Medicaid Situation Still Undecided

Albuquerque Journal (Subscription) - In New Mexico, children 18 and younger comprise about 61 percent of the 550,000 people covered by Medicaid, the state and federally funded health care insurance program for the poor, said Matt Kennicott, a spokesman for the state Human Services Department. New Mexico now extends Medicaid coverage to about 336,000 children from families up to 235 percent of the federal poverty level, or $54,168 a year for a family of four. By comparison, the Affordable Care Act goes only to 133 percent of poverty. Under the new federal health care law, states can’t reduce Medicaid eligibility at least until new health care exchanges are up and running, if they so choose to do. Medicaid eligibility varies widely for New Mexico adults. Pregnant women are covered up to 185 percent of the federal poverty level, or $42,648 a year for a family of four. New Mexico remains in early discussion about what shape Medicaid will take under the new law, Kennicott said Thursday. Gov. Susana Martinez and state lawmakers have yet to weigh in, he said. “We’re still in very early conversations about what is going to happen in New Mexico,” he said. “There are lots of moving pieces and lots of people involved in this decision.” Read More News New Mexico


Mexico's New President Signals Shift in Drug War Policy

Enrique Peña Nieto
Fox News - Mexico's next president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has not detailed his drug war strategy but has promised to halve the number of kidnappings and murders during his six-year term by moving law enforcement away from showy drug busts and focusing on protecting ordinary citizens from gangs. The ambiguity of Pena Nieto's drug war plans has fed fears at home and abroad that he might look the other way if cartels smuggle drugs northward without creating violence in Mexico. Many analysts wonder if Peña Nieto is holding back politically sensitive details of his plans, or simply doesn't know yet how he'll be prosecute the next stage of Mexico's drug war. Some hints are starting to seep out. A close acquaintance, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, told The Associated Press that the president-elect has discussed a new offensive against the smaller, local gangs that have cropped up in many Mexican states and earn money through kidnapping and extortion in addition to drug dealing. President Felipe Calderón's 5 1/2-year war against the big cartels has been criticized by some for fracturing control of territory and smuggling routes, spawning smaller gangs like La Linea in Chihuahua state and La Barredora in the city of Acapulco that view ordinary citizens as their primary source of illicit income. Read More News New Mexico


New Mexico works to get back on Hollywood's A-list

Nick Maniatis, New Mexico Film Office
Santa Fe New MexicanNew Mexican Alton Walpole, who works as both a line producer and a unit production manager in the film business, figures he’ll pay more state income tax in California than in New Mexico this year. So does SantaFean Rosario Provenza, an art director in the business. They’ve gone where the film work has gone: elsewhere. Wherever that is, they may encounter Guy Barnes. He has worked in the film business for 35 years as a production designer/art director; 10 of those years were spent here in New Mexico. Three of the last five film and television productions he has worked on in the past 18 months have been anchored in other states, he said. “In two years, you’ll be talking to me in Louisiana or Georgia,” he said, referencing two states that have become top players in the film business. Walpole and others attribute their new itinerant careers to changes in New Mexico’s film incentives program made by Gov. Susana Martinez and the Legislature early in 2011. The changes themselves weren’t the big issue, people say. It was the uncertainty hanging over the program as Martinez and state lawmakers debated the fate of it, leading Hollywood to look elsewhere for more security. The result was a lull in the film industry in New Mexico. But Martinez administration officials say things are turning around now, and the state can expect a busy next year. Read More News New Mexico


The Drone Zone

Courtesy of Sean Hemmerle
AHD Note: Air Force Drones Trail Civilian Auto Traffic in New Mexico New York TimesHolloman Air Force Base, at the eastern edge of New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range, 200 miles south of Albuquerque, was once famous for the daredevil maneuvers of those who trained there. In 1954, Col. John Paul Stapp rode a rocket-propelled sled across the desert, reaching 632 miles per hour, in an attempt to figure out the maximum speed at which jet pilots could safely eject. He slammed on the brakes and was thrust forward with such force that he had to be hauled away on a stretcher, his eyes bleeding from burst capillaries. Six years later, Capt. Joseph Kittinger Jr., testing the height at which pilots could safely bail out, rode a helium-powered balloon up to 102,800 feet. He muttered, “Lord, take care of me now,” dropped for 13 minutes 45 seconds and broke the record for the highest parachute jump. Today many of the pilots at Holloman never get off the ground. The base has been converted into the U.S. Air Force’s primary training center for drone operators, where pilots spend their days in sand-colored trailers near a runway from which their planes take off without them. Inside each trailer, a pilot flies his plane from a padded chair, using a joystick and throttle, as his partner, the “sensor operator,” focuses on the grainy images moving across a video screen, directing missiles to their targets with a laser. Read More News New Mexico


Largest Wind Farm in the U.S. is Still Insisting on Taxpayer Handouts for Expansion

Platts - The developer of the US' biggest wind farm in terms of megawatts, which is due to get even bigger, said Friday it will not pursue expansion into 2013 if the production tax credit is not extended by Congress.
Terra-Gen Power's 1,020-MW Alta Wind farm in Tehachapi, California, is expected to reach 1,320 MW by the end of the year. The phased-in facility, located in Kern County about 115 miles north of Los Angeles, has separate power purchase agreements carved out from a 1,550-MW master power purchase agreement with Southern California Edison and is seen as helping the investor-owned utility meet the state's ambitious renewable portfolio standard.
However, what has been built thus far and what is under construction is less than half of what was originally conceived in 2006 as a 3,100-MW project. Read full story here: News New Mexico


