An ungrateful government gives veterans little respect

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. “You haven’t an arm, you haven’t a leg, you’re an armless, boneless, chickenless egg. You’ll have to be put with a bowl out to beg. Oh Johnny I hardly knew ya.” 19th century Irish anti-war song 
      The flower of our youth march off to war carrying the honor of our nation into battle. Some come back only to be buried; others come back with the ravages of war still upon them. Then tragically over the years the grateful nation that sent them into war with the bands playing becomes an ungrateful nation because of the cost of dealing with those war injuries.
     I was thinking about this because the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs has announced thirty years later than they should have that a clinic is opening in Las Cruces to allow the large population of veterans in the area easier access to services.
     Several veterans spoke last week with guarded optimism about this development. They have every right to be guarded in their optimism about what the Department of Veterans Affairs is going to do for them. Many have spent years not being treated with respect by an ungrateful nation despite their service to our country.
     Politicians who did not ever serve in the military themselves are fond of saying, “Thanks for your service.” But do they mean it? Less than twenty percent of the current Congress served in the military. Recently I quoted in another column the saying, “A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds.”
     That is what I think of our current crop of politicians locally, statewide and nationally. Most, not all, spout their support for the military and veterans but then vote otherwise. They try to get the vote of veterans without actually supporting them. Read full column

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Recent winters hurting local wine production

From KOB-TV.com - By: Jorge Torres, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - It's older than the state itself and even older than the good old USA: New Mexico wineries. It's a symbol of our history that goes back to the Franciscans in the 1600s. Corrales Winery has added to that history since 2000. Like most vineyards in the state, it has gone through some rough patches, including the recession.
     "The last thing people give up even in a down economy is chocolate and alcohol, so we're hanging in there," said Keith Johnstone, Co-Owner of Corrales Winery. He would never quit on the grapes that are beginning to bud, but cold weather has been tough on him recently, especially the last two winters.
     When Corrales got down to -17F, the winery couldn't yield a crop that year. The grapes are beginning to bud in Corrales. The same thing occurred last year, but Johnstone is concerned because in 2013 a couple of spring freezes destroyed the crops.
     "Every class of shoot that the grapevines sent out actually got frozen so 2013 was another year that we didn't get a crop," he said Johnstone is holding his breath for this year's crop since the grapes are budding already. As long as it doesn't freeze in the next couple of months, the grape crop could produce up to eighty percent of its potential. More
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Seven legislators to retire from the House

Republican Rep. Bill Gray of Artesia is the seventh legislator to announce plans to retire from the 70-member House.

Gray said Tuesday he will not seek re-election. He says he's proud of his accomplishments but it's time to move on. He plans to spend more time with family. Gray has represented parts of Chavez, Eddy and Otero counties since 2007. He served on the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Legislative Finance Committee.

 Legislators previously announcing their retirement are Reps. Anna Crook, a Clovis Republican; Ernest Chavez, an Albuquerque Democrat; Nathan Cote, an Organ Democrat; Tom Taylor, a Farmington Republican; Henry Kiki Saavedra, an Albuquerque Democrat; and Rick Miera, an Albuquerque Democrat and House majority leader. 

Legislative candidates file for office on March 11.
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NMSU's endowment sees big increase

The New Mexico State University Foundation's endowment is now valued at $197 million. 

University officials say the endowment saw an 11.4 percent increase in returns over the last fiscal year. That's slightly below the average total net return for institutions with endowments that ranged between $101 million and $500 million.

NMSU Foundation President Tina Byford says growing the endowment is critical for advancing the university's mission. The foundation is a nonprofit organization that manages and invests private gifts to benefit teaching at NMSU, extension research and public service programs. 

The university says the foundation's asset allocation model is heavily weighted to domestic stocks, international equities and fixed income. Less than one-quarter is invested in the alternative market.

Information from The AP.

