PRC reform may hit snag in Senate

From NM - by   - Measures aimed at reforming the Public Regulation Commission passed unanimously in the state House last week, but they might not have such a smooth passage through the Senate. “We’re delighted that momentum continues to gather behind this legislation, with groups from the Association of Commerce and Industry to the Young Democrats supporting it, but now we have to navigate the more turbulent waters of the Senate,” said the primary advocate for the proposals, Fred Nathan of the nonpartisan think tank Think New Mexico. Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, told he has concerns about the proposals, which would ask voters whether to amend the N.M. Constitution to require increased qualifications for commissioners (HJR 11), move corporation responsibilities to the Secretary of State’s Office (HJR 16) and create an independent superintendent of insurance (HJR 17). The three joint resolutions need only Senate approval to be put on the ballot this November. But Sanchez alone controls the Senate floor calendar. “I think we have to look at this more carefully than in a 30-day session,” Sanchez said. “We need to take a very careful look.” Read more

State Dept. Issues New Travel Warning for Mexico

From -The U.S. State Department has issued a new travel warning for Mexico, superseding last April’s warning. The department warned U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico of cartel violence stemming from drug trafficking, specifically noting violent struggles among the criminal organizations for control of trafficking routes. According to figures from the Mexican government, 47,515 people were killed in narcotics-related violence in Mexico between December 1, 2006, and September 30, 2011, the warning states, noting that most of those killed were members of the criminal organizations. The State Department has reported 120 U.S. citizens were murdered in Mexico in 2011. This compares with 35 such murders in 2007, according to the warning. The warning, broken down by region, advises citizens to defer any nonessential travel to Tamaulipas. U.S. government employees are not allowed to travel for personal reasons on highways outside the cities of Matamoros, Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo due to the risk of armed robberies and carjackings.

Judge Murphy Announces Retirement

From - Judge Michael Murphy announced Wednesday that he will retire from the bench, effective Feb. 24. Murphy was indicted last year on bribery charges, including a bribing a witness. Murphy says he's leaving the bench due to his age, health and legal case so that the division can be fully staffed for the benefit of district citizens. According to records, Murphy told a judicial candidate that in order to get a seat on the bench, she would have to pay a political activist. That activist would reportedly funnel the money to then-New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who has denied the allegations.
Court documents show Murphy's decision to resign doesn't conclude that he's admitting guilt to the charges. Murphy says he's leaving the bench due to his age, health and legal case so that the division can be fully staffed for the benefit of district citizens.

Daredevil to Plunge From Outer Space

From - After some minor speed bumps, Daredevil adventurer Felix Baumgartner's plans to plunge 23 miles from the edge of space back to Earth -- a Red Bull-sponsored stunt that would be the world's highest freefall -- is finally coming to fruition, the team announced Monday, Feb. 6. “We still have a lot to do before we’re ready, before the big one, but our launch window starts in July in New Mexico,”Baumgartner told  More News New Mexico

Obama Admin Appoints "Official Advocate" for Illegals

From - The Obama Administration has announced an “official advocate” for illegal immigrants. His duties will include listening to the concerns the illegals have with our law enforcement policies. The Washington Times reported: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the advocate will “serve as a point of contact for individuals, including those in immigration proceedings, NGOs and other community and advocacy groups, who have concerns, questions, recommendations or other issues they would like to raise.” The agency — part of the Homeland Security Department — said Andrew Lorenz-Strait will be the first advocate. But Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said that meant elevating the concerns of illegal immigrants. “It’s outrageous that the Obama administration has appointed a taxpayer-funded activist for illegal and criminal immigrants who are detained or ordered deported. The administration all too often acts more like a lobbying firm for illegal immigrants than as an advocate for the American people.  More News New Mexico

N.M Chile Crop Up After 40 Year Low

From - Experts say the size of New Mexico's chile crop increased in 2011 after dwindling to nearly 40-year low the year before.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture preliminary figures showed some 9,500 chile acres were harvested last year. That's around a 9 percent increase from 2010. Officials with the New Mexico Chile Association presented the figures Tuesday at an annual chile conference taking place in Las Cruces. Dino Cervantes, president of the group, said strong demand from chile processors, who drive acreage numbers through their contracts with farmers, is likely the main factor behind the increase. Federal numbers also showed that the value of the crop inched upward, from $41.6 million in 2010 to $46.7 million in 2011. 

Millions Missing From N.M. Title Co.

