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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 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

March 9, 2015

State auditor finds $4.5B in unspent funds -- Santa Fe New Mexican

The New Mexico state government has more than $4.5 billion in unspent bank balances spread out among 737 state agencies — an amount that equals more than 70 percent of the currently proposed state budget.

This is according to a 25-page report titled “Money on the Sidelines,” posted Saturday on the State Auditor’s Office’s website. -- 3/7/2015

March 6, 2015

FDA Approves First Biosimilar Ushering in a New Era of Treatments -- Wall Street Journal Blog

After years of anticipation, the FDA has approved a so-called biosimilar medicine, ushering in a new era of treatments in the U.S. that are forecast to eventually save the nation’s health care system billions of dollars and generate a new round of competition in the pharmaceutical industry. Biosimilars are cheaper copies of brand-name biologics that have demonstrated similar safety and effectiveness. -- 3/6/2015


Ferguson's not the only city to get scathing federal report -- CNN

The report is daunting, and it tears apart the Ferguson Police Department's systemic discrimination against blacks.

But Ferguson is hardly the first place to be scrutinized by the Justice Department. Here are a few others that have been accused of various forms of discrimination:

Albuquerque, New Mexico

What it found: The Justice Department accused the city's police department of engaging in "a pattern" of using excessive force after a two-year investigation. It said that in some troubling instances, officers failed to turn on their cameras and recorders before such encounters.

What happened next: Federal officials suggested overhaul plans for the city, which they said were well received. They included the reporting of any use of force, including pointing of firearms; new policies on use of force; and more sensitivity toward mentally ill people.

Where things stand: Last year, federal and local officials reached an agreement that calls for changes to be implemented within four years and an independent monitor to be appointed. --3/5/2015


New Mexico Senate passes bill to test race horses for illegal drugsLas Cruces Sun News

Senate Bill 498 to rein in illegal doping of horses that take to New Mexico's race tracks has passed the Senate. The legislation by Sen. Mary Kay Papen was approved 39-3 Wednesday. Regulatory changes in the state's horse racing industry continue and come after a 2013 New York Times investigation highlighting drug use, horse deaths and jockey injuries at tracks across the nation, including in New Mexico. -- 3/5/15


Rio Grande Trail- Las Cruces Sun News

The House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee gave a unanimous, bipartisan thumbs up to the bill introduced by Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, to explore creation of a 500-mile trail along the Rio Grande. The House Bill 563 is headed for the House floor, where it is likely to be amended. -- 3/5/15


Farmington residents back PNM plan to close part of coal-fired plantSanta Fe New Mexican

FARMINGTON — More than 150 people filled the Farmington City Council chambers Wednesday for a hearing before New Mexico regulators on PNM’s application to close two units at an aging coal-fired power plant — with a heavy majority of those in attendance supporting the utility’s plan to replace the lost power with a mix of coal from the plant’s other units, nuclear power, a new natural-gas plant and more solar generating stations.

The Public Regulation Commission scheduled afternoon and evening sessions in the Farmington council chambers on Public Service Company of New Mexico’s proposal to shut down two units of the San Juan Generating Station near Farmington. The public-comment period follows weeks of evidentiary hearings that wrapped up in late January in Santa Fe. A hearing examiner will make a recommendation to the PRC, and it could be months before a final decision is made. – 3/4/2015


Police Body Cameras are Only One Piece of the Video Equation -- GCN

President Obama proposed a $263 million dollar program for training and equipment to help make police departments more accountable.  The proposal includes $75 million dollar over three years to help purchase 50,000 wearable body camera for officers.  The President’s proposal is part of the White House 21st Century Policing effort.  In December, the President created the Task Force on 21st Century Policing. On March 2nd, President Obama met with the Task Force on 21st Century Policing to discuss their recommendations to help communities and law enforcement agencies across the country to strengthen trust and collaboration, while continuing to reduce crime. -- February 2015

March 2, 2015

The Process of Governance: The FCC & the Open Internet Order -- FCC Blog

The Commission’s recent adoption of new Open Internet rules has received unprecedented attention and, along with national debate about the outcomes, has generated significant interest in the process by which the FCC, like other independent regulatory agencies, creates rules. In particular, people want to know when the new rules will be released for public review. The answer is tied to a broader question of governance: How does the FCC best create an enforceable rule that reflects public input, permits internal deliberation, and is built to withstand judicial review? As with its substantive decisions, the answer is simple – by following Congress’ blueprints. As with governance generally, the goal is obvious: To engage in effective, informed action that furthers the public interest. -- 3/2/2015

February 27, 2015

NM Senate panel OKs bill to allow hemp farming for research -- Las Cruces Sun News

Senate Bill 94 to allow New Mexico farmers to grow an industrial version of hemp for research only has passed a third Senate panel. The Senate Finance Committee Thursday approved Albuquerque Democrat Sen. Cisco McSorley's legislation. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act now moves to a vote of the full Senate. The proposal would establish fees and set up state regulations for the processing of hemp for research and development, not for sale. Hemp has a negligible content of THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high. Many products made from hemp, such as oils and clothing, are legal. -- 2/27/15


Bill to keep Daylight Savings Time year-round advances in New Mexico Legislature -- Las Cruces Sun News

A Senate committee has passed Senate Bill 377 to keep New Mexicans from springing forward and falling back every year when it's time to adjust clocks. The Senate Public Affairs Committee voted 5-1 Thursday to advance Sen. Cliff Pirtle's bill that would keep the state on Daylight Savings Time year-round. The Republican farmer from Roswell says changing the clock twice a year is an unnecessary inconvenience. He says farmers and ranchers work from sunrise to sundown no matter what the clock says. -- 2/27/15


Bill limiting lottery scholarships and boosting prize fund advances in Senate -- Las Cruces Sun News

