State yanks unmarked license plates

From - by Kim Holland - For the past decade, hundreds of state officials have been cruising around New Mexico in government cars with regular, non-government license plates. Now, after News 13 began asking questions, a state official said the plates never should have been issued and that the practice will no longer continue. “As they get renewed, we’re not going to renew them with a street plate,” said Demesia Padilla, cabinet secretary of the Tax and Revenue Department. “They’re going to have to fill the requirement to get an undercover plate.” By law, the state can issue “undercover” license plates to select employees like police officers, employees of the Children, Youth and Families Department and agents at the Tax and Revenue Department, she said. Those employees must meet particular criteria in order to be issued the undercover plate. The plates are meant to help investigators do their jobs. However, over the last 10 years, the state has issued about 700 “street plates,” which are different than undercover plates, to various state agencies. It’s unclear exactly why those agencies wanted or needed the non-government plates. “I don’t know what people’s intentions are once they get these plates,” Padilla said. Still, when her staff began looking into the issue, they discovered that the department has no statutory authority to issue street plates, she said. “There wasn’t really tight controls on it,” Padilla said. Read more

Former N.M. Contractor Arraigned on Tax Evasion Charges

From - A former state contractor is in trouble with the federal government over taxes.
Prosecutors say Shelda Sutton-Mendoza has been arraigned on five counts of tax evasion. She pleaded not guilty during a hearing earlier this month. If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison and a $100,000 fine. At the time of the crimes alleged in the indictment, Sutton-Mendoza owned NYSNC Environmental, a cleanup and testing service.  More News New Mexico

N.M. Legislature:Taking On "Citizen United"

Rep. Steve Fischman
From -Fred Martino spoke with one of our local legislators proposing a bill that takes on a national issue. Senator Steve Fischmann says the US Supreme Court decision known as "Citizens United" that allows unlimited corporate political contributions should not stand. Fischmann also announced on KRWG-TV's Your Legislators that he will not accept corporate donations for his reelection campaign next year. If approved, Fischmann's bill would lend the New Mexico legislature's support for a constitutional amendment to repeal the "Citizens United" decision. Fischmann says .this is important issue for everyone, because public funds are invested in corporations that can make these political donations under Citizens United. Fischmann also plans to support legislation tackling economic issues including a bill to prevent foreclosure it would require mediation for mortgages that can be salvaged. He also supports changes in the Gross Receipts Tax to eliminate taxes on purchases between businesses. He says that measure could be paid for by eliminating tax loopholes.

Joule Gets $70 Million in Funding for N.M. Biofuel Plant

From -Joule Unlimited Inc., a closely held biofuel developer, received $70 million in venture funding to support the start of a test plant in New Mexico this summer.  The funds are the third round for a total of $110 million in financing, the company said today in a statement. Founding backer Flagship Ventures participated as well as other investors Joule didn’t identify. Proceeds also will support research and global expansion plans.  The facility in Hobbs will help with testing of the company’s technology from its Massachusetts laboratory and Texas pilot plant.  Joule, based in Bedford, Massachusetts, is developing a process that uses genetically modified photosynthetic microorganisms to make diesel, ethanol and chemicals from sunlight and carbon dioxide.   More News New Mexico

Lujan Reportedly Stricken with Lung Cancer

Ben Lujan
Sources at the Roundhouse tell News New Mexico that Speaker of the House Ben Lujan has lung cancer and the disease may have spread to other organs. Speaking off the record, our sources also say the Speaker may have been hospitalized at an undisclosed location somewhere in Santa Fe in recent days. Reports are coming in that House Democrats will be caucusing soon to try to determine who will fill the role of House Speaker during the 30 day session that started today.
Ken Martinez
Apparently Lujan wants to appoint various house members to fill his role on a day by-day-basis while many others in the caucus want to take action very soon to appoint a new speaker.
First in line for the role of speaker appears to be House Majority Leader Kenny Martinez of Grants. However, Martinez, like fellow Representative Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces, has been involved in efforts to unseat Lujan in recent years.
Adding to the complications are reports that the House GOP caucus may be considering taking action to support Joseph Cervantes in any vote to make a change in the speaker position.
Joseph Cervantes
Just a year ago this week the House GOP members came very close to dramatically increasing its influence in their chamber by voting for Cervantes. The behind the scenes deal fell apart in the final hour when tea party members from around the state made an effort to stop the GOP from strengthening its political hand through a coalition arrangement. Stick with this news site for updates on the condition of the speaker and the politics behind the scenes in Santa Fe.


