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Local and State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The Santa Fe school district is backing away from a plan to place police officers on campuses among its efforts to improve school safety. The Albuquerque Journal reports the city told Santa Fe Public Schools that its police department does not have enough officers to assign three to school campuses. The city and district were talks about splitting the estimated $200,000 cost of the action. School board members at a budget session Tuesday supported adding $500,000 next year to fund school safety and prevention.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico state lawmakers are getting a preview of a business plan for expanding early childhood education across the state that was developed by a group of major charitable foundations. The plan seeks to expand state spending by $16 million each year to gradually expand and improve the workforce for prekindergarten, childcare and home visits with families in infants. An outline was presented Wednesday to members of the Legislative Finance Committee who draft the state budget.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller says the city has partnered with a local organization to set up an information line that sexual assault victims can call to seek information about their cases. He says the information line is the result of an initiative that has prioritized eliminating the backlog of more than 4,000 untested rape kits in the city's crime lab.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A former New Mexico labor and film union leader is denying sexual misconduct allegations that cost him his job and forced a Democratic Party of New Mexico chair to resign. The Albuquerque Journal reports Jon Hendry in court documents denied all claims made against him by two women in a lawsuit. Two women said in a lawsuit filed in March that Hendry harassed and discriminated against them when they were union employees. Hendry served as a business agent for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 480 and resigned after the lawsuit.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court has ordered that 10 bills vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez in 2017 go into effect anyway because the governor failed to provide an immediate explanation or her reasoning to lawmakers as required by the state constitution. The court decision Wednesday resolves a year-long dispute over the extent of the governor's veto authority. In oral arguments, attorneys for the Democrat-led Legislatures said Martinez made it difficult or impossible to respond to her concerns about proposed legislation or to move forward with an override vote.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A U.S. district judge has dismissed claims by environmentalists who argued that the approval of dozens of drilling permits in northwestern New Mexico violated historic preservation laws due to potential threats to culturally significant sites. Despite an earlier ruling that indicated the claims had merit, Judge James Browning issued an opinion and amended order this week determining that federal land managers did not violate the law because they considered the effects of the wells on historical sites.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The husband of an Albuquerque woman killed in a Southwest Airlines jet that blew an engine says he told their children about her death at their church school. Michael Riordan told ABC News in one of his first interviews since his wife's death that he asked his children to take a knee then told them, "mommy's not coming home, guys." Jennifer Riordan, a well-known figure in New Mexico in community relations and communications, died last week on a flight heading from New York's LaGuardia Airport to Dallas.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A Texas-based public policy group is pushing to expand the use of risk assessment tools to help judges determine the fate of defendants pending trial. The Laura and John Arnold Foundation announced Wednesday that it's seeking proposals as part of a project to determine the effectiveness of its assessment, which relies on several factors. The push comes as New Mexico and other states grapple with bail reform. Foundation officials say there's growing demand for risk assessment and more research will help in understanding the limitations of such tools.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A Texas-based public policy group is pushing to expand the use of risk assessment tools to help judges determine the fate of defendants pending trial. The Laura and John Arnold Foundation announced Wednesday that it's seeking proposals as part of a project to determine the effectiveness of its assessment, which relies on several factors. The push comes as New Mexico and other states grapple with bail reform. Foundation officials say there's growing demand for risk assessment and more research will help in understanding the limitations of such tools.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The National Nuclear Security Administration is beginning work on a multimillion-dollar complex in New Mexico that will serve as a new workspace for some 1,200 employees. The agency says construction was recently authorized to begin. Bids were solicited over the winter and officials estimated at that time that the new building could cost between $100 million and $250 million. The current facility includes a former military barracks at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque. Some portions date to the early 1950s and are in poor condition.

ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) — Federal regulators have scheduled a series of public meetings as they consider a plan to temporarily store spent nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear reactors around the United States at a proposed site in southern New Mexico. The first meeting hosted by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be Monday on the Eastern New Mexico University campus in Roswell. Another meeting will follow Tuesday in Hobbs and a third will be May 3 in Carlsbad. The public comment period will last through May on the application filed by Holtec International.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court will hear oral arguments as it decides whether vetoes by Gov. Susana Martinez should be invalidated because she allegedly missed deadlines or failed to explain her reasoning. Leading Democratic lawmakers sought to disqualify 10 vetoes during oral arguments scheduled for Wednesday. They allege the Republican governor missed a three-day deadline aimed at helping lawmakers respond quickly to early vetoes or never explained the intent of vetoes. Attorneys for the governor dispute that account of the veto process and say it was fair.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The staff for New Mexico Democratic congressional candidate Debra Haaland has joined an upstart national labor union for election-campaign workers. The Campaign Workers Guild announced Monday it had secured a union contract with Haaland's campaign that outlines minimum pay, working conditions and benefits for employees. The campaign currently employs four people, with an additional employee on leave for graduate studies. Launched in February, the Campaign Workers Guild is making inroads into the often high-pressure work environments of election campaigning.

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — The former leader of the New Mexico National Guard is scheduled to give the commencement address to this spring's graduating class at New Mexico Highlands University. Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Melvyn Montano of Albuquerque will be the speaker for the May 12 commencement ceremony. A Highlands alumnus, Montano's military career spanned more than four decades. He retired in 1999 as the adjutant general of the New Mexico Guard and was the first Hispanic to achieve this National Guard rank in the continental United States.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A television series about a teenager who notices strange things in her new foster home will be filmed in northern New Mexico. "The Unsetttling" starts filming later this month in Santa Fe and Lamy. It's produced by AwesomenessTV. The series stars Holly Taylor, Tequan Richmond and An-Li Bogan under the direction of Chris Grismer. The main character is a 16-year-old girl named Becca who can't identify the source of the strange activity. The series is expected to employ 60 crew members, 10 actors and dozens for background talent in New Mexico.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court says judges can't deny a defendant pre-trial release just because that person is accused of a crime that would have qualified for capital punishment had the state still allowed for death sentences. The court in an opinion released Monday said first-degree murder isn't currently a constitutionally defined capital offense that would authorize a judge to categorically deny bail. The opinion comes in the case of Muhammad Ameer, a suspect in a deadly stabbing and robbery last year in Albuquerque.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court on Monday further clarified the rules around pre-trial detentions, saying judges can't deny a defendant bail because that person is accused of a crime that would have qualified for capital punishment had the state still allowed death sentences. The court in an opinion said first-degree murder isn't currently a constitutionally defined capital offense that would authorize a judge to categorically deny bail. New Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2009.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Family and friends gathered Sunday to mourn an Albuquerque bank executive who died after the Southwest Airlines plane she was on blew an engine in midair. Nearly a thousand people attended the evening service for Jennifer Riordan, 43, the Albuquerque Journal reported . The service was held at Popejoy Hall on the University of New Mexico campus, her alma mater. "We appreciate the outpouring of support from the community. It truly touches our hearts," the Riordan family wrote in a statement.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Police in Albuquerque have identified the victim in a fatal shooting incident. They say 20-year-old Clifford Patterson III died Friday following a deadly altercation inside a vehicle in a southwest Albuquerque neighborhood. Police say another person is hospitalized in stable condition following the shooting. They're still searching for suspects in the homicide. KOB-TV reports that it's the 23rd homicide so far this year in Albuquerque. ___ Information from: KOB-TV, http://www.kob.com

GRANTS, N.M. (AP) — The Latest on New Mexico wildfires (all times local): Crews continue to mop up and patrol two nearby wildfires now largely contained on a butte and a mountain in northwestern New Mexico. Nearly 300 firefighters and other personnel were still assigned to the fires Saturday but the top-tier management team assigned to both fires planned Sunday to turn over the reins to a lower-tier management team. The two fires have burned a total of 20 square miles of grass and timber as of Saturday, with one reported at 91 percent of containment and the other at 54 percent.

