Spaceport compromise reportedly reached in NM Legislature

From Capitol Report New Mexico -Concerns that Spaceport America will end up being a $209 million white elephant for New Mexico taxpayers may have been greatly put to rest on Tuesday (Jan. 22) when legislators announced that an agreement had been reportedly reached between Virgin Galactic and the state’s trial lawyers.
Virgin Galactic, the anchor tenant at the Spaceport, has made veiled threats of pulling up stakes if the New Mexico Legislature does not pass liability safeguards for the company as well as manufacturers in the suborbital launches scheduled to take place at the facility located outside Truth or Consequences.
But on Tuesday afternoon, assembled Democrats from both chambers of the Legislature announced that compromise had been reached that the New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association – which spearheaded efforts against previous attempts at liability exemptions — could live with.
“It was difficult,” Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez (D-Belen), a trial lawyer himself, said. “There was nothing easy about” the negotiations that had been going on between the two sides since last summer “but it worked out for the best interests of New Mexico.”
Democrats said Senate Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen (D-Las Cruces) would introduce the compromise bill in the Senate and Republican state Rep. Jim White of Albuquerque would introduce the House version of the bill that was described on Tuesday as a measure that would align New Mexico with liability agreements in place in Florida and Colorado.
The bill’s particulars are expected to come out Wednesday morning but are reported to contain $1 million in liability limits should an accident take place and extend the act through 2021.
“I think this should go through the Legislature pretty smoothly,” Sen. Sanchez said.
Gov. Susana Martinez has been calling for lawmakers to pass a limited liability bill as a way to protect the $209 million tab that taxpayers have already sunk into the project that has been billed asa boost to the state’s economy in general and southern New Mexico in particular. Read more

Oh No! Store owner chops down tree

From - By: Adam Camp, KOB Eyewitness News 4 -A new shop in Nob Hill chopped down a city-owned tree over the weekend. Savvy Boutique on Central and Wellesley is opening soon and owner Dave Sanchez wanted his store signs to be more visible. So he had an eight-year-old tree cut down on Sunday. Some people in Nob Hill have quickly spoken out against what the store did.
"The owner is going to have a hard time doing business in this community because the word is getting out," Doug Lopez said. Lopez has lived in Nob Hill for years and sat in the community meetings about new trees coming into Nob Hill to restore its appearance several years ago, which the chopped down tree came from. The city called the tree being chopped down "vandalism" and is pursuing restitution from Dave Sanchez.
"I think it makes it look more like a concrete jungle. The trees add that humane, a human scale aspect to the area," Paul Steinberg said, who works at Birdland, just a few shops away from Savvy Boutique.
The city said Savvy will pay to dig out the stump of the old tree and pay for a new tree in its place. Dave Sanchez posted a statement on the shop's Facebook page apologizing for cutting down the tree and explaining it was so his store could be seen easier from potential customers.Read more

Udall reportedly in contention for Interior secretary post

New Mexico Senator Tom Udall
From the New Mexico Business Journal - by , Assistant Editor, New Mexico Business Journal -
New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall is reported to be under consideration to become the next Secretary of the Interior, according to the Washington Post. Udall has supposedly been named as a possible replacement for Ken Salazar by Salazar himself, according to the Post. Salazar is leaving the agency in March.
The senator’s father, Stewart Udall, served as Interior Secretary under Presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. The Post reports that although Udall’s name is under consideration at the White House, politics will play a big role in any decision. If Udall were selected, Gov. Susana Martinez would be the one to appoint Udall’s replacement for the two years remaining in his term. The Post reports that means Democrats would likely lose a Senate seat, something they aren’t likely to want to do.Udall was recently named to the Senate Appropriations Committee and has been expected to run for re-election in 2014. Read more

Man struck by Rail Runner train expected to recover

From the Santa Fe New Mexican - 37-year-old man is in the hospital after being struck by the Rail Runner Express train at about 9:30 p.m. Monday near Interstate 25 and the northbound Cerrillos Road exit.
According to state police, Antonio Demostemos was walking south along the tracks wearing headphones and did not hear or see the train coming. Lt. Robert McDonald said Demostemos suffered injuries to one of his legs but is expected to recover fully.
The Rail Runner was delayed Monday night as emergency crews responded to the scene and transported Demostemos to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center. There were no reports of further delays Tuesday morning. Read more

NMSU releases nursing program report

 A New Mexico State University commission has recommended a number of procedural changes aimed at ensuring that Doña Ana Community College’s nursing program regains the national accreditation it lost July 30. 
In a memo sent out university-wide late Thursday afternoon, NMSU Interim President Manuel Pacheco said the 10-page report, published on the school website, “provides a thorough and accurate summary” of the circumstances that led to DACC’s loss of accreditation.  
However, Earl Nissen, a vocal critic of DACC’s handling of the accreditation loss, questioned the report’s usefulness because it never explicitly discusses DACC President Margie Huerta’s role in a two-page-long section on issues that led to the problem. 


Fabian Chavez Jr. dies

Fabian Chavez Jr.
Former New Mexico legislator Fabian Chavez Jr., a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for higher offices, died Sunday at a senior living center. He was 88. 

Chavez was elected to the House in 1950 and to the Senate in 1956, becoming majority floor leader five years later. 
He lost a close race for governor in 1968 before and after losing general election races for Congress in 1964 and 1970. Chavez ran again for governor in 1982, losing in the Democratic primary. 
Chavez served as an assistant U.S. Commerce secretary in the administration of President Jimmy Carter.


Legislature faces potential clash on health care

A potential clash looms between the Democratic-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Susana Martinez over the administration's plan to implement a state-run health insurance exchange.

 At issue is whether state law must be changed to create the exchange, which is envisioned as an online shopping center for the uninsured to buy health coverage. 
The administration contends no legislation is needed and plans to have the exchange operated by the New Mexico Health Insurance Alliance, a nonprofit public corporation established in 1994 to provide access to insurance for small businesses and some individuals. 
Democratic lawmakers said Monday they'll introduce legislation this session for an exchange.