Local and State News

8:59am

Wed February 19, 2014
Local and State News

Proposed Minimum Wage Increase Heads To House

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A proposal to boost the minimum wage to an estimated $8.30 an hour next year is heading to the House for consideration.

The House Voters and Elections Committee approved the measure Tuesday on a party-line 6-4 vote.

The measure, which already has passed the Senate, is a top priority for many Democrats in the 30-day session that ends on Thursday.

New Mexico's minimum wage has been $7.50 an hour since 2009.

The proposed constitutional amendment would adjust the minimum wage for inflation since 2009 — setting it at about $8.30 next year.

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8:58am

Wed February 19, 2014
Local and State News

New Mexico House Oks Navajo Gambling Compact

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The House has approved a tribal-state gambling compact allowing the Navajo Nation to open three additional casinos.

The proposal cleared the House Tuesday on a 36-30 vote. It goes to the Senate with the legislative session nearing an end. Lawmakers will adjourn Thursday.

The Navajos operate two Las Vegas-style casinos in New Mexico under a compact expiring next year and a third casino offers low-stakes gambling not subject to state regulation.

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8:57am

Wed February 19, 2014
Local and State News

NM House Passes 'Omaree's Law'

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The House has passed legislation that would allow New Mexico's child welfare agency to immediately take custody of children when there are certain signs of physical abuse.

The measure passed late Tuesday on a 52-11 vote and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

It's dubbed "Omaree's Law" for the 9-year-old Albuquerque boy allegedly kicked to death by his mother in December.

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8:56am

Wed February 19, 2014
Local and State News

NM Lawmakers OK Ban on Texting While Driving

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A proposal to ban texting while driving in New Mexico has won final approval in the Legislature.

The bill heads to Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, who supports a statewide ban against texting by drivers.

The measure cleared its final hurdle in the Legislature on Tuesday when it passed the House 62-1. It was previously approved by the Senate.

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8:54am

Wed February 19, 2014
Local and State News

New Mexico Senate Approves $6B Budget

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The Senate has unanimously approved a proposed $6.2 billion budget that would provide 3 percent pay raises next year for government workers and educators.

The budget is the main assignment for lawmakers in the 30-day session, which ends on Thursday.

The bill cleared the Senate on Tuesday and heads to the House.

The measure provides for a $293 million or 5 percent increase in spending on education and government programs next year.

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10:39am

Wed February 12, 2014
Local and State News

Las Cruces Man Gets Prison Sentence in Drug Case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A Las Cruces man has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in a methamphetamine trafficking case.

Federal prosecutors say 28-year-old Agustin Abascal also was sentenced yesterday to five years of supervised release.

Abascal and another man were arrested last April for allegedly conspiring to distribute methamphetamine in Dona Ana County.

According to a criminal complaint, Abascal and a co-defendant sold quantities of meth over a five-month period to a New Mexico State Police officer and an undercover federal informant.

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10:38am

Wed February 12, 2014
Local and State News

Man Convicted of Running Driver's License Ring

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A federal jury in Las Cruces has convicted a Chinese national of running a ring that helped immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally get New Mexico driver's licenses.

After about three hours of deliberations, the jury found Hai Gan of The Colony, Texas, guilty of all 64 counts of fraud and other charges stemming from allegations he helped the immigrants fraudulently obtain the licenses.

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10:37am

Wed February 12, 2014
Local and State News

Senate Confirms Natural Resources Agency Leader

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The Senate has unanimously approved the confirmation of F. David Martin as secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

Martin assumed the cabinet-level job last year after the retirement of John Bemis.

Martin previously was Environment Department secretary in Gov. Susana Martinez's administration.

He holds engineering degrees from Texas Tech and New Mexico Tech, where he was an adjunct associate professor in the petroleum and chemical engineering department.

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10:36am

Wed February 12, 2014
Local and State News

Restaurant Owner Urges Minimum Wage Increase

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A Santa Fe restaurant owner is urging New Mexico lawmakers to increase the state's minimum wage.

Restaurateur Julia Castro said yesterday at a Capitol news conference that the employees at her Santa Fe cafe are paid above the city's minimum wage, which is higher than the state's $7.50 hourly wage rate.

Castro said well-paid employees are critical to providing quality service to her customers.

University of New Mexico student Israel Chavez joined Castro in supporting a minimum wage increase. He works as a restaurant server in Albuquerque.

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10:35am

Wed February 12, 2014
Local and State News

NM Senate Panel Stalls Marijuana Legalization Plan

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A proposal to let New Mexico voters decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana has stalled in committee and is likely dead for the year.

The state Senate Rules Committee voted 5-5 yesterday against sending the constitutional amendment to another committee for consideration. The proposal would have made it legal for adults 21 and over to possess and use marijuana.

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9:43am

Tue February 11, 2014
Local and State News

Calif. Co. Seeks NM Peanut Butter Plant for $18.5M

PORTALES, N.M. (AP) — Court filings show a California manufacturer is seeking to buy assets of a defunct New Mexico peanut giant for $18.5 million.