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NM health exchange rated as "high risk"

New Mexico was among the states rated as "high risk" after government security experts reviewed the vulnerability of computer systems being used to roll out President Barack Obama's health care law.  
Documents show more than two-thirds of states had potential security problems with systems designed to tap into federal computers to verify sensitive personal information. But officials in charge of implementing New Mexico's insurance marketplace questioned those findings Tuesday. 
They say New Mexico is still developing a state-run exchange for individuals, and the marketplace created for small businesses, employees and insurance providers isn't linked to the federal data system. New Mexico exchange spokeswoman Debra Hammer says there's still an opportunity to learn from the experience of other states as New Mexico prepares to bring its individual exchange online in October.
Information from The AP.

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Should abuse victims carry guns in gun-free zones?

From MiNBCNews.com - by Walter Smith-Randolph - SAGINAW TOWNSHIP -- A Saginaw County lawmaker wants abuse victims to carry guns in gun free-zones but domestic violence workers say there may be other options. Schools, churches and malls--they're called 'gun-free zones' but state representative Tim Kelly wants to change that for abuse victims.
     “Over 85-percent of women are victims of domestic violence,” says Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw) “Over 75-percent of women are stalking victims,” he adds. Saginaw was named “The Most Dangerous City for Women” by Forbes Magazine.
     “(I) felt like this would be a good piece of legislation to take care of a vulnerable population,” says Kelly. The victims would be trained and licensed to carry the firearm. Not so fast says Valerie Hoffman of Saginaw's Underground Railroad.
     “It appears to me that we're just giving up that protection---that responsibility for protection and just putting it on the victims to protect themselves,” says Hoffman. She’s been counseling victims for 20 years. Hoffman says lawmakers should focus on protecting victims and cracking down on abusers.
     “Why does she need to carry gun?” questions Hoffman. “Isn't it society's job to protect the victim?” she adds. “I think this is common-sense, bi-partisan legislation that can help protect women,” says Kelly. Currently, the only people who can carry guns in gun-free zones are law enforcement officials. More
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Tours to start at Old Main prison in Santa Fe

Tickets are now available for upcoming tours of a closed New Mexico prison where one of the nation's deadliest riots took place.

 The New Mexico Department of Corrections said this week the state is selling tickets for "Old Main" prison tours that begin in May. Tours of the prison outside of Santa Fe are scheduled twice a month and will continue through October. Last year, corrections officials opened the historic site for limited public tours. 

In February 1980, inmates at the prison killed 33 fellow prisoners in a violent clash that included beheadings, amputations and burned bodies. More than 100 other inmates and guards were hurt in the 36-hour riot fueled by overcrowded conditions.

 Officials hope to eventually to turn the site into a museum.

Information from The AP. 

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More radiation detected in Southeastern NM

More airborne radiation has been detected in southeastern New Mexico from a leak at the nation's first underground nuclear waste dump. 
 The U.S. Department of Energy said Monday the results are from samples collected last week at numerous air monitoring stations at and around the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad
Last week, DOE officials confirmed the first-ever leak at the facility. It stores plutonium-contaminated waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory and other government nuclear sites.  The results are consistent with the kinds of waste stored at the plant, but officials say there's no public health threat. 
Carlsbad's mayor scheduled a community meeting Monday evening. 
Waste shipments to the site were halted earlier this month after a truck caught fire underground. Officials say they don't think the incidents are related.


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NM Legislature passes more bills this year

The New Mexico Legislature approved more bills this year than it did during the last 30-day session. 
However, nearly all of the legislation was passed late in the session shortly before lawmakers adjourned. Records of the Legislative Council Service show that the House and Senate passed 91 bills - all but two of those during the final three days of the session. Also approved were three resolutions proposing constitutional amendments.
 In the 30-day session in 2012, the Legislature approved 77 bills and four constitutional amendments. This year's proposed constitutional amendments will be placed on the November general election ballot for voters to decide. 
One of the proposals is to give the state more flexibility in making international investments with permanent fund assets. 
The Legislature's 30-day session ended on Thursday.
Information from The AP. 