GALLUP, N.M. (AP) — The Navajo Nation has given approval to help fund a veterans facility in New Mexico that will prevent patients from having to travel far for care. Navajo Nation council members voted 19-0 this week to give $2.4 million toward the construction of a service center for veterans in the community of Thoreau. The center, which will be about 33 miles (53 kilometers) east of Gallup, will offer physical therapy as well as medical services.

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Officials in northwestern New Mexico are teaming up as part of an effort to diversify the economy in a region that has been dependent for years on the oil and gas industry. The city of Farmington, San Juan County, Four Corners Economic Development, San Juan College and numerous other groups are backing the initiative to boost outdoor recreation. The initiative plans to highlight the area's opportunities for fly fishing, mountain biking, hiking and rock crawling as well as locations such as the Bisti Wilderness and Lake Farmington.

FOR SUMNER, N.M. (AP) — Federal water managers are warning that levels on the Pecos River in eastern New Mexico are expected to rise as the Bureau of Reclamation moves water downstream for farmers. The release from Sumner Reservoir will begin Monday. The Carlsbad Irrigation District has called for about 10,000 acre-feet of water to be released from storage. One acre-foot (1,233 cubic meters) is enough to supply a typical U.S. family for a year. The release rate is expected to be between 1,300 to 1,600 cubic feet per second. It will last for about three days.

BERNARDO, N.M. (AP) — Authorities say a wildfire is threatening some homes and railroad tracks in south-central New Mexico. Wendy Mason with New Mexico State Forestry says the fire began Friday afternoon and has charred an estimated 30 acres (12 hectares) north of Bernardo in Socorro County. She says between 10 and 15 homes are threatened. The fire has also forced the closure of State Highway 116. State forestry crews along with local fire departments from the area are fighting the flames.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Students in northern New Mexico plan to rally at the state Capitol amid a new wave of school walkouts across the country in response to gun violence. Brendon Baca of the Santa Fe Public Schools says students plan to gather Friday at the Statehouse for a series of events exploring solutions to gun violence. A panel of state lawmakers and public safety officials is gathering to answer questions from students about new approaches to school safety.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Congressman and New Mexico gubernatorial candidate Steve Pearce says he's in favor of overhauling the Internal Revenue Service. Pearce said Thursday the federal tax-collecting agency is operating under antiquated technologies and processes and that's why he was among those in the U.S. House to support legislation aimed at modernizing the agency. The New Mexico Republican pointed to several bills passed this week, including measures to improve cybersecurity and protect taxpayer identities.

CLOVIS, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico inmate who was granted a brief furlough before an expected seven-year sentence now faces 111 years in prison after authorities say he returned late following a slew of new crimes. The Eastern New Mexico News reports Brandon Wagner was arraigned this week on new charges of shoplifting and aggravated assault. Those charges came after prosecutors say the 33-year-old Wagner returned over 16 hours late to the Curry County jail following a March 27 plea conference.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Campaign finance records indicate that a former candidate for New Mexico governor was paid $14,000 by a Democratic rival a day before announcing his exit from the race. Peter DeBenedittis told the Albuquerque Journal on Thursday that candidate Jeff Apodaca had paid him for an email list and to be a campaign spokesman after he had decided to drop out of the race. DeBenedittis says he was unemployed at the time, and the move was not improper.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A new report credits New Mexico with continuing to improve the quality of its early childhood education programs and investing more money in the initiatives. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Tuesday that many experts believe the programs are the key to boosting educational measures and helping combat poverty. The National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University says New Mexico is meeting nine of 10 benchmarks for providing high-quality prekindergarten education.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A federal investigator says that a crack on the interior of a jet engine is what led to the failure that shot debris at the plane, leading to the death of a passenger. National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt said at a news conference Wednesday that one of the 24 blades in the Southwest Airlines 737's engine fractured from metal fatigue. Sumwalt says he is very concerned about Tuesday's engine failure, but would not extrapolate that to the CFM56 engines or the entire fleet of Boeing 737s. The plane is the most popular airliner ever built.

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