The Portales News-Tribune reports that Trustee Clarke Coll asked a federal bankruptcy judge in Albuquerque last month to approve the sale of the Portales-based Sunland Inc. to Ready Roast Nut Co. in Hughson, Calif. In his Jan. 31 court filing, Coll's attorneys said Ready Roast's was the best proposal received for Sunland's assets.

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9:42am

Tue February 11, 2014
Local and State News

NM Police Arrest Parents in Child Abuse Case

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Farmington police say an infant is in state custody and his parents are facing abuse charges.

Police spokeswoman Georgette Allen says officers arrived at a Farmington motel Thursday after getting a call about an unresponsive child. The caller told police a couple was in the lobby arguing and the 7-month-old child would not wake up.

The child was taken to a local hospital and placed into the custody of the Children, Youth and Families Department. Allen said yesterday the boy is doing well.

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9:41am

Tue February 11, 2014
Local and State News

Fairgrounds Lease Criticized in Senate Hearing

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Former and current State Fair commissioners are criticizing Gov. Susana Martinez's administration for rushing through a 25-year lease in 2011 for a company to build a larger casino at the fairgrounds.

Former Commissioner Charlotte Rode testified yesterday before the Senate Rules Committee on objections she's previously voiced about the handling of the lease that allowed the Downs at Albuquerque to build a larger casino.

Commissioner Kenneth "Twister" Smith said he felt pressured to have the commission quickly approve the deal.

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9:40am

Tue February 11, 2014
Local and State News

Democrat Defends Vote Against State Budget

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Democratic Rep. Sandra Jeff of Crownpoint says she's been unfairly criticized for her vote against a $6 billion budget bill, which stalled last week on a tie vote in the House.

Jeff said in a House floor speech yesterday that there have been automated phone calls in her district suggesting that she doesn't support public education. She said she expected opposition in her re-election bid this year.

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9:39am

Tue February 11, 2014
Local and State News

Lawsuit Alleges NM Child Welfare Agency Violated Family's Civil Rights

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's embattled child welfare agency is the target of a federal lawsuit alleging civil rights violations.

The complaint spells out the details of a custody battle that attorney Colin Hunter says resulted in a young girl being emotionally and physically abused at the hands of strangers.

The suit says an investigator with the Children, Youth and Families Department removed the child from her father's custody with help from Belen police officers and placed her with her mother despite a court order.

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11:22am

Mon February 10, 2014
Local and State News

Groups Say Authorities Failed 9-Year-Old NM Boy

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — African-American community and civil-rights groups are calling for action in the wake of reports that authorities didn't adequately respond to previous signs of trouble involving the family of a 9-year-old boy who died in December.

The groups say those police officers and state employees who had chances to save Omaree Varela but instead failed him and should lose their jobs.

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11:21am

Mon February 10, 2014
Local and State News

Hobbs Police: Death of Man in Freezer Tied To Meth

HOBBS, N.M. (AP) — Police in Hobbs are identifying a man whose body was found in a kitchen freezer and they say he died accidentally from methamphetamine.

According to police, the body of 22-year-old Everett Willford was found in the freezer on Sept. 3 when officers responded to a call about a suspicious odor coming from the home.

The body was taken to the state Office of the Medical Investigator to determine identification and cause of death.

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11:20am

Mon February 10, 2014
Local and State News

3 Held After Shots Fired During Rio Rancho Chase

RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — Rio Rancho police say three people are in custody following an attempted armed robbery at a bank ATM and then a chase during which shots were fired at police.

Police say the attempted robbery occurred Sunday morning at a Bank of America ATM.

An officer tried to pull over the SUV as it drove away and pursued it when it didn't stop.

Police say shots were fired at officers during the chase and that one of the suspects reportedly was injured when officers returned fire.

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11:19am

Mon February 10, 2014
Local and State News

Lawmakers Call for Brewery District in Albuquerque

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Two New Mexico state senators are seeking to highlight a "brewery district" in Albuquerque.

Senators Tim Keller and Daniel Ivey-Soto, both Democrats from Bernalillo, are co-sponsoring Senate Memorial 81, which would officially establish a Brewery District in the city.

Keller says Albuquerque has a legitimate, industry-driven neighborhood of breweries.

He says the legislation would recognize the cluster of breweries that have had a positive impact on the local economy and social scene.

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11:18am

Mon February 10, 2014
Local and State News

Senate Panel To Examine Fairgrounds Casino Deal

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A Senate committee plans to take a look at operations of the State Fair and the award of a 25-year lease by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's administration to a racetrack company to build a larger casino at the fairgrounds.

The Senate Rules Committee is scheduled Monday to hear from former State Fair Commissioner Charlotte Rode, who has spoken out against the handling of the 2011 lease that allowed the construction of the larger casino by the Downs at Albuquerque.

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