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New Noise on Climate Change—a winning issue for Republicans

Commentary by Marita Noon - The Democrats think that climate change is going to be a winning issue for them in 2014—and, if they handle it correctly, this could be a winning issue for the Republicans. You know, nothing comes out of the Obama White House by mistake. Everything is planned, analyzed, and focus group-tested. Last June when President Obama presented his Climate Action Plan at Georgetown University, some environmentalists hailed it. In response, Frances Beinecke, the then-president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said: “The president nailed it.” The Huffington post reported that some environmental groups were wary that “Obama would follow through on the ambitious goals he laid out. Bill Snape of the Center for Biological Diversity described it as too little, too late.”
     But, environmentalists haven’t been “thrilled with the administration’s record.” In January, 18 groups sent Obama a strongly worded letter telling him that he “needs to address climate change more aggressively.”
     Obviously, Obama heard the complaints—making clear which group of constituents holds sway: billionaire environmentalist donors who believe Democrats have wavered on climate issues rather than the economically hard-hit middle class he claims to champion.
     Earlier this month, the Obama Administration announced the creation of 7 “climate hubs”—which the New York Times called: “a limited step” but said it “is part of a broader campaign by the administration to advance climate policy wherever possible with executive authority.” It is unclear what these “hubs” are or will do, but the stated goal is “to help farmers and rural communities respond to the risks of climate change, including drought, invasive pests, fires and floods.”
W     ashington Examiner columnist Ron Arnold calls the new hubs “propaganda spigots” and cites Steven Wilmeth, a southern New Mexico rancher, who said: “It’s another one of those ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’ deals. All I can say is, ‘Don’t help me.’ We hear the talk, but they’re not telling us what regulatory burdens these climate hubs will add to the overwhelming load we already carry.”
     Then on February 14, President Obama announced a new $1 billion “climate resilience fund” that “would go to research on the projected impacts of climate change, help communities prepare for climate change’s effects and fund ‘breakthrough technologies and resilient infrastructure.’” read full column
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Gov. survey shows more farms and ranches in NM

A new government survey shows New Mexico has more farms and ranches than it did five years ago. 
The survey also shows the state has seen significant increases in the number of young farmers and minority farmers in recent years. 
State Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte says he's glad to see a wider diversity of people getting into farming and ranching across the state. He says that diversity will help create more opportunity. Witte also says the younger farmers will help ensure agriculture remains a viable part of the economy for years to come. 
The 2012 agriculture census shows there are more than 24,700 farms and ranches in New Mexico, an 18 percent increase since 2007. That bucks a long-term national trend that has seen the number of U.S. farms drop.


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Boy shot in Roswell school shooting returns home

Nathaniel Tavarez
A 12-year-old boy who was seriously injured in a shooting at a Roswell school last month has returned home. 
The Roswell Daily Record reports that hundreds of people lined the city's streets, cheered and held up signs Friday in support of Nathaniel Tavarez. The boy suffered wounds to his head and stomach in the Jan. 14 shooting at Berrendo Middle School
A seventh-grader is accused of taking a shotgun to school and opening fire on Tavarez and a 13-year-old girl. 
Tavarez's mother says doctors were unable to remove the shots in his brain and he still cannot see, but may regain some sight in his right eye. She says her son holds no grudges and just wants to go back to school because he loves his teachers and friends.


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Amtrak still in question after legislative session

The New Mexico legislative session has failed to make any commitment to fund the state's share of costs to keep Amtrak's Southwest Chief on its current route.
 The session ended Thursday with none of the five bills seeking ways to maintain the passenger train line passing. 
Amtrak has proposed that New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas all chip in to improve and maintain more than 600 miles of track through their states. The company says the Southwest Chief's route might change otherwise, causing some communities to lose passenger service. The rail operator would need to reach a deal with Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which owns the track Amtrak uses. 
A legislative panel earlier this month agreed to commission a study on whether the state should pay.


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Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman arrested in Mexico

From The El Paso Times - By Diana Washington Valdez - The world's most wanted reputed drug kingpin, Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman — who was indicted in El Paso was arrested Saturday morning in a hotel in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexican and U.S. officials said.
     Guzman is the reputed chief of the Sinaloa drug cartel, which is considered among the most aggressive of the cartels in Mexico. The Sinaloa drug cartel battled violently with the Juárez drug cartel for control the lucrative Juárez-El Paso corridor. That battle was one of the bloodiest in Mexico and made Juárez one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
     The war claimed more than 10,000 people since 2008. As a result of the violence, many Juárez residents chose to flee the city and a significant number moved to El Paso.
     When former Mexican President Felipe Calderón took office in 2006, he deployed thousands of soldiers to drug hot spots, including Juárez. Since then, more than 70,000 people in Mexico have been killed in drug violence, the Associated Press reports.
     Violence in Juárez has declined because several key figures in the drug underworld were arrested — some of whom have been convicted in El Paso. The Sinaloa drug cartel has members working in the El Paso area.
     Guzman was arrested without incident just before 7 a.m. at a hotel in Mazatlán, a popular tourist area in northwest Mexico. Read more
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Swickard: Who protects citizens from the police?

