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January 30, 2017

Four ethics bills clear first House committeeLas Cruces Sun News

Four bills aimed at improving governmental ethics cleared their first House committee Thursday. House Bill 10 would create a public accountability board to consider complaints against members of state and local government. House Joint Resolution 8 would ask voters in 2018 to approve a constitutional amendment. House Bill 73 would prohibit lawmakers and other former elected officials from serving as paid lobbyists for two years after they leave office. House Bill 93 would prohibit cabinet secretaries from receiving payment from sources outside state government. - - 1/30/2017

 

Lawmakers stick with concealed gun regulationsLas Cruces Sun News

A proposal that would allow people to carry a concealed handgun in New Mexico without a special license has stalled in its first legislative hearing. The SRJ5 proposal in New Mexico from Republican Sen. Steven Neville also has been filed as a constitutional amendment that would require approval by a majority of all lawmakers and a statewide vote. - - 1/20/2017

 

Oil, gas drilling rights near Chaco Canyon sold for $3M -- Santa Fe New Mexican

Despite protests from Native Americans, environmentalists and others, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Wednesday auctioned oil and gas drilling rights to 843 acres in the Chaco Canyon region of northwest New Mexico.

The rights sold for $3 million, according to the BLM. -- 1/26/2017

 

January 25, 2017

Trump moves to build border wall, cut sanctuary city funds -- Santa Fe New Mexican

President Donald Trump moved aggressively to tighten the nation's immigration policies Wednesday, signing executive actions to jumpstart construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall and block federal grants from immigrant-protecting "sanctuary cities."   1/25/2017

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Bills to reinstate NM’s solar tax credit move aheadLas Cruces Sun News

Bipartisan efforts are making headway in the New Mexico House and Senate to reinstate a tax credit that spurred nearly a quarter-billion dollars of investment in roof-top solar and related jobs in the nation's second sunniest state before expiring last year. A Senate panel on Tuesday endorsed a HB 61 that calls for renewing the credit for an additional eight years. - - 1/25/2017

 

Law Professor Outlines Historical Use Of Presidential Executive Orders -- All Things Considered (NPR)

President Trump signed five executive actions Tuesday morning. NPR's Robert Siegel talks with Cristina Rodriguez of Yale University about the historical use of executive orders and their limits. -- 1/24/2017

January 24, 2017

Trump boosts Keystone XL, Dakota pipelines -- Santa Fe New Mexican/Associated Press

President Donald Trump moved swiftly Tuesday to advance the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, signing executive actions to aggressively overhaul America's energy policy and deal a sharp blow to Barack Obama's legacy on climate change. -- 1/24/2017

January 12, 2017

LFC budget proposal sets up clash with governor -- Santa Fe New Mexican

Legislative leaders propose a $6.05 billion budget for 2017-18 that would trim the spending of state agencies by an average of 0.4 percent and count on lawmakers to either raise taxes or find additional cuts to balance New Mexico’s books when they gather Tuesday in Santa Fe for a 60-day session.

The chairman of the New Mexico Legislature’s budget-writing committee said Wednesday that, unlike the governor, he will not push to close the state’s current deficit by requiring public employees pay a greater share of their salaries into their pension accounts nor drain about $125 million in cash reserves from local school districts. -- 1/12/2017

January 10, 2017

Governor Susana Martinez Introduces Fiscal Year 2018 Budget -- News release, State of New Mexico Office of the Governor

Governor Susana Martinez announced her Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal, which closes the current budget deficit caused by the oil and gas crash without raising taxes. At the same time, the proposal protects classroom spending, economic development initiatives, and public safety.

