Ben Lujan Honored in U.S. Senate

Ben Lujan
From -Moments after the New Mexico Legislature adjourned its 30-day session in Santa Fe, outgoing House Speaker Ben Lujan was honored by the state's two U.S. Senators in Washington. On Thursday, Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall celebrated Lujan's public service. “We're indeed fortunate to have had a man of his character serving our state in such an explemplary way and in such an important position for so many years,” Bingamann said. Sen. Udall said Lujan's battle with lung cancer, and his commitment to the legislature were admirable. “He remains steadfast in his service to the people of New Mexico, and even while undergoing chemotherapy, he continued to work as speaker,” Udall said. “Even a devastating illness could not deter Ben Lujan from the job he committed to do. And his family supported him every step of the way. That is honor, that is integrity, that is courage.” The statements were made on the Senate floor, and broadcast nationally on the CSPAN2.  More News New Mexico

Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Wins Hottest Pepper Title

From - With a name like that, it's not surprising that months of research by the experts at New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute have identified the variety as the new hottest pepper on the planet. The golf ball-sized pepper scored the highest among a handful of chile breeds reputed to be among the hottest in the world. Its mean heat topped more than 1.2 million units on the Scoville heat scale, while fruits from some individual plants reached 2 million heat units.  More News New Mexico


Nuke Us: The Town That Wants America's Atomic Waste

From staff writer Christopher Helman - There’s a secure solution to America’s nuclear waste problem: bury it under Carlsbad, New Mexico. The locals are ready — if only Washington would get out of the way. Bob Forrest is known for a lot of things in Carlsbad, a quiet city of 25,000 on the edge of New Mexico’s empty, endless Chihuahuan Desert. He was mayor here for 16 years. He’s chairman of the local bank and owns the spanking new Fairfield Inn, which sits next to the new Chili’s and the new Wal-Mart. And he helped bring 200,000 tons of deadly nuclear waste to town. 
That’s not a bad thing—at least not here. Unlike thousands of other places in America, where the thought of trucking in barrels of radioactive garbage from atomic weapons plants would lead to marches, face paint and, invariably, pandering politicians (witness Nevada’s stalled Yucca Mountain project), Carlsbad has a different take. “It’s really a labor of love,” says Forrest. “We’ve proven that nuclear waste can be disposed of in a safe, reliable way.” More News New Mexico 


Pearce: Trial Lawyers Have Harmed the Taxpayers and Private Investments in Spaceport America

by Congressman Steve Pearce - Special interest groups in Santa Fe have harmed New Mexico’s competitive edge as the home to commercial space flight. Up until now, New Mexico had been the leader in this burgeoning global industry. Today, we stand on the precipice of losing our future to Colorado, Texas, Virginia and Florida.
It should surprise no one that spaceflight is still riskier than airline flight. In 2004, the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act was signed into federal law and has worked very well in fostering the development of new companies in the United States—especially New Mexico.
This law has allowed for the creation of a new commercial business – suborbital spaceflight for average citizens. It allows commercial space travel companies to obtain insurance by having passengers sign a consent agreement, in exchange for the thrill, the excitement and the experience of a lifetime. To date, hundreds of potential passengers have signed a federally approved consent agreement that protects these new companies in federal court.
Recently, even in this climate of political discord in Washington, the federal statute was extended by BOTH the House and Senate through 2015, with bipartisan and bicameral support from a majority of New Mexico’s Congressional delegation. Just this week, President Obama signed this vital extension into law. Washington, remarkably, has done its job here. Why can’t Santa Fe?
Texas, Virginia and Florida already have this language in their statutes and are in sync with the federal law. Colorado’s legislature is expected to approve the legislation by May. In essence, recognizing the future growth and potential the commercial space flight industry offers, they acted and removed their state loophole laws. It was imperative that this law be passed in New Mexico to continue the expansion of commercial space travel here in our great state. Read rest of column here: News New Mexico


Study: 24 Million Invalid Voter Registrations

From - A new Pew Center on the States study has revealed that approximately 24 million active voter registrations across the United States are either invalid or contain significant inaccuracies. Worse, some 1.8 millions deceased citizens are still legally registered to vote casting into doubt the legitimacy of America’s voter registration rolls and leaving the door wide open for massive voter fraud. Pew reports that 1 in 8 registrations is either invalid or has major inaccuracies. The study also finds that the United States spends more money on voter registration but gets less accurate results than other countries such as neighboring Canada. Costs in the US are 12 times higher than costs in Canada, Pew found.  Oregon spent $8.8 million on voter registration in 2008, the cost amounting to $4.11 per voter. Yet in Canada, which adopted a digital registration system, spends only 35 cents per voter nationwide. “Voter registration is the gateway to participating in our democracy, but these antiquated, paper-based systems are plagued with errors and inefficiencies,” said David Becker, Pew’s director of election initiatives. “These problems waste taxpayer dollars, undermine voter confidence and fuel partisan disputes over the integrity of our elections”  More News New Mexico