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. “When you have police officers who abuse citizens, you erode public confidence in law enforcement. That makes the job of good police officers unsafe.” Mary Frances Berry
     One of the major changes in my lifetime is the plunge of public opinion about community police officers. As I a child in the 1950s police officer was one of the big four occupations young boys wanted to do when they grew up: policeman, fireman, military or cowboy.
     Today Firemen are still admired as are the military. Cowboys have a much smaller part in people’s awareness, even people who like beef. Then there are the police. Growing up like other young boys at times I wished to one day serve as a police officer.
     Andy Griffith was America’s favorite Police Chief and upheld the law with dignity, humor and intelligence. Yes, it was a fictional show. But the role was the way many old-time policemen operated. They were people I knew and respected. They held the line of the law without abusing their power.
     Now it seems most law-abiding citizens fear the police because of the news stories of the police abusing their authority. Or they themselves have been abused. Clement Freud observed, “I think our police are excellent, probably because I have not done anything that has occasioned being beaten up by these good men.” But many Americans are injured or killed by the police without good reason.
     An elderly Atlanta women had her hearing-aid off when a no-knock police swat team burst in looking for a drug seller, but they had the wrong house. She died in a hail of bullets. This happens way too often. Then there is the incredible story from Deming about a search for drugs that ended up costing taxpayers $1.6 million dollars in compensation, and, to the best of my knowledge, the perpetrators still serve in that police department.Read full column
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Minimum wage resolution falls short in NM legislature

From New Mexico Watchdog.org - by Rob Nikolewski - SANTA FE – It took three hours of debate and even a phone call from Vice President Joe Biden to one Democratic member with an iffy record of voting with her colleagues but in the end, it wasn't enough.
       A resolution that called for changing the New Mexico constitution in order to take the minimum wage in the state to about $8.40 an hour and have it tied to cost of living adjustments met its legislative demise Wednesday when it didn't get the required 36 votes in the House of Representatives. The vote was 33-29 in favor but it needed 36 ”yes” votes in the 70-member House to move forward.
     Democrats placed a tactical bet at the start of the session by trying to raise the wage through constitutional amendment, which would have bypassed Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and gone to voters across the state on the November ballot if it passed both chambers of the Legislature.
     Senate Joint Resolution 13 passed the Senate without much trouble but fell short in the House.
     New Mexico House Democrats also lost the vote of Rep. Dona Irwin, D-Deming, who sided with Republicans in voting ”no.” Irwin said she supported raising the minimum wage but opposed doing it by constitutional amendment. More
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House approves Navajo gambling compact

The House has approved a tribal-state gambling compact allowing the Navajo Nation to open three additional casinos.

The proposal cleared the House Monday on a 36-30 vote. It goes to the Senate with the legislative session nearing an end. Lawmakers will adjourn Thursday. 

The Navajos operate two Las Vegas-style casinos in New Mexico under a compact expiring next year and a third casino offers low-stakes gambling not subject to state regulation. 

The proposed compact would permit the state's largest tribe to phase in three new casinos over 15 years.The gambling proposal is opposed by some other pueblos and tribes, which worry that their casinos will be hurt if the Navajos open more casinos. 

The proposed compact must be approved by the Legislature and the Interior Department to take effect.



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Senate approves Gov's Environment Secretary pick

Ryan Flynn
The Senate has approved Gov. Susana Martinez's choice to run the New Mexico Environment Department despite the objections of several conservation groups.

 Lawmakers voted 30-11 Tuesday to confirm the nomination of Ryan Flynn as cabinet secretary of the agency. The governor appointed Flynn to the post last year after a retirement forced her to reshuffle leadership in two agencies. Flynn had previously served as the agency's general counsel for two years. 

