- A lot more changes are coming to the cabinet of Susana Martinez. She named nominees for four more positions, as the traditional turnover from the first term to a second continues. The Cabinet-level positions are head of the Human Services Department, State Engineer, Indian Affairs Department and the Department of Homeland Security.
The HSD has been embroiled in controversy over recent years and current secretary Sidonie Squier announced her resignation earlier this month.
- House Democrats named Rep. Brian Egolf Minority Leader on Saturday. Egolf has said he will only serve one term int he position, hoping that Democrats will be in the majority following the 2016 elections.
- Rick May is going back to Washington D.C. The former state cabinet-level secretary will be the staff director of House Budget Committee. May was the head of the DFA and publicly feuded with Susana Martinez before he was moved to the New Mexico Finance Authority. He was fired from that position after it was revealed that an audit of the agency was faked.
- Steve Terrell ran into Attorney General Gary King last week. It was the first time Terrell had seen King since the election. So what will King do once he’s done as Attorney General?
He’s “put a few feelers” out to some law firms he said. And he’s talked to his wife about starting a nuclear consulting firm.
- The Albuquerque Journal took a look at the agreement with PNM to curb emissions from the San Juan Generating Station. The paper says the agreement has widespread approval but some environmental groups say that it does not go far enough.
- The Interstate Stream Commission will take a vote on the controversial Gila River diversion project today. The commission is expected to approve the project to dam the last truly wild river in the state.
- The state of New Mexico added 9,100 jobs in October. The biggest increase comes in the healthcare sector — 4,900 of the 9,100 jobs. Meanwhile, manufacturing continues to shed jobs at a high rate. The unemployment rate dropped from 6.6 percent to 6.5 percent.
- State Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, spoke to constituents about the upcoming legislative session. Wirth is a more progressive Democrat, and represents one of the most heavily Democratic areas of the state.
Democratic senators, Wirth said, must focus on “core Democratic issues” and by setting their own agenda and “can’t just sit here and play defense” against the House Republican agenda. He wondered “what kind of tone” the opposing party in the lower chamber will set. House Republicans, for instance, could finally clear a so-called parental notification bill that would require minors to notify parents they’re getting an abortion, he said.
- The Navajo Nation president signed into law a tax on junk food and other unhealthy food.
Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly signed legislation Friday to increase by 2 percent the sales tax on food with little to no nutritional value, starting next year. No other sales tax on the Navajo Nation specifically targets the spending habits of consumers. It will remain in effect until 2020, but it can be extended by the Navajo Nation Council.
- A decision on whether or not a candidate for the President of the Navajo Nation is expected to be released today. If the candidate, Russell Begaye, is ruled not qualified, it would be the second Navajo Nation presidential candidate named not qualified. The election was already delayed from earlier this month because of one candidate being removed from the ballot.
- Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisam wants another investigation into the VA hospital in Albuquerque. She wants an investigation into the release of a 70-year old veteran who was hit by a car and died minutes after he left the hospital against medical advice.
- The Job Council, made up of members of both the state House and Senate, say that more fund should go towards a “closing fund” to attract new businesses to the state. The proposal, which has the support of Gov. Susana Martinez, calls for $50 million to be in the fund.
The money flows through local governments and is generally used to help with land acquisition, building improvements or other bricks-and-mortar work sought by private companies. The state constitution bars it from being given directly to the companies.
Of the $15 million, roughly $7.8 million has been spent since July, according to the state’s Economic Development Department.
- The Farmington Daily-Times is selling their offices, but will be making some money printing five newspapers from Ballentine Communications.
The Daily Times is printing The Durango Herald, The Cortez Journal, The Mancos Times, Pine River Times and The Dolores Star at its production facility on North Allen Avenue.
Daily Time Publisher John Elchert said the partnership created 12 new jobs in the Farmington printing and packing facility.
- V.B. Price spoke to University of New Mexico professor David Correia about the DOJ consent decree. The two talked on Insight New Mexico, the New Mexico Mercury’s weekly video blog.
- The Las Cruces Sun-News‘ Walter Rubel says that Ben Ray Luján has the toughest job in Congress as the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
- Michael Coleman spoke to Luján about his new role.