State Charter School Ranking Increases

From - Eliminating number limits, strengthening authorizers, and equalizing funding and facilities for charter schools caused several states to shift to the top of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools’ annual ranking in 2012. The NAPCS judges states by laws that support charter growth and hold them accountable without stifling them. On a scale of one to 200, the average state score was 107, a seven-point increase from 2011.  “Having school choice opportunities is a core to our reforms,” said Stephen Bowen, Maine’s education commissioner. “That means charter schools and more choices among public schools, too. The buildings and experiences have to be flexible to the needs of the kids, not the other way around. We’re going to let families, not street addresses, determine what the best learning environment is for students.”  Maine, Minnesota, Florida, New Mexico, and Massachusetts held the top five spots, while Iowa, Kansas, Alaska, Maryland, and Mississippi rounded out the bottom five.  More News New Mexico

Former Fire Chief Lied About Identity

Eddie Velarde
From - It's a question almost anyone can answer without a second thought. "When is your birthday?" But KOB Eyewitness News 4 has learned one northern New Mexico Fire Chief is having trouble answering when he was born. A 4 On Your Side investigation has found former Fire Chief Eddie Velarde may have lied to the state, Rio Arriba County and sheriff's deputies about his date of birth, social security number and criminal background. Questions about Velarde's personal information first arose during his arrest at the Crazy Horse fire in March of 2010.  According to a police report, Velarde had ordered his men to clear out while the fire was still burning and yelled, "let it all burn," during an argument over who was in control of the scene.  The reporting officer wrote that when Velarde was arrested he provided investigators the wrong social security number and the wrong date of birth. Eventually a charge of concealing identity was also added but an Espanola Judge dismissed the case. Documents also show last year, Velarde was under investigation by the state health department for providing the same social security number but a different date of birth on his renewal application for an EMS license. Velarde also marked "No" on a portion of the application asking about felony convictions. Court records show Velarde has been convicted of two felonies.  More News New Mexico

Native American Jewelry Huge in Japan

From -Native American jewelry handcrafted in New Mexico is huge in Japan, and some local artists said most of their work is headed to the Land of the Rising Sun.Japan has the world's 10th largest population with more than 127 million people. The Japanese are rapidly becoming one of the largest consumers of Native American jewelry.  More News New Mexico

Senate Republicans Frustrated with the Michael Sanchez Reform Blockade

Santa Fe--The 30 day Legislative Session ended at noon today and concluded a month full of debate, discussion and ended with a new, balanced budget to run state government starting in July.

Many Republican State Senators say it is a good budget that continues to invest in public education, while meeting its financial responsibilities to fund Medicaid. The $5.6 billion dollar budget spends about $220 million more than the current year budget. Much of that 4% increase goes to public schools and Medicaid. The legislature also passed over $280 million in capital outlay for many New Mexico communities.
Passing a balanced budget in the 30 day legislative session, is the only constitutional requirement the legislature has in the even numbered years when the session is held. In addition to passing a budget, education reform and tax breaks to encourage economic development in the state were hotly debated during the session. Senators predicted that the bills that did not pass regarding education reform, tax reductions to encourage economic development and stopping illegal immigrants from receiving New Mexico driver’s licenses will be back. Read rest of the story here: News New Mexico

Court Halts Hearing on Pit Rule

From - The First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe has ordered oil-and-gas industry representatives to stop pursuing changes in New Mexico’s ‘pit rule’ at the state Oil Conservation Division until court processes are completed.  The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association and the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico have fought to modify Pit Rule 17 since it was approved in 2008 under former Gov. Bill Richardson.  More News New Mexico

Legislative Session Marred by Stalling and Blocking of Reforms Ends at Noon Today

After a little more than a month of Ben Lujan, Ken Martinez, and Sheryl Williams Stapleton using stalling and blocking tactics to thwart most reform efforts in the House, while Michael Sanchez did the same thing in the Senate, Santa Fe is about to return to what passes for normal when the legislative session ends at noon today.
Still up in the air is the question of whether crime rings will continue to be able to operate with impunity in New Mexico thanks to a so called "compromise" bill in the Senate that will enable the DMV to continue to issue driver's licenses to people here illegally.
Also in question is whether New Mexico schools will continue to engage in the widely discredited practice of social promotion of children who lack basic reading skills.
It seems that the disastrous competitive impact of pyramiding due to a bad gross receipt tax structure will continue. And reforms to the scandal plagued Public Regulation Commission appear to have been effectively blocked in the Senate by Michael Sanchez.
It also appears that people working in the public education system (e.g. Sheryl Williams Stapleton) will be allowed to continue to leave their jobs, causing school districts to pay others to replace them, while they continue to draw their salaries and per diem in Santa Fe. This will happen while all other legislators serve on a volunteer basis.
Most New Mexicans paying attention are scratching their heads recalling that  just sixteen months ago Governor Martinez was elected to clean up the mess in Santa Fe.
However, with Democrats still in control of the House and Senate........reform blocking has become the name of the game played by those in control. It's a shame.