Flynn's confirmation followed a two-hour hearing in which environmentalists criticized him and the department over the development of regulations aimed at groundwater and copper mining. 

Critics contend the department caved to industry interests in crafting the rules, which they say violate state law prohibiting water contamination above certain standards. 

Flynn disputed the allegations and said his responsibility is to protect New Mexico's air, water and landscapes.



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State Senate approves local liquor tax

The Senate has approved a proposal that would allow all New Mexico counties to tax liquor to finance programs for treating and preventing alcoholism. 
Supporters of the measure said it would be left to counties to decide whether to impose a local liquor excise tax by the equivalent of five cents on a glass of wine, bottle of beer or cocktail. 
The bill passed the Senate on a 27-14 vote Sunday and goes to the House for consideration. 
State law currently allows only McKinley County to levy a local tax on liquor for alcohol programs, and supporters said the county has financed services that have reduced alcohol-related deaths.
 If all counties imposed a liquor tax, it would generate nearly $44 million.
Information from The AP. 

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Fire near Belen 50% contained

A brush fire that started on Monday afternoon in Belen is nearly 50 percent contained, according to the Belen Fire Department. 

Fire officials said a large brush fire got out of control on a private property near Highway 314 and I-25. The fire burned a shed and more than three acres of grass. 

Burn restrictions were lifted in Belen on Saturday. The Belen Fire Department said they have received more than 115 requests for private burns on Monday. 

This is the fourth area wildfire reported in two days. 

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Still no confirmation for Public Education Secretary

Hanna Skandera 
A Senate panel has bottled up the nomination of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's secretary for the Public Education Department. 
The Rules Committee split 5-5 Monday on whether to send the nomination of Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera to the Senate for a confirmation vote. The deadlock means that Skandera will continue to serve in her cabinet-level post without Senate confirmation, just as he has since 2011. 
Skandera has drawn criticism because of the governor's education policies and critics contend she doesn't meet a constitutional requirement for the department secretary to be a "qualified, experienced educator." Skandera hasn't worked as a public school teacher or administrator. She was a deputy commissioner of education in Florida when Jeb Bush was governor. 

Information from The AP. 

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NM Game Commission Chair resigns amid charges

Scott Bidegain
The chair of the New Mexico Game Commission has resigned amid allegations that he was an accessory to an unlawful killing of a cougar.
  The Department of Game and Fish announced Monday that Scott Bidegain turned in his resignation over the weekend. 
Officials say department officers filed a misdemeanor charge against Bidegain in Quay County Magistrate Court on Monday in connection with the cougar killing. Bidegain says he was present during "a hunting incident earlier this month" and he believed it was in the commission's best interest that he stepped down.
 Officials say Vice Chairman Thomas Salopek will lead the commission.


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What Does Mexico’s President Know That President Obama Doesn’t?

Commentary by Marita Noon - It is not often that Americans look south of the border for solutions, but Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto seems to have figured out a few things in his first year of power that has, in six years, eluded Obama.
     Late last month, Peña Nieto spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. There, he highlighted his first-year achievements: “a legislative consensus with the two major opposition parties on the transformations and structural reforms that the country needed,” reports Mexico City’s The News. He pointed out that this has been achieved “in a climate of plurality and diversity.”
     A few months ago, with great enthusiasm, I wrote about Peña Nieto’s proposed energy reforms—something his predecessor had been unable to achieve. (President Felipe Calderon’s critics believed his proposals violated the constitution.) The reforms passed on December 12, 2013, amend Articles 25, 27 and 28 of Mexico's constitution to allow profit- and production-sharing contracts, and licenses. The reforms also put an end to government monopolies in the operation of oil-and-gas fields, while maintaining the Mexican government’s ownership of the country’s resources.
     “The current government’s ability to build coalitions puts Mexico on the verge of its biggest economic victory since the North American Free Trade Agreement,” states Arturo Sarukhan, who has served in Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Ministry. Read full column
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New state police cadet trainer defends changes

The man who oversees basic training for police cadets across New Mexico is defending his new curriculum, which includes giving officers more leeway to use deadly force. 
Jack Jones, director of the state's Law Enforcement Academy, has come under some criticism since being given control in September of all basic training courses. Jones' changes include more training in traffic stops involving gunfire and use of possibly deadly force. He says officers need to be prepared for any violence. Jones says previous training models have been too restrictive. 
The new training comes as the Albuquerque Police Department is under a U.S. Justice Department civil rights investigation. The department is facing allegations of excessive force and three dozen shootings by officers since 2010.
Information from The AP. 

