Local and State News

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Hundreds of New Mexico teenagers are capitalizing on a new state law that allows 17-year-olds who will be 18 the day of the election in November to vote in the June primary.

More than 800 teens in New Mexico have registered to vote in June with more than half registering as Democrats. The deadline to register to vote in state primaries is May 10.

New Mexico's new law, which takes effect on May 18, the day of the primary, puts the state among about 20 states that permit 17-year-olds to cast ballots in party primaries.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico district court is considering whether to accept a $24 million settlement from an investment firm in a pay-to-play scandal that took place during administration of former Gov. Bill Richardson.

Judge Louis McDonald has scheduled three days of hearing beginning Monday on the settlement offer with Chicago-based Vanderbilt Capital Investors.

It would be the largest payment to date in a scandal that put state investments in the hands of money managers in return for payments or political favors.

KIRTLAND, N.M. (AP) — Fire officials in Kirtland are warning residents not to burn weeds in the wake of fires that have destroyed five homes in two days.

San Juan County Fire Chief Craig Daugherty told the Daily Times of Farmington on Saturday that both blazes could have been prevented.

Daugherty says someone burning weeds Friday lost control of the fire and it swept through three homes.

A second fire broke out Saturday morning and destroyed two homes. The cause is still under investigation.

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — The University of New Mexico is cutting 16 positions across six education centers to save on operating costs.

UNM spokeswoman Dianne Anderson says the affected jobs are in Bachelor and Graduate Field Centers at education centers in Farmington, Gallup, Los Alamos, Taos, Valencia and Santa Fe.

Anderson says employees involved in recruiting, advising and operating the centers are not affected.

University officials say there will be a limited number of new roles to address some of those responsibilities.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Investigations into a pay-to-play scheme that preyed on New Mexico state investment and pension funds during the administration of former Gov. Bill Richardson have reached at a major crossroads as district courts hold hearings on a $24 million proposed settlement with a Chicago investment firm.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Las Cruces Public School District may have fewer teachers next year due to a budget crisis.

The school board is considering a plan that would cut staff to close an estimated $2.9 budget shortfall. District officials say the cuts mean some retiring teachers won't be replaced and high schools may go to block scheduling.

Superintendent Stan Rounds says if cuts aren't made, staff could see a reduction in pay.

The cuts come after school districts across New Mexico received less money from the state due to falling oil revenue.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn isn't a fan of the Obama administration's plan to clamp down on oil companies that burn off natural gas on public land.

Dunn announced Thursday that his office has submitted comments in opposition of the proposed venting and flaring regulations.

Dunn says a committee was formed in New Mexico last year to study flaring reductions and assess the feasibility of capturing gas for new drilling permits.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's top water official has ordered his staff to investigate complaints from ranchers about the fencing of watering holes on some national forest lands.

State Engineer Tom Blaine made the announcement Thursday after receiving a letter from dozens of state lawmakers who are concerned about the U.S. Forest Service's efforts to protect the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse.

The lawmakers have asked Blaine to use his authority to stop the federal agency.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has launched a push to get more eligible families to apply for federally-funded child care assistance.

The Republican governor announced on Thursday efforts to get families to seek assistance for a program that some might not even know exists.

New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Secretary Monique Jacobson says many families in one of the nation's poorest states qualify for child care assistance but don't know they so.

To qualify, families most earn just above the federal poverty line or less.

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Environmental groups are suing the federal government for its decision to extend operations at the Four Corners Power Plant and the Navajo Mine in Fruitland.

The suit against the U.S. Department of the Interior and other federal agencies was filed in U.S. District Court in Arizona Wednesday.

The lawsuit alleges the agencies failed to thoroughly assess the potential impacts the coal-fired plant and surface mine could have on the environment and public health before approving the 25-year extension last July.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A union representative says an officer had recognized that two New Mexico guards were fatigued the day a pair of violent felons escaped, and told them they could take naps as they worked a more than 18-hour shift transporting inmates across the state.

Miles Conway, a union spokesman, said Tuesday that the Department of Corrections telling guards to sleep while another drives "flies in the face of policy." His comments came about a month after inmates Joseph Cruz and Lionel Clah fled a prisoner transport van.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Two Las Cruces residents accused of possessing a pound of methamphetamine have pleaded guilty to a drug charge.

David S. Thompson, 29, and Marlene C. Sandoval, 38, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a charge conspiring to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.

Authorities say the drug was discovered after the vehicle Thompson and Sandoval were in was pulled over for speeding in Dona Ana County.

The methamphetamine was found in a shoe inside the vehicle.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The governor of New Mexico says social media feeds will soon tell you if drunken driving offenders are let off too easy.