From -Several million dollars appear to be missing from title and escrow accounts at New Mexico Title Co., a police detective said Tuesday, as the investigation widens into possible wrongdoing at the Farmington business. "It's going to be a pretty large and complex investigation," said Farmington Police Sgt. Brandon Lane. The New Mexico Division of Insurance is auditing the business with the help of the title company's insurance underwriter, First American Title Insurance Co. A report is expected as soon as this week. Once that report is completed, Farmington police will determine if criminal charges are warranted, Lane said. Investigators are working to discover the extent of funds missing, but the initial investigation suggests it could be more than $10 million, he said.  More News New Mexico

House Set to Vote on Repeal of Drivers Licenses to Illegals

From -The New Mexico House is scheduled to vote on a proposal aimed at repealing a state law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. The full 70-member House is slated to debate the measure Wednesday after a House panel endorsed it last week. On Friday, the House Judiciary Committee voted 9-6 to endorse the repeal backed by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. But critics of the proposal predicted that Martinez won't succeed in winning enactment of the legislation because it's likely to fail in the Senate, where Democrats hold a stronger majority than in the House. New Mexico and Washington are the only states that grant driver's licenses to illegal immigrants and others without a Social Security number. Utah issues a special permit allowing immigrants to drive.


House Passes Budget 70-0

SANTA FE, NM – The House of Representatives has passed a budget for the next spending year that begins July 2012. HB2 would provide $5.642 billion in state spending, an increase of $215 million (nearly 4 percent) over this year’s budget. The spending plan leaves $41.8 million to allow for flexibility in hammering out a final budget (such as tax reductions, pension solvency, infrastructure funding, or as a hedge against weak natural gas prices).

HB2 also puts a safe guard in place should revenue projections fall short. This provision allows the governor to make across-the-board spending cuts to adjust the budget. The automatic spending reductions would apply to most state agencies except Medicaid programs; the developmental disabilities support program; the law enforcement program of the department of public safety; the inmate management and control program of the Corrections Department and any agency that receives less than $5 million total in general fund appropriations under Section 4.
The bulk of the budget in HB2 would go toward public education and higher education, then health, hospitals, and human services.
· $2.45 billion for Public Education (increase of $89 million or 3.8 percent)
· $756.1 million for Higher Education (increase of $40 million or 5.5 percent)
· $905 million for Medicaid (increase of $38 million or 4.4 percent)
· $291 million for Dept. of Health (increase of $2.5 million)
· $207 million for Children, Youth and Families Dept. (increase of $12 million or 6.1 percent)
Chair of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee (HAFC), Rep. Henry “Kiki” Saavedra (D-Bernalillo, Valencia, Dist. 10) said, “We work real hard –Democrats and Republicans – to come up with a budget that’s balanced. This was a joint effort to do what is best for all New Mexicans.”
HB2 passed by a vote of 70 to 0. The budget plan now goes to the Senate.


The Spaceport America Visitor Experience Plan

Spaceport Vistor's Center Artist Rendering
The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) Board of Directors reviewed plans today to design, build and program the Spaceport America Visitor Experience. The plan includes two off-site Welcome Centers located in the Village of Hatch in Doña Ana County and in Truth or Consequences in Sierra County, plus an on-site Visitors Center and specially developed behind-the-scenes tours as well as the chance to visit the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space.
The Spaceport America Visitor Experience will be a professionally designed immersion into the excitement of the world's first purpose-built, commercial spaceport. Guests will be invited to explore the history, adventure, potential and inspiration of both the next space-age. Officials project attendance will grow to more than 200,000 visitors annually.
“The Spaceport Experience begins on-line long before a guest arrives at a Welcome Center” explained Bob Allen, IDEAS Chief Storytelling Officer. “There will be a robust virtual environment offering games, mobile apps and content so that especially our younger guests will already feel a part of the new space age by the time they come for a visit.” Kelly Pounds, IDEAS Vice President of Learning, noted that a lot of the content will have an educational focus. “We’ll have a special section for educators incorporating lesson plans, instructionally and designed interactives as well as a way for teachers to establish a dialogue with Spaceport for long-term collaboration.
“The Welcome Centers are the “mission briefing” areas where guests become part of the spaceport crew, get updated on current activity, get their credentials and catch a shuttle,” said Allen. The shuttles, designed as traveling theaters are an integral part of the experience. Because Spaceport America is a part of a rich portfolio of regional tourism, the Welcome Centers will also feature a “regional trailhead” where guests can learn about and plan multi-day itineraries. Once guests arrive at Spaceport America, they enter the onsite Visitors Center, which will feature hands-on access to space technology and artifacts from recent launches, the opportunity to create a payload and manifest it for flight, interactive and simulation based experiences and a theater. From the Visitors Center, guests can take a guided in-depth shuttle tour of the entire spaceport finishing at the entrance to the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space where they will get a chance to see in depth into the exciting reality of the world’s first passenger spaceship fleet. Allen noted that, “we are designing a learning-enriched, hands-on immersion into what space is going to be about for the next twenty years. We want a relationship with our guests that lasts generations.” Read rest of story here: News New Mexico


Will Campus Building Projects be Reigned In?