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Bernalillo County Commisioners oppose "Cops" TV shooting

Two Bernalillo County commissioners are asking the county sheriff to reconsider allowing the long-running TV show "Cops" to film in the area.
 In a letter sent to Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston on Saturday, Commissioners Debbie O'Malley and Maggie Hart Stebbins says the show's "sensational focus on criminal activity" would portray the county as a dangerous place to work and live. They also argue members of the public may be reluctant to report crimes if they think a TV crew might show up with authorities.
Albuquerque's mayor banned the reality program from filmming in New Mexico's largest city more than a decade ago
. However, Houston announced Thursday that the show would start filming with his department in April for its 26th season. The episodes would air in the summer.


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Senate panel approves budget package

A Senate panel has approved a $6.2 billion budget package and provided additional money for education initiatives of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. 

The Senate Finance Committee unanimously endorsed the budget on Sunday and sent it to the Senate for consideration.

 The panel added $17.5 million for administration school programs. Republicans on the committee said the goal was to give the Public Education Department some flexibility to work with school districts on initiatives to improve educational performance. 

The budget provides for a $293 million or 5 percent increase in spending in the fiscal year starting in July. 

The committee's proposal is an attempt to break an impasse over the budget and avoid a possible special session. 

A budget bill failed in the House, with Republicans saying it shortchanged Martinez's school proposals.

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Conceal carry permits double in NM

Government records show that more than twice as many concealed carry permits were issued in New Mexico last year when state and federal policymakers considered whether to tighten firearms laws. 
The Department of Public Safety issued 10,601 licenses in 2013 compared with 4,793 the previous year, according to state records obtained by The Associated Press. 
The state issued an average of about 4,500 licenses annually from 2008 to 2012. 
Firearms instructors attribute last year's license increase partly to a push by the Legislature and Congress for new gun laws, including stricter criminal background checks on people who buy firearms and proposals to ban military-style assault weapons.
Information from The AP. 

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Fire in Isleta Pueblo

Isleta Pueblo fire crews, with assistance from New Mexico State Police, Valencia County and Bosque Farms, fought one of the first big fires of 2014 Sunday night. 

As of 9:30 Sunday evening, the fire burned 30 acres of grassland, though it did not threaten any homes or other structures. Fifty crew members fought for hours to keep it contained. 

Investigators are still working to learn what started the fire Sunday afternoon around 3 p.m. 

Smoke billowed high, making it visible across the Albuquerque metro and warning residents of the fire season to come.

 Although the fire did not threaten any structures, the pueblo set up an evacuation site at the recreation center just in case.



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Senate to vote on Hanna Skandera

From KOB-TV.com - by Jen Samp, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - Governor Susana Martinez handpicked Hanna Skandera and ever since has been by her side. Three times now, the senate has failed to take a vote, which would officially confirm Skandera as the education secretary.
     Skandera self-proclaimed the title "education secretary” on her official website, the governor gave her the title “Secretary-Designate” until she is confirmed. “I think we need to have a vote and I think we should have had one before now", said Democratic State Senator and majority whip Tim Keller
     He argues Skandera is not credentialed for the big job. She worked as a senior policy adviser to the U.S Education Secretary and was a deputy commissioner for Florida's education system, but she has never been a teacher.“Our constitution says clearly you need a qualified educator and for better or worse regardless of her ideas I don't believe she meets the criteria,” said Sen. Keller.
     A statement from the Department of Education reads: “Secretary Skandera has broad support from education leaders and business leaders throughout New Mexico. She is well-qualified for a position she has held for three years now and if she wasn’t, the senate would have taken action long ago. Last year, Senator Lopez staged a politically motivated and prolonged political circus at taxpayer expense that did nothing to help improve student achievement in New Mexico. Secretary Skandera looks forward to a fair confirmation process.”
     Last year, the confirmation hearing on Skandera lasted for hours. Political insiders think if the Senate takes a vote, she would get the confirmation. But political games are not new to the Roundhouse. More