Fulton's $12 Million Gift to Sunland Park Tangled in Consultant Lawsuit

Sunland Park City Hall
El Paso Times — A $1 million contract between the city of Sunland Park and one of its former consultants is at the center of a legal dispute that has accusations flying both directions.
And the outcome, which is pending trial, could possibly cost city taxpayers money — or result in them being reimbursed, to the tune of about half a million dollars.
The owner of the contract, Annette Morales, and her Las Cruces-based company, Medius Inc., sued the city at the start of the year, contending she was owed money for consulting work that went unpaid when the city ended her contract abruptly last fall.
But a twist in the months since now has the city alleging that Morales was the one in the wrong and that it's she who owes the city of Sunland Park nearly a half-million dollars.
Stan Fulton
Morales, in a recent interview, said she was almost relieved when her contract was terminated by the city last year because of a "toxic" work environment and major turmoil at city hall. But the city didn't give proper notice to end the agreement and left an invoice unpaid. She said she's looking forward to a resolution.
"We attempted to try to settle. I don't know if that's going to happen," she said. "I just want this nightmare to end."
Morales was awarded up to a $1 million contract in the first quarter of 2011 to carry out a city infrastructure review and create plan for accommodating a proposed international border crossing between Sunland Park and Juárez, according to court documents.
Payment for Morales' work was set to originate from the Border Crossing Fund, a nearly $12 million donation to the city from racetrack and casino owner Stan Fulton that was meant to benefit the proposed port of entry. Read full story here: News New Mexico

King Rips GOP Over Records Request

Gary King
KRWG - A request made by the New Mexico Republican Party under the state Inspection of Public Records Act is drawing fire from Democratic Attorney General Gary King.
The party sent the request to King's office two weeks ago. It sought any emails and attachments concerning public business that were sent by King from his personal email addresses.
King said Friday his office has delivered some of the requested documents to the party. He calls the request a "political ploy." He says he was suspicious of the request given that it came four days after two state lawmakers raised questions about employees in Gov. Susana Martinez's administration possibly violating state governmental conduct rules. Read full story here: News New Mexico


Richardson Never Used His State E-mail Address

KRQE —"In the early days it wasn't sure if it was public record, if it was more akin to the telephone," State Records Administrator John Hyrum Martinez said. "It wasn't until a number of court decisions that said no, these are public record."
Bill Richardson
But don't go over to the State Records Center and Archives in Santa Fe expecting to find state e-mails from form er Govs. Bill Richardson and Gary Johnson.
"Richardson was the first governor we got e-mail from, so this is a learning experience for all of us," Martinez continued.
And while the archive received more than 2.5 million e-mails from Richardson administration officials, archivists were surprised when they checked Richardson's state e-mail address.
"Well, it appears that the e-mail wasn't used," Martinez said. "We found there were no records in his in or his sent or his deleted boxes."
That's right. It appears Richardson never used his state e-mail address even one time during his eight years in office. Instead if his staff needed to communicate with him, they used one of the governor's private e-mail accounts. Read full story here: News New Mexico

Not Every Pet Doing Well With High Unemployment

KOAT - More animals than ever were surrendered by their owners in June, and Animal Humane said it's a sign of the tough economic times. The Animal Humane New Mexico said it normally receives about 100 owner-surrendered animals a month, but it June, it received about 239. "They either feel like they can't afford the pet or they are moving. Often, they are downsizing or leaving New Mexico to find better job opportunities," said Dawn Glass, from Animal Humane New Mexico.
It may be hard on owners, but Animal Humane said it's hard on the pets, too.
A majority of the cats surrendered were adult cats, so Animal Humane is having a Name Your Price adoption special for any adult cat.
Along with encouraging residents to adopt adult cats, Animal Humane said it wants current pet owners to know it has support services if they are having a hard time affording their pets, like a pet food bank, low cost vet services, pet friendly apartment listing and even a pet behavioral hotline. Read full story here: News New Mexico

Homeowners View Fire Damage in Ruidoso

KOAT - The Little Bear fire near Ruidoso burned more than 200 homes, and some families got a first look at the damage over the weekend. "I look at this and see the ash and think, 'Oh my gosh.' You step on it, (and) it's gone. It just disintegrates underneath your feet," property owner Sue Rose said.
Rose said her family feels lucky they still have a place to call home in Albuquerque.
"I'm very deeply saddened because I told my children we have a home. We're not homeless. This guy right here is homeless. The people over there are homeless because they lived up here full-time," Rose said.
However, Rose said it's not easy to see their summer home gone.
"What we're worried about, of course, look at the sky. With the flooding and everything, if we were to rebuild, there's no guarantee we won't have floods or another fire," Rose said. The concerns were heightened as Mother Nature took another jab at the scorched land with heavy rains. Officials said the ground can't soak anything up when it's covered in ash, making it very dangerous and flood prone. Read full story here: News New Mexico