Martinez to Deliver the State of the State Today

Susana Martinez
SANTA FE – Governor Susana Martinez will deliver the State of the State address Tuesday, January 17 at approximately 12:30 p.m. The speech will be given in the New Mexico House of Representatives chamber on the second floor of the state capitol building. The Roundhouse (state capitol building) is located at 490 Old Santa Fe Trail, in Santa Fe.
The Governor's State of the State address will be streamed live on the Governor’s website in cooperation with KNME at as well as


Researchers Say Earth's Crust In New Mexico Is Stretching

From -say the Earth's crust in New Mexico is stretching at a rate of an inch of east-west growth every 40 years. The Albuquerque Journal reported that scientists have long suspected this was happening because of the way the Rio Grande Rift splits the state down the middle. The rift, a tear in the Earth's crust, defines the state's central mountain chain and the valley the Rio Grande now follows.  Colorado geophysicist Henry Berglund, the lead author of a paper outlining these findings in a recent issue of the journal Geology, says until scientists began collecting data from their monitoring network back in 2006, they had no idea how widespread the stretching was. 


Off-Road Enthusiasts Concerned About NM Land Deal

From -The New Mexico Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance has filed a protest with federal land managers over a proposed land trade with a northern New Mexico pueblo. The group says trading up to 3,200 acres of the El Palacio OHV Area to Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo would splice up an area that has been used for recreation for more than two decades. The plan was revealed in an environmental impact statement for resource management that was recently prepared by the Bureau of Land Management's Taos office.  The alliance contends that the draft environmental impact statement addressed only an exchange of 600 acres.  More News New Mexico

Emergency Texts Aid First Responders in New Mexico

For years the Farmington Fire Department has been using the software that converts emergency calls to texts. The software, called Remote Print Manager (RPM), was developed by Brooks Internet Software. While the call-to-text technology sounds rudimentary, having the system in place allows paramedics and emergency personnel to rely less on the radio and serves as a backup alerting method.
Mark Mordecki, a firefighter with the Farmington Fire Department, explained that the department was having communications problems because the radio frequency bands they were using began filling up with chatter from other agencies. Although some trucks also have mobile data terminals (MDTs) that give incident details to users in electronic form, the units go down at times.
So the department looked into technology that would push 911 call data to responders’ cellphones. The technology initially was seen as a backup system. But the idea quickly found favor among paid and volunteer fire crews because they no longer would have to carry pagers or radios and instead could respond via text that they are responding to a call. “It’s a godsend for them, because they didn’t have this capability before,” Mordecki said. “They didn’t give radios to everybody, they just gave pagers. And at night, alarms don’t go off. They just get a text message.” The call-to-text system essentially is automated. A 911 call goes into a countywide 911 center, and as the operator is finished typing the call into the record, the information is sent as a text file into a server that every few seconds gets pinged by the fire department’s network, looking for new data.
 News New Mexico

Rail Runner Swallowing Millions of Road Funds

Capitol Report New Mexico - A member of the state Transportation Commission called the balloon payments that taxpayers are facing in funding the Rail Runner as a “hand grenade” that the Department of Transportation is trying to defuse.
Pete Rahn and DOT secretary Alvin Dominguez appeared before the Transportation and Public Works Committee on Monday (Jan. 16) and expressed their concerns about how the department can grapple with keeping the state’s roads in decent shape with diminishing public and federal dollars while the Rail Runner’s costs add an extra layer of complications.
“The major problem is the 100 percent [of] state road fund dollars going to pay for the capital investment, the $420 million in capital investment that was made into the Rail Runner,” Dominguez told Capitol Report New Mexico after the hearing. “It drains dollars that should be going into our roadways.” Then there are the two estimated $235 million balloon payments that must be paid between 2024-2026. “It’s a huge obstacle,” Rahn told lawmakers, adding the balloon payments represent “a hand grenade set in our modeling.” Read full story here: News New Mexico