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Swickard: Jobs only occur when businesses flourish

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. “There is one and only one social responsibility of business: to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud” Milton Friedman
     The 2014 New Mexico Legislature is coming to an end of its 30-day session. There have been lots of controversies aimed at getting the members of the Legislature reelected in November but little else to help the people who need help the most: unemployed and underemployed New Mexicans.
     The every other year 30-day legislative session in New Mexico concentrates on a state budget and anything else that catches the governor’s fancy. Me, I fancy jobs because jobs make New Mexico strong and we are not strong in our business sector.
     For most people there are many more advantages to jobs than unemployment. Sure, with unemployment Democrats can throw palliative money at voters for the purpose of getting votes. They stand before cameras talking about helping New Mexico families. It gets them reelected but the people remain unemployed.
     The underlying issue to what ails New Mexico is that the New Mexico State government along with County and Municipalities are not doing the right things to support businesses in this state. So businesses are not hiring enough New Mexicans for our economy to improve.
     More so, the least likely to be employed are the least skilled since we have minimum wage laws which prohibit businesses from dealing honestly with potential employees. Businesses should be able to compensate employees by what the employee can do for the business.
     New Mexico needs to lose the notion that government knows best for the citizens and let the citizens make their own economic decisions. The marketplace will bring prosperity to New Mexico if New Mexico confines its interference to making sure, as Milton Friedman says, “business…engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.” Read full column

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Education secretary issue heads to Senate

Hanna Skandera - Public Education Department
From KRQE-TV.com - ANTA FE (KRQE) – A plan to get rid of New Mexico’s education secretary is headed to the Senate floor after a panel approved it. Democrat Michael Padilla’s constitutional amendment would create an elected state board of education with an appointed superintendent to manage New Mexico’s education system.
     That’s how the system used to work until 2003 when voters chose the current system. Republicans claim Democrats are backing the idea because they don’t like Gov. Susana Martinez’s current education appointee Hanna Skandera.
     Padilla denies that. He says he wants to take politics out of education, give voters more input, and create more stability. “It allows for a state superintendent that’s appointed by a state board of education that represents the people to be in place for a month or 28 years. I mean, if they’re doing a good job, they’ll keep their job. If they’re not doing a good job, they’ll be out of there,” said Padilla, D-Albuquerque.
     Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, said, “When they had it before, besides one superintendent, they were switching every two to three years. So it’s not going to bring the continuity they claim is their purpose.”. More
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NM student rank below national average in AP tests

New Mexico high school students ranked below the national average on Advanced Placement tests last year. But the scores have improved over the past decade, and New Mexico had the highest percentage of Hispanic and low income students who passed the tests. 

The 10th annual report from the College Board shows 43 percent of Hispanic students in New Mexico who took an AP test scored three points or more - the highest percent nationally. 

 At 53 percent, New Mexico also has the highest number of Hispanic high school students, and 46 percent of them took an AP test. Nearly 40 percent of low income students in New Mexico who took an AP test passed. 

Overall, 12 percent of New Mexico students passed, compared to a national average of 20 percent.

Information from The AP. 

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AG's office says Gov. helicopter use was legal

Gov. Martinez
A senior official of the state Attorney General's Office says Gov. Susana Martinez didn't break the law when she flew on a State Police helicopter to avoid missing a commercial flight to attend political fundraisers in Texas in 2011.
However, General Counsel R. David Peterson also says it would be appropriate for Martinez to reimburse the state the $800 that the flight cost taxpayers. 
The Albuquerque Journal reports that Martinez says she doesn't plan to do that. Her campaign spokesman has said the helicopter flight was proper because Martinez stayed at a Board of Finance meeting that ran late.
The Attorney General's Office looked into the matter because of a complaint by a political advocacy group, ProgressNow New Mexico

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Voluntary recall on Bueno green chile

Bueno Foods has announced a voluntary recall of its frozen non-ready-to-eat green chile. 