Gov. Susana Martinez on Tuesday announced a program that will use citizen watchdogs to monitor court hearings by state judges who are routinely lenient in drunken driving cases.

Staffers with Mothers Against Drunk Driving will serve as monitors. They'll send details about lenient sentences to state officials, who will identify repeat offenders and the judges in tweets or Facebook posts.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Susan Martinez is expressing fundamental differences with presidential candidate Donald Trump on his proposal to build a bigger wall along the southern U.S. border and make Mexico pay for it.

Martinez told the Associated Press on Tuesday that building fences can impact the U.S. economy and relationship with trading partners in Mexico and farther south.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Tired of layoffs and losses resulting from depressed energy prices, royalty owners and drillers in the nation's most prolific oil-producing area are embarking on a grass-roots campaign aimed at salvaging a major sector of the U.S. economy.

Their target: foreign oil imports.

The effort launched with forums this week in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico, home to the Permian Basin.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether federal felony charges can be filed against defendants who were previously convicted of multiple domestic violence counts in tribal courts that didn't provide attorneys.

The case set to be heard Tuesday marks a critical test for tribal courts — particularly those without the money to hire public defenders — at a time when Congress has begun broadening federal authority to prosecute violent crimes in Indian Country.

ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (AP) — An Alamogordo woman is accused of fraudulently filing income tax returns for other people to steal their refunds.

An April 12 indictment by an Otero County grand jury charges 43-year-old Tanya Skoropad with 180 criminal counts, including dozens each of tax fraud, identity theft and computer access with intent to defraud or embezzle.

The state Taxation and Revenue Department conducted the investigation leading to the indictment and says Skoropad could be sentenced to up to 270 years in prison if convicted of the charges.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Authorities in Las Cruces say four people have been arrested and a fifth person may remain at large after a vehicle crashed following a pursuit by the Border Patrol.

New Mexico State University Police say the individuals ran onto the Dona Ana Community College campus but were arrested within a few minutes of the Monday morning crash on Interstate 10.

The community college's central campus is located next to both the larger NMSU campus and I-10.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An Albuquerque man is facing charges after authorities say he tortured a man for more than a day in his home after accusing him of stealing.

The Bernalillo County Sheriff's Office said Marcel Bland was arrested Saturday after deputies found a stun gun, a claw hammer, scissors and a mallet inside his home. Deputies say some of the instruments had blood and the alleged torture devices were found neatly lined up on a kitchen counter.

FRUITLAND, N.M. (AP) -- San Juan County authorities say three Fruitland men are accused of robbing two women in their home.

The Sheriff's Office says one of the victims was an 81-year-old woman who was forced to lie face down on a bed so she couldn't call police before the robbers left Sunday.

According to the Sheriff's Office, the victims believed one of the robbers was a neighbor. Investigators then interviewed him and two of his friends, resulting in their arrests and recovery of money and jewelry stolen from the women's home.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- Control of the New Mexico House and Senate are at stake as candidates and political committees stockpile cash in advance of a June primary and November general election.

Political candidates and committees are filing campaign finance reports as a Monday-night deadline approaches for disclosing contributions and expenditures for the past six months. The filings give the public its first glimpse at campaign fundraising accomplishments since candidates for statewide and local elections registered in March.

HOBBS, N.M. (AP) -- United Airlines plans to use larger aircraft in southeastern New Mexico and that could mean higher subsidy payouts from the city of Hobbs and Lea County.

The Hobbs New-Sun reports it was announced at a recent Lea County Commission meeting United Airlines plans to retire 50 passenger Embraer EMB145 aircraft that currently serve the Lea County Regional airport. The jets that would replace the older aircraft both carry around 70 passengers.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico woman has been ordered to pay back more than $11,000 in unemployment benefits.

The state supreme court last month ruled that Nancy Garduno is responsible for paying back the money she received after her former employer successfully appealed her benefits.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's state treasurer has handed out a few sizeable raises despite cuts to his department's budget.

Treasurer Tim Eichenberg gave pay hikes to nearly a dozen employees during his first year on the job. Some employees say their salaries increased by 20 percent and the chief financial officer's salary was boosted by 46 percent in ten months.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of the office's employees are doing the same work for the same pay and some jobs have been vacant since Eichenberg became treasurer.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's attorney general is stepping up pressure on administrative staff at the Legislature to turn over subpoenaed documents in a criminal corruption investigation of former Sen. Phil Griego.

The attorney general's office filed a rebuttal Thursday to the continued refusal to release records by the Legislative Council Service. The council service helps lawmakers draft legislation and says it is duty-bound to protect correspondence with legislators and other documents to preserve the integrity of the legislative process.

Pages