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December 8, 2015

Oil slump further cuts state revenue forecast -- Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico lawmakers could have less money available to spend next year than previously projected, as plummeting oil prices have led to the amount of “new” money estimated for the coming year to be pared back to $232 million – down more than $60 million from four months ago.

Finance and Administration Secretary Tom Clifford also spoke against across-the-board pay raises for state workers, indicating the Martinez administration will instead push for targeted salary increases for certain job positions that have been difficult to fill and keep filled, such as social workers, State Police officers, corrections officers and computer specialists.

The new revenue estimates were unveiled Monday at a Legislative Finance Committee hearing at the state Capitol. The estimates, which are compiled by a team of executive and legislative branch economists, are key in lawmakers’ annual task of approving a balanced budget.

Both the Legislature and the Martinez administration will roll out spending plans in advance of next year’s 30-day legislative session, which begins Jan. 19.-- revised 12/8/2015


Governor orders crackdown on drunken driving -- Albuquerque Journal

State Police will flood New Mexico’s deadliest highways in coming months to catch drunken drivers and will work with other officers to round up DWI offenders who fail to show up in court or violate their conditions of release.

Gov. Susana Martinez also plans a new tack – hiring people willing to sit in courtrooms to watch how New Mexico judges handle drunken drivers. The “court monitors” will issue public reports on sentencing, plea agreements and other matters.

State Police also will track down which bars and restaurants, if any, served people caught driving drunk, she said.

The efforts are part of a series of initiatives Martinez announced Monday to combat DWI deaths – something the state secretary of public safety described as a “bloodstain” on New Mexico’s reputation. -- 12/7/2015


State again seeks to tie food stamps to work -- Santa Fe New Mexican

The New Mexico Human Services Department is again seeking to change state rules that tie food stamp benefits to work requirements.

Elements of the department’s latest proposal are less strict than previous plans. Yet community groups that have long opposed changes still argue the proposed rules would cause the administration of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez to deny more New Mexicans on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in a state that suffers from some of the highest poverty rates in the nation. -- 12/7/2015


December 3, 2015

President Obama on the Shooting in San Bernardino -- The White House Blog

President Obama speaks about the shooting in San Bernardino, California. After meeting with his national security team, the President spoke further about the shooting in San Bernardino today in the Oval Office.-- 12/3/2015

Judge suspends penalties linked to state’s teacher eval system -- Santa Fe New Mexican

A Santa Fe judge struck a blow against the state’s contentious teacher evaluation system Wednesday, temporarily halting provisions that would punish teachers for poor scores until a trial can determine whether the rating system is valid.

The 70-page ruling by state District Judge David Thomson focused primarily on the complicated combination of student test scores used to judge teachers. The ruling prevents the Public Education Department from denying teachers licensure advancement or renewal, and it strikes down a requirement that poorly performing teachers be placed on growth plans. -- 12/3/2015


Governor proposes ‘rapid workforce development fund’ -- Albuquerque Journal

Gov. Susana Martinez announced a new legislative initiative on Tuesday to create a $1.25 million rapid workforce development fund for companies to quickly find trained employees in specialized areas.

The money, which Martinez will request in the legislative session that starts in January, would finance training for workers in targeted fields to help new companies and existing ones that want to grow.

“The fund would help create technology certificate programs and other training to quickly provide employees for a company looking to grow or expand in New Mexico or to come here to set up operations,” Martinez said at a news conference at Central New Mexico Community College’s Workforce Development Training Center in Albuquerque. -- 12/1/2015

November 24, 2015

Gila diversion pact signed in D.C. -- Silver City Daily Press

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced Monday afternoon that [Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water & Science Jennifer Gimbel] signed the New Mexico Unit Agreement with the New Mexico Unit of the Central Arizona Project Entity, late in the day on the deadline date set forth by the Arizona Water Settlements Act. The executed agreement opens the door for a series of environmental reviews of a potential diversion of the Gila River. -- 11/24/2015


AG warns of 'Making Home Affordable' scam -- Las Cruces Sun-News

Attorney General Hector Balderas issued a scam alert Tuesday to warn New Mexicans about a bogus mortgage offer.

“Do not pay Ocwen mortgage payments by Moneygram in response to 'Making Home Affordable' offer letters or calls,” said Attorney General Hector Balderas in a news release. “This is a scam and if you receive one of these letters or calls please contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Attorney General at 505-222-9100.” -- 11/24/2015

December 2, 2015

Feds want New Mexico to repay $16M to child insurance program -- Santa Fe New Mexican

Investigators recommended Tuesday that New Mexico repay the federal government nearly $16 million they say the state should not have received under a health insurance program for low-income children.

The U.S. Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General made the recommendation following a review of enrollment over a five-year period beginning in fiscal year 2009.

According to the findings, New Mexico overstated the number of children in the program when compared to enrollment data maintained by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. -- 12/1/2015


Senator renews push to allocate land grant funds for early ed programs -- Santa Fe New Mexican


November 23, 2015

Federal official says N.M. licenses are fine for U.S. travel -- Santa Fe New Mexican

New Mexicans need not rush to buy a passport in order to board domestic flights. A state driver’s license is just fine for identification, an official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Friday.

If the federal government ever ordered the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to not let people from a particular state board a domestic plane with a driver’s license for identification, it will provide at least 120 days’ notice.

The fact the federal government didn’t give New Mexico an extension on Real ID compliance means that secure federal facilities in New Mexico will have to have stricter policies in the type of identification they accept. Starting Jan. 10, people won’t be able to use a New Mexico driver’s license to enter a military base or a federal installation such as the Los Alamos National Laboratory. -- 11/20/2015


Environment Department Shares Progress and Plans for Cleanup of Kirtland Air Force Base Fuel Plume -- New Mexico Environment Department News Release

The New Mexico Environment Department is soliciting public comment on the draft 2016 Strategic Plan for Kirtland Air Force Base fuel plume cleanup. Public comment period ends at 5 p.m. January 15, 2016. -- 11/20/2015


Searching for Work in the Digital Era -- Pew Research Center

The internet is an essential employment resource for many of today’s job seekers, according to a new survey by Pew Research Center. A majority of U.S. adults (54%) have gone online to look for job information, 45% have applied for a job online, and job-seeking Americans are just as likely to have turned to the internet during their most recent employment search as to their personal or professional networks.

Yet even as the internet has taken on a central role in how people find and apply for work, a minority of Americans would find it difficult to engage in many digital job seeking behaviors – such as creating a professional resume, searching job listings online, or following up via email with potential employers. -- 11/19/2015