State Senate approves local liquor tax

The Senate has approved a proposal that would allow all New Mexico counties to tax liquor to finance programs for treating and preventing alcoholism. 
Supporters of the measure said it would be left to counties to decide whether to impose a local liquor excise tax by the equivalent of five cents on a glass of wine, bottle of beer or cocktail. 
The bill passed the Senate on a 27-14 vote Sunday and goes to the House for consideration. 
State law currently allows only McKinley County to levy a local tax on liquor for alcohol programs, and supporters said the county has financed services that have reduced alcohol-related deaths.
 If all counties imposed a liquor tax, it would generate nearly $44 million.
Information from The AP. 


Fire near Belen 50% contained

A brush fire that started on Monday afternoon in Belen is nearly 50 percent contained, according to the Belen Fire Department. 

Fire officials said a large brush fire got out of control on a private property near Highway 314 and I-25. The fire burned a shed and more than three acres of grass. 

Burn restrictions were lifted in Belen on Saturday. The Belen Fire Department said they have received more than 115 requests for private burns on Monday. 

This is the fourth area wildfire reported in two days. 


Still no confirmation for Public Education Secretary

Hanna Skandera 
A Senate panel has bottled up the nomination of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's secretary for the Public Education Department. 
The Rules Committee split 5-5 Monday on whether to send the nomination of Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera to the Senate for a confirmation vote. The deadlock means that Skandera will continue to serve in her cabinet-level post without Senate confirmation, just as he has since 2011. 
Skandera has drawn criticism because of the governor's education policies and critics contend she doesn't meet a constitutional requirement for the department secretary to be a "qualified, experienced educator." Skandera hasn't worked as a public school teacher or administrator. She was a deputy commissioner of education in Florida when Jeb Bush was governor. 

Information from The AP. 


NM Game Commission Chair resigns amid charges

Scott Bidegain
The chair of the New Mexico Game Commission has resigned amid allegations that he was an accessory to an unlawful killing of a cougar.
  The Department of Game and Fish announced Monday that Scott Bidegain turned in his resignation over the weekend. 
Officials say department officers filed a misdemeanor charge against Bidegain in Quay County Magistrate Court on Monday in connection with the cougar killing. Bidegain says he was present during "a hunting incident earlier this month" and he believed it was in the commission's best interest that he stepped down.
 Officials say Vice Chairman Thomas Salopek will lead the commission.