Albuquerque Journal – Community colleges and university branches across the state would lose about $45 million in campus building projects under one revised higher education bond recommendation being considered by Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration.
The Legislative Finance Committee initially recommended each of New Mexico’s 18 community colleges and university branches get at least one campus construction project valued between $500,000 and $12 million included in the general obligation bond issue voters statewide will consider in November.
Those projects would be wiped from the bond issue under a proposal being considered by the Department of Finance and Administration, according to a DFA document acquired by the Journal that outlines one possible recommendation. Read full story here (subscription required) News New Mexico
Recycling of "Fundamental Transformation"


Swickard - Envy me not, nor me you

“You shall not covet your neighbor's house… or anything that is your neighbor's.” ESV Bible, Exodus 20:17
While the “envy your neighbors” card has been played often by politicians for several decades, it seems the current class warfare dialog has gone mainstream this political season. Talking about who has what is the Washington rage, despite that members of Congress are quite wealthy and have been made so by holding the reins of power.
Also, the rules of Washington insure that the holders of the power are not subject to the same rules as the masses. The people pointing out the inequities of life are themselves treated to different healthcare and retirement programs as are the masses. Is it envy that I say these things? No.
It is central to political speak that in our society everyone has a different amount of resources. Some people always have more than others. Some citizens work harder and or smarter and are rewarded for those actions. For every person who inherited wealth, a thousand created it in their own generation. But that does not get votes, what gets votes is class warfare.
Rather than celebrate that a candidate for president without being compelled gave about three million dollars to charity last year is met with, “They should have given more.” Really? Someone gives three million dollars without being compelled to do so and it is not enough for some envious people? Sad.
In the political class warfare it is hard to imagine a country like ours without envy. Being aware and attracted to the possession of others is the hallmark of our nation; the driving force in our tax code. We refer to our envy as to the issue of fairness, it is not fair one person has more possessions than another. This is still envy and it is very dysfunctional to our society.
Envy has taken over our culture to the point that there is a backlash against people who have worked hard all of their life and have accumulated possessions. Regardless of what one person has that another does not, be it a nicer house, better car or a debt-free existence, those who have more are more likely battered by the political elite. Example: Tiger Woods.

Albuquerque Housing Market Poised to Bounce?

KOAT TV - New Mexico's real estate market is bouncing back according to the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors. Record foreclosures and a high number of homes for sale were good for buyers but bad for the real estate market. But that's about to change. The number of homes on the market during the fourth quarter in 2011 was the lowest in five years; good news that more people are buying homes here in Albuquerque.
"Until we get through the first quarter, we're not going to know what supply and demand is going to do, but obviously it's lower that it's been in a long time, a positive movement for us, we like to see that," said Mark Guggino of the Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors. Read full story here: News New Mexico


Logjam: No Movement on State Budget

KOB TV - There was no movement on the long-overdue budget bill at the state legislature Tuesday. It remains on a temporary agenda in the House of Representatives, while Senate leaders warn of a legislative logjam if they do not get the budget soon.

The budget was due out of the House last Tuesday - a week ago - and while action is expected tomorrow it will leave the Senate only a week to work on the bill, which is the only absolutely mandatory piece of business in the entire 30-day legislative session.
The $5.6 billion dollar budget will run state government and the public schools and universities for the next budgetary year that starts July 1. Read full story here: News New Mexico

Town fighting for Spaceport visitor center location

From - By: Marissa Torres, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - A New Mexico town is fighting plans to build a new visitor center for the Spaceport Authority. People in Truth or Consequences held a town hall meeting on Tuesday to argue a change in location. Right now, the center is slotted to go up just off Interstate 25 outside of town, but residents said they want it in downtown T or C. A while back, the town voted to dish out some of their own tax dollars to help fund the New Mexico Spaceport Authority in the hopes of reaping economic benefits. "We feel [that] now we've been left in the cold and ignored. Decisions are being made without any thought of the people who actually paid for it," said Hans Townsend, President of the Sierra County and T or C Chamber of Commerce. Townsend said T or C is already willing to give up a little of their properties to clear an area for the visitor center. It would ideally be down by the river, next to a park. The Spaceport hired a contractor to help choose a spot for the visitor center and out of eight locations, it decided on a site just off I-25. Officials said part of that decision was based on easy accessibility to the highway. A second visitor center will also be built in the Village of Hatch in Dona Ana County. Spaceport authorities said it will also sit just off the highway. Read more


