NM Labs look OK under Obama's budget plan

Los Alamos National Laboratory would see a 7 percent budget increase while Sandia's spending would remain basically flat under the Obama Administration budget plan unveiled on Wednesday.
 The Department of Energy spending proposal requests $1.96 billion for Los Alamos and $1.8 billion for Sandia in fiscal 2014. Total spending for cleanup of radioactive waste at Los Alamos would rise 16 percent to $215 million. 
NNSA officials say that given the tight budget times, they are also going back to reevaluate what might be done to more affordably upgrade the plutonium research facilities at Los Alamos
The administration last year proposed putting on hold any further work on a controversial $6 billion project known as the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility.


New report looks at health and economy

New Mexico health officials have released a report that looks at the effects of economic status on health. 

Health Secretary Retta Ward says many factors can influence a person's health and those with low economic status often experience more barriers in receiving preventative health care. 

The report shows more than one in four adults in New Mexico ages 45 and older has been diagnosed with two or more chronic diseases, such as arthritis and cardiovascular disease. The top reasons for inpatient hospitalization among those 65 and older are heart disease, influenza, and pneumonia. 

The report also includes some positive findings. Suicide attempts among high school students have decreased since 2003 and teen smoking is on the decline, dropping from 30 percent in 2003 to 19.9 percent in 2011.


Alamogordo splits police and fire depts.

Alamogordo plans to split its Department of Public Safety into separate fire and police departments. 
The Alamogordo Daily News reports that a city memorandum indicates that the split approved by the City Commission Tuesday night will produce net savings of nearly $230,000 in the coming fiscal year. 
City officials say the separation should improve training, retention, recruitment and morale. According to city officials, police and fire personnel do not want to perform both tasks.
 The new departments will come into existence on July 1 with the start of the next budget year.


New state law gives schools flexibility

A new state law will give school districts flexibility for another next year to cope with tight finances by having larger classes and taking other steps. 
Gov. Susana Martinez signed legislation into law last week that will allow waivers of certain state educational mandates, such as teaching load requirements and the length of school days, to give districts more leeway in spending state aid and adjusting their budgets in the 2013-2014 school year. 
Similar relief has been provided since 2009, when the Legislature cut state spending to cope with a budget shortfall after the economy soured. But that flexibility would have ended this year without legislation to extend it.
 Legislative analysts say the new law can help districts with growing enrollments avoid hiring additional teachers.