The FY 17 solvency package includes:
• Sweeping $268.5 million in various cash and fund balances from across state government, including a small portion – $12.5 million – of lawmakers’ vastly overfunded personal retirement accounts.
• That also includes $120 million in administration slush funds within our school districts that are not being used in the classrooms. This DOES NOT have an impact on classrooms. With the sweep, the fund will still have $132 million and would allow school districts to keep their reserves at 5 percent as currently directed.
• Reducing the gross receipts tax “hold harmless” distribution to those counties and municipalities that have already raised taxes on their citizens. This will save $9 million.
• Reducing budgets for the Legislature and Higher Education, from 3 percent and 5 percent respectively, to the 5.5 percent the majority of other agencies are having to deal with (total of $4 million recurring).
• To prevent state employee furloughs and salary reductions, the proposal includes a 3.5 percent retirement swap from state employer contribution to state employee contribution.
• The elimination of some credits and assessments paid by Medicaid to the New Mexico Health Exchange and New Mexico Medical Insurance Pool (total of $17 million recurring).

-- 1/10/2017

 

Report on Russian hacking relied on human sources, technical collection: U.S. spy chief -- Reuters

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on Tuesday the U.S. intelligence community's report concluding that Russia orchestrated hacks during the 2016 presidential campaign was based on a mix of human sources, collection of technical data and open-source information.

Clapper, speaking before the Senate Intelligence Committee, said much of the report is classified due to a need to protect sensitive sources and methods. -- 1/10/2017

 

January 5, 2017

BLM: Verde Transmission Line proposal violates land plan -- Santa Fe New Mexican

A proposed high-voltage power line that would cross federal land northwest of Santa Fe isn’t permitted under the management plan for the land, a federal official said Wednesday.

Sarah Schlanger, field manager for the BLM’s Taos office, said that because of the visual classification of the BLM land, the management plan for the area would have to be changed for construction of the power line to move forward.

Actor and environmental activist Robert Redford, a Santa Fe County resident, raised the issue of the Class II visual rating for the BLM land in a commentary article published Sunday in The New Mexican. He highlighted the importance of the state’s open landscapes to the film industry and the economic benefit created as a result. -- 1/5/2017

 

Nuke dump disposes of first drums of waste in three years -- Albuquerque Journal

Employees at the federal government’s only underground nuclear waste repository resumed disposal work Wednesday after a nearly three-year hiatus prompted by a radiation release that contaminated a significant portion of the facility.

Two pallets of low-level radioactive waste were emplaced in one of the underground disposal rooms at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southern New Mexico around 12:45 p.m., the U.S. Energy Department confirmed.

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and other officials are expected to celebrate the reopening with a ribbon-cutting event Monday. -- 1/5/2017

 

January 4, 2017

New Mexico still ranks near bottom for education quality -- Santa Fe New Mexican

Public school students in New Mexico have the poorest chance for success among students nationwide because of factors such as the state’s high poverty rate, its low graduation rate and its students failing to meet goals in reading and math, according to a new report.

A bright spot is that New Mexico does better than most states when it comes to equitably funding public schools across all districts, says the annual Quality Counts report by the national Education Week magazine.

Overall, New Mexico received a grade of D and ranked 49th in the report released Wednesday. Quality Counts grades states and the District of Columbia on how well they prepare students for college and careers, how states fare in terms of supporting student achievement and how they manage their education dollars. -- 1/4/2017

 

Investment returns to boost money for schools -- Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico’s bleak financial situation could see a ray of light in the coming budget year, as positive investment returns are expected to lead to roughly $60 million in additional funds for public schools, hospitals and other programs from the state’s two large permanent funds.

The two funds – the Land Grant Permanent Fund and the Severance Tax Permanent Fund – make annual distributions to the state to help offset spending on education, health care and other programs. The funds are managed by the New Mexico State Investment Council. -- 1/4/2017

 

How to Become a ‘Superager’ -- New York Times SundayReview

Why do some older people remain mentally nimble while others decline? “Superagers” (a term coined by the neurologist Marsel Mesulam) are those whose memory and attention isn’t merely above average for their age, but is actually on par with healthy, active 25-year-olds. Massachusetts General Hospital recently studied superagers to understand what made them tick.

How do you become a superager? Which activities, if any, will increase your chances of remaining mentally sharp into old age? We’re still studying this question, but our best answer at the moment is: work hard at something. Many labs have observed that these critical brain regions increase in activity when people perform difficult tasks, whether the effort is physical or mental. You can therefore help keep these regions thick and healthy through vigorous exercise and bouts of strenuous mental effort. -- 12/31/2016