement are long shots to clear the Legislature in a 30-day session, especially because bills on crime and harsher punishment are a dominant theme in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. -- 1/27/2016


House bill to hold back poor readers advances- Las Cruces Sun News

House Bill 67  that calls for holding back some third-grade students who don't show proficiency in reading at their grade level cleared its first hurdle Tuesday after the House Education Committee recommended approval of the measure in a 6-4 vote along party lines.

This followed a 6-6 vote that momentarily stalled the bill. Both times, Republicans voted to move the bill forward, and Democrats voted to kill it. According to a witness, two Democrats left the room after the initial vote and were not present for the second round. -- 1/27/2016

January 22, 2016

House driver's license bill clears committeeLas Cruces Sun News

A Republican-majority House committee approved a bill Thursday that would make New Mexico driver's licenses compliant with the federal Real ID Act and allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driving privilege card.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, and Andy Nuñez, R-Hatch, passed its first hurdle with a 4-3 vote in the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee after a nearly three-hour debate. It now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.

Both supporters and opponents of the bill spoke passionately about its potential impact during the hearing. Republicans argued it will make licenses compliant with federal requirements and still allow undocumented immigrants to legally drive. Meanwhile, Democrats blamed Republicans for targeting undocumented immigrants while trying to use the pretext that they are simply trying to comply with federal regulations. -- 1/22/2016


New Mexico legislative session costs $5.4 millionLas Cruces Sun News

New Mexico lawmakers have approved funding for the ongoing 30-day legislative session with a slight increase in spending. The $5.4 million appropriations bill was approved unanimously Thursday by the House and Senate and awaits the governor’s signature.

The measure is known as the “feed bill” and traditionally is the first piece of legislation approved during annual legislative sessions. It increases spending by about 1 percent over the previous 30-day session in 2014. That includes salaries for staff and expenses for legislators. Legislators don’t receive an annual salary but are reimbursed for expenses. Last year’s 60-day session cost nearly $9.4 million. -- 1/22/2016


Legislative Roundup: Jan. 22Las Cruces Sun News

House Republicans closed ranks Thursday to advance one of their crime-and-punishment bills, a measure that would add 11 felonies to the "Three Strikes" law for imposing life prison sentences. All four Republicans on the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee voted for the bill by Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque. The three Democrats on the panel voted against it.

Pacheco says the existing Three Strikes law doesn't adequately punish repeat offenders. So his bill would increase the number of crimes that would count as a "strike." They would include voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, aggravated arson and aggravated burglary. Pacheco's bill moves next to the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, also has introduced a bill to add more crimes to the existing Three Strikes law. -- 1/22/2016

January 13, 2016

NM Land Office gets Santa Fe hotel site in trade of apple farm & thousands of acres to Cochiti Pueblo -- Albuquerque Journal North

The old Dixon Apple Orchard and 8,800 acres of state trust land next to it in northern New Mexico will be traded to Cochiti Pueblo and the Garrett’s Desert Inn site in downtown Santa Fe — which also includes the renowned Santa Fe Bite restaurant — will become the property [of] the New Mexico State Land Office in a three-party deal announced today.

The property being obtained by the pueblo, in the former Cañada de Cochiti Land Grand south of Santa Fe adjacent to the pueblo, has sacred and ancestral village sites and hunting areas that Cochiti has been seeking for decades.

“This land exchange is of enormous importance to the people of the Cochiti Pueblo. I am pleased to play a part in the return of their ancestral land, while at the same time acquiring an income producing property for the beneficiaries of the (state land) trust. We know the land will be protected and well-managed under their care,” said State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn in a news release.  -- 1/13/2016


The White House is once again making the full text of the State of the Union widely available online. The text, as prepared for delivery, is also available on Medium and Facebook notes, continuing efforts to meet people where they are and make the speech as accessible as possible. Through these digital platforms, people can follow along with the speech as they watch in real time, view charts and infographics on key areas, share their favorite lines, and provide feedback.

January 21, 2016

For Isleta Pueblo, New Land Means New Opportunities -- KUNM

Across the country, Native American tribes are regaining parts of their ancestral land. It’s part of a push by the Obama administration to return half a million acres of territory to tribes.

Isleta Pueblo’s territory just grew by 50 percent as part of that initiative, and leaders there are looking at new ways to use their land as an economic engine. -- 1/21/2016


Plan calls for operations to resume at WIPP in 2016 -- Santa Fe New Mexican

Some operations at the federal government's troubled nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico could resume by the end of 2016 under a plan approved by U.S. Department of Energy officials, but critics voiced concerns Thursday about whether the facility would be ready to safely reopen.

The plan approved by the DOE's field office in Carlsbad, New Mexico, addresses recovery activities at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, day-to-day operations and maintenance as well as the installation of a ventilation system needed before the underground facility resumes work related to the long-term storage of radioactive waste. -- 1/21/2016


January 7, 2016

Alamogordo educators talk about SOFIA experience -- Alamogordo Daily News

New Mexico Museum of Space History Educator Michael Shinabery and N.M. School for the Blind and Visually Impaired science educator Jeff Killebrew were chosen as the first New Mexicans to participate in NASA’s Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program in March.

As Ambassadors, the two joined 26 other selectees who participated with professional astronomers conducting science flights aboard NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) in September.  -- 1/6/2016