UNM Walk-On Quarterback Trujillo Off The Team

From - The University of New Mexico says former Manzano High School star quarterback Ryan Trujillo who was a walk-on to the UNM team has been removed from the team and has been advised to enter university counseling. The announcement was made Monday, about two weeks after Trujillo was arrested by Albuquerque police in a restaurant parking lot on a domestic violence charge.  A criminal complaint says the incident started when Trujillo entered the restaurant and found his girlfriend eating with a friend. Witnesses told police he was agitated and grabbed her keys.  In the parking lot, Trujillo is accused of spraying his girlfriend in the face with a pepper-spray canister that was on the keychain. He told officers it was an accident.  The team says Trujillo's status may be re-evaluated prior to the 2012 season.  Ryan  joined the program as a freshman last August. Read more


Will the House redistricting decision be sent back?

NM Supreme Court hears House redistricting appeal
From Capitol Report New Mexico - Things are never simple in New Mexico politics. A couple months after a redistricting court judge — selected by the state’s Supreme Court – ruled in favor of a plan establishing new voting boundaries for the House of Representatives submitted by attorneys for Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, the high court listened to appeals from Democrats’ attorneys on Tuesday (Feb. 7) arguing that the decision was flawed. And while it’s always dangerous to discern what justices may rule based upon the questions they ask, it appears that at least two of the five jurors are open to the idea of remanding the case back to redistricting Judge Jim Hall. “Why shouldn’t we just let Judge Hall give it another try to preserve a community of interest” concern brought up by the appellants, asked Justice Richard C. Bosson during the two-plus hours of arguments. “The failure of the legislature and the governor [to reach an agreement on redistricting] is pretty remarkable,” Justice Edward L. Chavez said from the bench, adding that “we as a Supreme Court should offer some guidance [to Judge Hall].” An attorney for the governor, Paul Kennedy, argued that remanding the cases back to Judge Hall would open a host of problems. “Judge Hall made a reasonable decision,” Kennedy told the court. “If you send it back and tell him to redraw [the redistricting map] … you’re still going to have the same effect on the map … every map has some political bias.” Read more

Electric fences approved in the El Paso city limits

From the El Paso Times - By Aileen B. Flores  - El Paso City Council passed an ordinance allowing the use of electric fences within the city limits. Currently, electric fences are only used in farming and ranching areas. The new rule attempts to deter crime on commercial and industrial sites. Under the new ordinance, the electric fence shall be surrounded by a 6- to 8-feet tall non-electrical fence or wall. Visible signs warning the public about the existence of an electric fence are also required under the new law. In addition, the fence shall only be energized at times when the business is closed to the public. Some council members raised concerns about the safety and the danger that an electric fence system may cause to the general public or site workers.  A video of The Electric Guard Dog CEO Jack DeMao touching an electric fence was showed to council to show that the electric system does not harm anybody, but only helps to prevent criminals from trespassing.  Michael Pate, director of business development of The Electric Guard Dog, said the point of the demonstration is to show that the sensation of touching an electrified fence is very unpleasant.  "People just do not like to have anything electrical running through their body," he said. "This is a very safe product." Read more

Santa Fe School District Report raises option of shutting Atalaya school, to parents' dismay

From the Santa Fe New - by Robert Nott - Many Atalaya Elementary School parents are unhappy about a new report suggesting, among other things, that the school district consider closing Atalaya and sending the students to nearby elementary schools.  The 32-page "Atalaya Elementary School Facility Program and Recommendations" report, prepared by the Albuquerque-based Hartman + Majewski Design Group, also offers three options for renovations and additions to the existing school, and one option that calls for the demolition of the facility and relocation of the existing student body to another location for up to two years while a new school is constructed.  But the report recommends that the Board of Education review the school's demographics, declining enrollment, location, programs and facility conditions, and "consider whether or not an elementary school continues to be needed in this area and the BOE should consider full facility closure."  Board Vice President Glenn Wikle, who represents District 2, told The New Mexican via email that closure is "a recommendation which a majority of the board and the superintendent do not support."  Read more