According to the company, the measure is being taken due to the possibilty of low levels of the listeria bacteria being present in the product.

 In a press release, Bueno Foods President Jackie Baca said, “Bueno is taking this action because we are committed to providing a safe food supply to our customers.  We pride ourselves as having some of the highest health and safety standards in the industry and are taking this action as a precaution.” 

The company states that no other products are being affected by the recall.

 For more information, call Bueno Foods at 505-243-2722, extention 127, or visit their website at buenofoods.com. 


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Marijuana proposal likely dead this year

A proposal to let New Mexico voters decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana has stalled in committee and is likely dead for the year. 
The state Senate Rules Committee voted 5-5 on Tuesday against sending the constitutional amendment to another committee for consideration. 
The proposal would have made it legal for adults 21 and over to possess and use marijuana. 
The plan likely would have faced difficulty in the Legislature. And Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, an Albuquerque Democrat who sponsored the measure, says he sees little chance of the issue being revived this session. But he says he will try again next year. Colorado and Washington state have legalized marijuana. 
Pot stores opened in Colorado last month, and sales should start in Washington later this year.
Information from The AP. 

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FBI offering reward to find people pointing lasers at planes

From KOB-TV.com - The FBI is offering big money to anyone who has information on people who are pointing bright lasers at planes. It's a growing and dangerous trend called "laser striking." In a reenactment video given to KOB Eyewitness News 4 from the FBI, you can see a green light beaming from a laser. 
     It's so bright that the pilot used his arms to block it; a distraction that could cause the pilot to lose control. "[If] you take the eyes away from a pilot, you've basically put the whole crew in danger- the passengers of the aircraft and folks on the ground as well. So having my eyesight is very important and we take this very, very seriously," said Steve Jangelis, a pilot.
     On Tuesday morning at the Albuquerque Sunport, the FBI announced a reward of up to $10,000 for anyone who has information on people who aim lasers at planes. In Albuquerque, the FBI and FAA saw 27 laser strikes in 2013; almost double from the year before.
     The jump puts Albuquerque on a list of just 11 other cities, including New York City and L.A., where laser striking is happening. If you're caught, the FBI said, you can face up to 5 years in prison.
The FBI said it can be hard catching the "laser strikers", that's why they're offering the reward, hoping people will speak up. If you have information, call the Albuquerque FBI at 505-889-1300 More

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Marita Noon: Shoot, Shovel and Shut Up

Commentary by Marita Noon - If you find oil or natural gas on your property, the value goes up. If you find an endangered species, your land becomes virtually worthless because the critter prevents productive use.
     Most people would be excited to have a Jed-Clampet moment when, while hunting for dinner, the shot resulted in bubbling crude coming up from the ground. Like the Clampet family, your life would change dramatically. Your land would suddenly be worth more than you’d ever dreamed!
     If, while hunting for dinner, you instead find an endangered species—the half-jest, half-serious advice would be “shoot, shovel and shut up.” Kent Holsinger, a Colorado attorney whose work centers around endangered species issues, told me that he has seen many landowners lose significant value due to a listed species being found on their property.
     The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was signed into law in 1973 by President Richard Nixon to preserve, protect and recover key domestic species. Though well intentioned at the start, the ESA has since been used as a tool to hinder or block economic activity from logging and farming to mining and oil-and-gas development—often to protect species that don’t truly need it. Read full column
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State budget fails in NM House on tie vote

From KOAT-TV.com - SANTA FE, N.M. —A proposed budget providing $6 billion for public education and state government next year has failed in the House on a tie vote. Republicans were joined by one Democrat - Rep. Sandra Jeff of Crownpoint - in opposing the measure on Friday.
     The 34-34 vote will force Democrats to regroup and potentially revamp portions of the budget. Two Democrats are absent this session because of health problems.
     Republicans objected that the measure didn't fund a number of the governor's educational initiatives, including merit pay for teachers. Before the final vote, Democrats rejected a GOP attempt to revamp the spending plan to shift more money to Martinez-backed programs.
     The budget proposed to increase spending on public education and government programs by 4.8 percent or $280 million next year. More
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