The EPA's Binge Gambling

Marita Noon
Folks who stop at a slot machine in the Las Vegas airport between flights can usually risk the few dollars that will probably disappear, but the serious gambler—whether the stock market, the ponies, or cards—assesses the risk before they cash in their chips. Even then, they make miscalculations. That’s why they call it gambling. Last week, Fred Krupp of the Environmental Defense Fund miscounted his cards when he claimed that new EPA regulations will “protect the IQ of countless of American kids and help clear the air for millions of Americans with asthma.” Citing the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards the EPA rolled out on December 21, that he said was 21 years in the making, his widely-published op-ed said that the US “has always had good sense when taking on hazardous substances in our environment.”
The first card Krupp lays down in support of his argument that the US has “good sense” is DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane)—which the Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) cofounder, Victor Yannacone, was instrumental in banning back in 1972. Using DDT as an example of “good sense,” Krupp says it was banned “after learning that the pesticide was killing birds of prey.” Even though the EDF sprang up in the late sixties with the single purpose of battling the use of DDT, it is surprising that he is still trying this old trick.
Since DDT was used in WWII to successfully control typhus and malaria, it has gone from winner to loser and back to winner again. In 1948, Dr. Paul Muller, the scientist who discovered the insecticidal properties of DDT, was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for his work. The tables turned when Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring in 1962 and referenced experiments done that claimed DDT thinned birds’ eggshells. Ultimately, through the work of EDF, DDT was banned in 1972. Because of that decision, malaria has spread, and millions have died from it. Instead of eliminating the disease’s vector, the mosquito, drugs have been developed to treat the disease, and those drugs are now proving ineffective, as malaria has grown resistant to them.
Since then, additional studies have been done and the eggshell findings have been revisited. DDT wasn’t the problem it was once believed to be. In 2006, the World Health Organization declared that, DDT “will once again play a major role in its efforts to fight the disease.” DDT kills the mosquitos that spread the disease.
The world gambled on what seemed to be a sure thing—but it turned out to be just hysteria and propaganda. Millions have died from the bad bet. Read rest of the column: News New Mexico


Natural gas prices shake up 2013 budget

From - It is cloudy with a chance of shortfalls, as new worries about the economy darken the skies over the state capitol, just in time for the start of this year's 30-day legislative session. Thanks to flat and stagnant natural gas prices, the legislature's revenue forecast for the next budget year is suddenly looking wobbly. Natural gas is even more important than oil in the state's economic picture, and prices and the future's market remain far below expected levels. Lawmakers and Governor Susana Martinez have been anticipating about $250 million in new revenues, but the dimmer outlook emerged Monday afternoon during a hearing of the Legislative Finance Committee. "I'm saying right now, at this point in time, in my eyes I'm a little apprehensive," said chairman John Arthur Smith, a Democrat from Deming known as "Doctor No" for his budget-hawk work ethic in the state Senate. "This is one of the legs that we rely on, natural gas revenues, and it's limping along right now." "We've got to deliver a budget by February 1st to the Senate side," said Rep. Larry Larranaga, a Republican representing part of Albuquerque's Northeast Heights. "Do we at this point continue with the forecast that we have?" Rep. Lucky Varela, a Santa Fe Democrat and longtime budget-man in the House, pointed out that right now there is no other forecast and there won't be a new one for another couple of weeks. "I'm hoping that we don't have to change our estimate downwards from what we're projecting today, and have to cut some of the expenditures that we're recommending in our budgets - either the executive or the legislative," Varela said. The governor's budget proposal includes about $55 million in tax breaks for small businesses and employers that hire veterans. The Legislative Finance Committee's budget plan would give state employees a one half of one percent pay raise and move the state back to paying a larger share of retirement contributions for state employees and public schoolteachers. The budget is the single must-do job of the 30-day session that starts at high noon Tuesday. Read more

Redistricting judge OK’s state Senate compromise plan

From Capitol Report New Mexico - As expected, redistricting Judge Jim Hall approved the state Senate redistricting plan offered by Gov. Susana Martinez, Native American groups as well as segments of Republicans and Democrats. The Democratically-controlled state legislature passed a Senate plan that was subsequently vetoed by Martinez, who called it overly partisan. In his decision Monday (Jan. 16), Hall said the legislature’s redistricting plan contained “significant population deviations between districts which are not justified by historically significant state policy or unique features” while the compromise — or “Joint Plan” — “has significantly lower population deviations,” complies with the Voting Rights Act, recognizes “the importance of the traditional redistricting principles” and satifies the requests of the state’s Native American community. Under the plan OK’d by Hall, one sitting Republican state senator would be paired with another while one Democrat would also be matched up with another in district consolidations. The Republicans who would face each other in a loser-out election in the southeast part of the state are Rod Adair of Roswell and Bill Burt of Alamogordo. The two Democrats squaring off would be Gerald Ortiz y Pino and Eric Griego, both of Albuquerque – although Griego is stepping down after this upcoming 30-day session to run for US Congress. Read more