Money from the New Mexico Lottery that is dedicated to college scholarships would be limited to a flat amount under Senate Bill 355 that is headed to the full Senate. The Senate Finance Committee voted 7-2 Thursday night for the measure, which is intended to invigorate lottery ticket sales by pouring more money into prizes and advertising. In addition, the bill would clarify that debit cards can be used to buy lottery tickets. The sponsor, Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, declined requests from other committee members to put a provision to allow credit-card purchases of lottery tickets back in the bill. At the request of other senators, Smith removed a section from his original bill that would have allowed credit-card purchases of up to $20 for lottery tickets. -- 2/27/15


Senate to hear bill allowing home delivery of beer, wine -- Las Cruces Sun News

Senate Bill 503 allowing home delivery of beer and wine with food purchases is heading to the full Senate after being resurrected from the dead Wednesday night. Thirty-two states already allow restaurants and companies that make home deliveries of food to offer beer and wine as well, said Justin Greene of Dashing Delivery in Santa Fe. He served as the expert witness for the bill's sponsor, Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque. Ortiz y Pino said the bill would merely create the option for local communities to sell licenses to food companies allowing delivery of up to two six-packs of beer and two bottles of wine with a meal purchase of at least $20. Deliveries could only be made to a residential address or a hotel. -- 2/27/15


New Mexico Senate panel punts on stream commission billLas Cruces Sun News

Supporters of a measure that would limit the authority of a powerful water commission and require more transparency surrounding its actions decided Thursday to go back to the drawing board. After an hour-long debate about Senate Bill 542, sponsor, Republican Sen. Sander Rue, agreed to rework the proposal and return to the Senate Conservation Committee next week. At issue is the Interstate Stream Commission, which has been criticized in recent months over a decision to pursue federal funding under the Arizona Water Settlements Act for a possible diversion project along the Gila River. Supporters say drought-stricken New Mexico has a rare chance to tap a new source of water, but critics argue the effort could end up costing the state and water users in southwestern New Mexico $1 billion. -- 2/27/15


New Mexico bill would create website to help consumers make informed healthcare decisions -- Las Cruces Sun News

The issue is that healthcare eats up 17 cents of every dollar New Mexicans earn and costs keep going up. Many New Mexicans who are now buying health insurance on the open market are getting plans with lower premiums and higher deductibles, making them suddenly conscious of how much health care they must pay for out of pocket. Senate Bill 474, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, and cosponsored by Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, would create a "health information system" to help consumers, policy-makers and health plan operators make more informed decisions about when, where and how to access healthcare. -- 2/25/15


New Mexico Senate committee blocks mandatory helmet law for motorcyclists -- Las Cruces Sun News

The Senate Public Affairs Committee voted 4-3 across party lines Tuesday night to block a mandatory helmet law proposed by Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque. Only motorcycle riders and passengers younger than 18 must wear a helmet under existing law. Committee members, on the same 4-3 vote, also defeated Ortiz y Pino's related bill to charge a $692 registration fee to each motorcyclist who rides without a helmet. The fee for helmeted riders is $15. Two Democrats and two Republicans joined together to stop both bills (Senate Bill 308 and Senate Bill 327), saying they couldn't ignore the importance of free choice. -- 2/25/15

February 24, 2015

Obama Wants Rules That Force Brokers To Put Clients' Interests First -- NPR's the two-way

President Obama wants to change the way brokers and investment advisers offer financial advice, saying the current system leads to high fees that erode returns on investments.

At present, brokers work under the suitability standard. This, in essence, means that while making a recommendation, brokers must reasonably believe that a product is "suitable" for a client. The Obama administration wants to change that. It wants to impose what is known as a fiduciary duty on brokers. That means the brokers would have to put their clients' interests over their own.

This, the administration says, would prevent financial advisers from steering clients to investments with high costs, hidden fees and low returns. -- 2/23/2015


New Mexico bill aims to create board and fund to eradicate bullyingLas Cruces Sun News

A committee of New Mexico lawmakers has approved an anti-bullying bill spurred by the 2013 suicide of a teenager who was bullied at school. Senate Bill 381 calls for the creation of a five-member board to oversee grant applications to eradicate bullying in New Mexico schools and colleges. It garnered bi-partisan support Monday in the Senate Rules Committee with a unanimous vote. The legislation, called the Carlos Vigil Memorial Act, would create a fund to be administered by the University Of New Mexico Board Of Regents. - - 2/24/15


Senate panel tables bill to allow adjunct teachers- - Las Cruces Sun News

Democratic state senators stopped Senate Bill 228 Monday night that would have allowed public schools to hire part-time adjunct teachers. This means another initiative on public education by Republicans is probably dead. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives last week had approved a bill for adjunct teachers on a 31-21 vote. - - 2/24/15


70th Anniversary Tour of the Trinity Nuclear Test SiteNew Mexico Museum of Space History

On July 16, 1945, a horrific explosion in the New Mexico desert marked the beginning of the end of World War II. The world’s first atomic bomb was detonated on that day at Trinity Site, on the north end of what is now White Sands Missile Range.

In recognition of the 70th anniversary of Trinity Site, the New Mexico Museum of Space History is hosting a motorcoach tour on Saturday, April 4. Museum curator Sue Taylor will accompany guests on the coach, giving an in-depth talk on the bomb, its history and the effect it had on the world. Once on site, guests enjoy a brown bag lunch and a guided walking tour with Sue. On the way back, Sue’s debriefing is highlighted with a special showing of the 1954 classic film The Atomic Kid starring Mickey Rooney. Once at the museum, guests will be treated to a guided tour followed by reserved seating for an exclusive showing of Trinity: The Atomic Bomb Movie in the Tombaugh Theater.