Local and State News

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico commission has denied a motion that would prevent a utility from making its customers cover the costs of a nuclear power unit it recently purchased.

The Public Regulation Commission's hearing officer ruled against the motion Tuesday. Renewable energy nonprofit New Energy Economy had accused the Public Service Company of New Mexico of trying to "sneak in" the purchase without PRC approval.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's House of Representatives has approved provisions for some retired law enforcement officers to return to work while also receiving pension benefits.

The Democratic-led Senate has not yet voted on the double-dipping rules. Republican Gov. Susan Martinez supports the plan.

The legislation was designed to help Albuquerque's police force and other local law enforcement agencies address shortfalls in staffing and difficulties with recruiting new officers.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A Republican lawmaker has asked the House to suspend action on a proposed constitutional amendment he drafted to allow judges to deny bail to defendants deemed a flight-risk and danger to the public.

Rep. David Adkins' proposal had been scheduled for a state House floor vote Wednesday. It countered a version first put forward by Sen. Peter Wirth, a Santa Fe Democrat, that has garnered some bipartisan support and endorsements from criminal defense and district attorneys associations, and judges.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The head of the New Mexico Environment Department is blasting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, saying federal officials are downplaying the long-term effects of the Gold King Mine spill.

Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn on Wednesday told members of a state legislative committee that the agency plans to monitor water quality for one year to ensure it's safe for recreational use.

Flynn said the agency instead needs to treat the incident as a human health issue.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico corrections officers and their union leaders are concerned that a slate of legislative proposals for tougher criminal sentencing could aggravate safety problems at understaffed state prisons.

Connie Derr speaks for a public employees' union overseeing about 9,000 state corrections workers. She said Wednesday that more funding will be needed to recruit and pay for corrections officers if the Legislature approves tougher sentencing provisions backed by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Authorities say a woman got hit by a vehicle and is dead after she argued with her boyfriend and was stranded on Interstate 25 south of Albuquerque.

The Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department says the woman was trying to flag down vehicles when she was struck Tuesday evening.

Sheriff's Sgt. Aaron Williamson says deputies learned that the woman had argued with her boyfriend and that he stopped the vehicle they were in on the side of the highway, got out and began walking.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A carmaker has been ordered to pay more than $8 million after a toddler suffered brain damage after getting her head stuck in a power window.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that on Friday U.S. District Judge Kenneth Gonzales reduced a jury's $9.6 million verdict by $1 million, but denied a new trial or a judgment as a matter of law requested by Volvo Cars of North America.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico commission has denied a motion that would prevent a utility from making its customers cover the costs of a nuclear power unit it recently purchased.

The New Mexican reports that the Public Regulation Commission's hearing officer ruled against the motion Tuesday. Renewable energy nonprofit New Energy Economy had accused the Public Service Company of New Mexico of trying to "sneak in" the purchase without PRC approval.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A bill that calls for New Mexico third graders who don't show proficiency in reading to be held back has stalled in a Democratic-controlled Senate committee.

The Senate Education Committee voted Monday to table a proposal that would have had students not reading at grade level repeat the third grade and be given intensive remediation. The move likely kills the bill this session.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The head of the New Mexico Department of Agriculture is warning lawmakers that it could take months to tally the true costs of a winter storm that killed an untold number of livestock and derailed the dairy industry.

Agriculture Secretary Jeff Witte testified Monday before the House agriculture committee.

He said producers have been working with the Farm Service Agency to tally losses as the state builds its case for a federal disaster declaration.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico legislators received more than $20,000 in compensation on average in 2015 even though they are not paid a salary.

More than $2.3 million was paid out to state lawmakers to offset personal expenses and travel, according to information from the Department of Finance and Administration obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.

House and Senate members collect a daily expense payment that covers work during legislative sessions and committee meetings year-round.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A proposed constitutional amendment to reform New Mexico's bail bond system has been approved by the House Judiciary Committee.

The committee approved the proposal from Sen. Peter Wirth, a Santa Fe Democrat, whose changes to the state constitution would allow judges to deny bail to defendants deemed a flight risk or danger to the community.

Wirth's proposal also would allow cash-strapped defendants facing non-violent, low-level charges to be released from jail as they await trial.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A proposal to fund detox and substance abuse treatment centers for the homeless with money from the state's liquor excise tax is scheduled to go before the state Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee on Monday.