Martinez Blasts Brooks for NCLB Waiver Comments

Gov. Susana Martinez
From - The governor is celebrating New Mexico's waiver from No Child Left Behind, but she is also blasting Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Winston Brooks. After learning New Mexico got the waiver, Governor Susana Martinez took to Facebook on Wednesday, saying: "I am proud of the fact that New Mexico is ahead of 39 other states in terms of education reform.
Winston Brooks
It was embarrassing that the superintendent of the state's largest school district was cheering against New Mexico last week to score cheap political points." When KOB Eyewitness News 4 asked Martinez about the post, she said last week Brooks said it was embarrassing that New Mexico was not one of the last states to receive the waiver.
On Wednesday, Brooks sent out a statement about No Child Left Behind commending the state for its efforts. He then went on to say he was "eager to see the detials of the waiver to better understand expectations from the U.S. Department of Education." We tried getting reaction from Superintendent Brooks and were told he is out of town. Read more


Bill Calls for Gaming Taxes to be Studied

Santa Fe- The New Mexico State Senate tonight unanimously passed a memorial requesting the Gaming Control Board to study the tax situation at racetracks.
The sponsor of the Senate Memorial 52- Racetrack Casino Progressive Tax Study- is Senate Minority Caucus Chair Steven Neville. (R-San Juan.)
“We need to study the fairness of our tax situation for our racetrack casinos and their competitiveness with Indian casinos,” Senator Neville said. “The five racetracks in the state pay half of the racing taxes while the remaining half is paid by the 16 Indian casinos. The few racetracks are paying 50% of the taxes because of the disparity in taxation. Racetrack casinos pay as high as 26% tax while Indian casinos only pay 8%. This inequality needs to be studied and how it affects the competitiveness of racetrack casinos.”
The memorial will study the feasibility of implementing a progressive tax bracket based on revenue generated by race tracks. Senator Neville said the competitiveness is important for their future and their ability to continue to contribute millions in tax revenue to the state. Senator Neville said the racetrack businesses contribute $400 million to the state’s economy.
“The current tax structure makes it difficult for racetrack casinos to compete with the Indian casinos, the study should be reported to the legislature by November,” Senator Neville said.



Democrats push to keep straight-party balloting

From the Santa Fe New - Since the late 1960s, New Mexico voters have been able to vote a straight-party ticket -- picking all Democrats or all Republicans -- in general elections. However, the straight-party option isn't listed anywhere in the state election code, and some Democrats fear the option will disappear by the November general election.  What apparently stirred those fears is that the secretary of state, Dianna Duran, is a Republican -- the first Republican in that office since 1930. Duran says straight-ticket voting isn't authorized -- and, she argues, isn't permitted -- under current law.  The Senate on Thursday voted 26-12 in favor of a bill that would make the straight-ticket ballot option part of state law. The vote on Senate Bill 218 was along party lines, with all Democrats for it and all Republicans against it.  Even if the bill makes it through the House, however, there probably is trouble ahead for the legislation. Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, doesn't support the proposal, a spokesman said Wednesday. Read more


Lobos defeat #13 San Diego State

From the Alamogordo Daily News - SAN DIEGO—The New Mexico Lobos came into No. 13 San Diego State's loud, crazy arena and made a bold statement of their own.  Kendall Williams scored 21 points and Drew Gordon had 17 points and 17 rebounds as the Lobos stunned the Aztecs 77-67 on Wednesday night to move into sole possession of first place in the Mountain West Conference.  "We needed momentum and we needed a proving game, and this is a pretty good proving game for us," New Mexico coach Steve Alford said.  It's been a crazy several days in the MWC, and the Lobos (21-4, 7-2), who won their sixth straight, have been the beneficiaries. No. 11 UNLV beat the Aztecs on Saturday and then lost in overtime at TCU on Tuesday night.  "We're 21-4. Our guys have done an incredible job of being consistent and playing well all year long," Alford said. Read more


Are You Making the FBI Suspicious? Fliers Reveal What They’re Looking For

From The Blaze - Do you pay for your coffee each day with cash? Express an interest in remote-controlled airplanes? According to fliers created by the FBI and Bureau of Justice Assistance for distribution to a variety of businesses, this could be considered indications of terrorist tendencies, the Huffington Post reports. The 25 fliers part of the campaign “Communities Against Terrorism” are targeted toward “threat areas,” which include airport service providers, beauty/drug suppliers, construction sites, hobby shops, Internet cafes, martial arts, rental cars and tattoo parlors, among others. Each target area comes with a downloadable flier profiling activity employees could look for to detect potential terrorists. Read more