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March 23, 2015

BLM’s new fracking rules strike middle groundHigh Country News

After four years of study and 1.5 million public comments, the U.S. Department of Interior on March 20 unveiled new rules governing hydraulic fracturing of oil and natural gas resources overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. While the first official draft was fairly protective and a second was significantly weakened, this final version appears to be squarely between the two – predictably falling short of what many environmental groups hoped for, and going beyond what industry groups seem willing to live with. -- 3/20/2015


Sportsmen’s bill aims to open inaccessible public landsHigh Country News

Senator Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, was hunting Barbary sheep in the southeastern part of his state a few weeks ago, and had a stark reminder of a problem he’s trying to fix with a bipartisan sportsmen’s bill.

He and his friends had finished hunting one swath of public land, and scanned a BLM map for the kind of terrain the sheep like—rough arid landscapes like that of their native North Africa, with lots of small canyons, nooks and crannies. The men found a place that looked to be accessible by road.

But when they arrived, there was a gate across the road and a “No Trespassing” sign.

“The landowner closed off what used to be public access and now you can’t get to the public land,” Heinrich told me in a recent interview in his office in the Hart Senate Office Building in D.C., where hunting trophies—including Barbary sheep skulls and horns—share wall space with photos of gorgeous New Mexico scenery “That is not unusual. If you talk to sportsmen, particularly in the West, access is the number one issue: You hear it over and over again.” -- 3/14/2015

March 19. 2015

House panel OKs bill seeking to boost lottery ticket sales, stabilize scholarship fundLas Cruces Sun News

A bill aimed at increasing New Mexico Lottery ticket sales — and keeping the Legislative Lottery Scholarship fund solvent — cleared another hurdle Wednesday when the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee voted to move it forward.

Senate Bill 355, sponsored by Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, would terminate a requirement that the lottery funnel 30 percent of its annual revenues from ticket sales into the scholarship fund and instead invest more money in higher payoffs and marketing tools to boost ticket sales. --  3/19/15


Oil industry says new rule will lower use of freshwater -- Santa Fe New Mexican

A new rule approved by the state Oil Conservation Commission will allow oil and gas producers to reuse water produced during drilling.

Industry officials say the rule, which allows companies to store drilling water in open pits, will lead to a reduction in the use of fresh water for drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

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 18, 2015

Senate bill would rank truthfulness of political adsLas Cruces Sun News

After running for governor last year, Sen. Howie Morales saw first-hand the impact dishonest campaign ads can have. Morales has introduced legislation this year that he says would give voters better information as to which ads can be trusted. Senate Bill 675 seeks to establish three nonpartisan groups selected by the state Attorney General's Office to develop a system that would rate statewide political advertisements on a scale from 1 to 5, based on truth or falsity, or whether an ad is misleading. Two of the groups would review the ads, and if their determinations are different, a third group would make a final judgment. -- 3/18/15


Senate passes bill for year-round Daylight Saving TimeLas Cruces Sun News

A bill that would take the first step toward putting New Mexico on Daylight Saving Time throughout the year passed Tuesday in the Senate, and now moves to the House, with just four days left in the session.

If passed, Senate Bill 377 would not immediately change the practice of turning the clocks back one hour in the fall and up on hour in the spring, explained Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell. Instead, it would direct the governor to request that the secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation make the final decision after conducting a series of public hearings in the state. The federal government will have the final say. Technically, the request would be to put New Mexico on Central Standard Time year-round. -- 3/18/15

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.