The proposal from Sen. George Munoz, a Gallup Democrat, could appropriate about $40,000 every month to McKinley County if it passes. The allocations for substance abuse services for the homeless would begin in July.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque police say alcohol and speed were factors in a single-vehicle accident that left a car's driver and two passengers dead and two others injured.

Officer Tanner Tixier said investigators determined that 27-year-old David Bowie was "showing off" and driving over 100 mph before the car blew through a stop sign and crashed into a field early Friday morning.

Tixier said the passengers killed the crash were 28-year-old Sondra Evans and 36-year-old Teashieva Slowman.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Two Albuquerque women face child abuse charges after authorities say a 3-year-old girl suffering from hypothermia was found face down in a tub of cold water.

The suspects — 49-year-old Adelle Rigbsy and 18-year-old Tiffany Desvigne — have been arrested, and The Albuquerque Journal reported Saturday they are each being held on a $25,000 cash-only bond.

The girl was taken to a hospital where she was treated for hypothermia on Jan. 29 after authorities found her in the bathtub.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A proposal has been approved by the state Senate's Public Affairs Committee that would increase the necessary qualifications needed to for sheriff in any New Mexico county.

Senate Democrats say there are currently no minimum qualifications outlined in state law for holding a sheriff's office.

SUNLAND PARK, N.M. (AP) — A former New Mexico Oil and Gas Association president has been named interim city manager of a troubled New Mexico border city.

The Sunland Park city council voted 4-3 during a heated meeting to hire former New Mexico State University regent Bob Gallagher to a $56,000 six-month contract. Under the terms of the deal, Gallagher will work two weeks per month.

The vote comes as two Sunland City councilors face legal problems stemming from separate arrests.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — With one of the highest drug overdose death rates in the nation, New Mexico has been working for years to curb what has now been identified by the highest levels of government as a national epidemic.

The state was the first to require all licensed clinicians to undergo extra training for prescribing painkillers, but now lawmakers are looking for new ways to quell the growing addiction to opioids and not everyone is onboard.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A $6.3 billion state budget with spending increases dominated by Medicaid, public schools and the state prison system is moving to the full House of Representatives for deliberations.

The downsized spending bill was approved by the House Appropriations and Finance Committee on Thursday in a 12-5 vote with full Republican support and Democrat lawmakers divided.

The state last week slashed its forecast for revenues next year by $200 million.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A key House panel has approved a bill aimed at welcoming and regulating ride-booking companies like Uber and Lyft.

The House Judiciary Committee passed the proposal unanimously Thursday.

Rep. Monica Youngblood, an Albuquerque Republican, sponsored the bill to allow the companies to operate legally in New Mexico.

The legal status of the companies has been in limbo in the state since they began offering services in 2014. The companies say the state's Motor Carrier Act doesn't apply to them because they don't operate as commercial taxi businesses.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Advocates say they will give up the right for immigrants living in the country illegally to obtain New Mexico driver's licenses to achieve a REAL ID compromise.

Immigrant rights groups say they can live with a bipartisan proposal that instead would allow those immigrants and other residents to get "driver's authorization card." Marcela Diaz, executive director of Santa Fe-based advocacy group Somos Un Pueblo Unido, says she doesn't believe that bill singles out or discriminates against immigrants.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A young man convicted of beating two homeless men to death with cinder blocks and other objects in New Mexico's largest city faces sentencing on more than a dozen felony charges.

A jury has found 20-year-old Alex Rios guilty of killing Alison Gorman and Kee Thompson in 2014. Rios could be sentenced Friday to up to 15 years each for two second-degree murder convictions.

The maximum sentences for Rios' other felony convictions range from nine years to 18 months.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — University of New Mexico researchers say the Albuquerque Police Department's lapel camera policy is confusing and hard to enforce.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the study, released Wednesday, suggests the department limit requirements for lapel cameras in order to create clear rules about exactly when officers need to be recording.

BLUEWATER, N.M. (AP) — Officials say the State Land Office has cleaned up more than 2 tons of household trash and other debris from an illegal dump in western New Mexico.

Officials say a fence also has been constructed around the site near Bluewater in hopes of curbing dumping and trespass concerns.

Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn says illegal dumping on state trust land in New Mexico is a major concern. He pointed to health hazards and the resources needed to clean up such messes.

Officials say anyone caught dumping could be charged with criminal trespass.

SANTA TERESA, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's two U.S. senators are urging federal officials to expand the hours of operation at the Santa Teresa Port of Entry.

Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich sent a letter Wednesday to the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Their request targets northbound commercial traffic.

Southbound hours were recently extended as part of a yearlong pilot project.