After congratulating him, I asked Luján how he planned to fulfill his duties as the House Democrats’ top election strategist while keeping an eye on the people and issues back home in his remote congressional district. How would he avoid “going Washington?”
“If anyone is concerned about that, they can join me this weekend (at his home in New Mexico) and help me clean out the sheep barns,” the congressman said with a broad smile. “If they have a free hand and want to help me shovel some of what the sheep produced, come on by!”
- Did Republican legislators walk out of a Legislative Education Study Committee hearing? That’s what Rep. Nate Cote, D-Organ, said on his Facebook page. Santa Fe New Mexican education reporter Robert Nott has some details.
I called Cote Thursday. He said all the Republicans but Senator Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, got up and left – “They all sort of disappeared.” He said he figured some, including Rep. Jimmie Hall, R-Albuquerque, went to other committees happening at the same time, but Cote also walked into the hallway to find several standing around just “shooting the bull while the presentation was going on.”
I called Hall who said he was jumping from one committee to another and he certainly didn’t orchestrate any such walkout. He said a lot of committee members do have to make several obligations at once, requiring some stepping in and stepping out over the course of a day.
- The Curry County Jail Administrator is considering a lawsuit against the county. Tori Sandoval said she was forced to take 10 days of unpaid leave because of political retaliation from the county manager. She says she was falsely accused of embezzlement. Her attorney is former DA Matt Chandler.
- Should publicly funded candidates who have no opposition still get the full public financing? Common Cause New Mexico says it will propose legislation to address the issue.
- An Albuquerque city councilor wants the city to look at the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists when it comes to planning new roads.
Wide sidewalks, street trees, on-street parking, bicycle lanes and protected mid-block crossings for pedestrians would be encouraged. In some cases, the city could eliminate some lanes of traffic or make them more narrow, if traffic engineers determine the street is built to handle more cars than it actually does.
- The Portales News-Tribune looks at what the police in eastern New Mexico think about the ban on texting while driving. The Portales Police Department has handed out nine tickets, while the Clovis Police Department have not handed out any tickets. Why none for Clovis?
The Clovis Police Department, however, believes the language of the texting-while-driving ban gives people a plausible defense to beat the citation, said Clovis Capt. Patrick Whitney.
- Only one of the four proposed veterans cemeteries in NM got approval from the VA.
Ray Seva, spokesman for the state Veterans’ Services Department, said Wednesday that only the top 17 cemeteries on the Cemetery Administration’s list will qualify for funding this year, meaning only the Gallup cemetery will move forward for the 2015 federal fiscal year.
In addition to the Gallup veterans cemetery, Martinez had proposed cemeteries in Fort Stanton, Carlsbad and Angel Fire.
- Susana Martinez highlighted the success of “Katie’s Law,” which takes DNA from those arrested for felonies and compares them to previous cases.
- A lesser-known cash crop in southern New Mexico, pecans, will have its harvest start soon. The harvest only starts when the leaves fall off the pecan trees, making it easier to get to the pecans.
An October forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicted New Mexico will produce about 65 million pounds of pecans this season. That’s about 10 percent less than last year.
This year is a so-called “off” year for the state’s pecan crop, meaning fewer pecans will be produced than a year ago, farmers said. The two-year cycle tends to yield a light crop one year and a heavy crop the next.
New Mexico is one of the largest providers of pecans in the nation. Last year, only Georgia grew more pecans.
- U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich introduced legislation to “modernize” the electrical grid.
- KOB looked at the safety of the helmets used by high school football teams. The vast majority of helmets are considered safe by a Virginia Tech story, though the highest-rated helmets are still pretty rare.
- Looks like the filming of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is starting up soon.
This week, the “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” cast and crew, including director Zach Snyder, moved from Chicago to their new filming location in New Mexico, in particular Playas and Deming. It is not yet determined who the characters are that will be appearing in New Mexico, but it is believed to be the last leg of the movie’s location shoot, and will only last a short period of time. On Friday, several photos with Cavill and fans were posted and tweeted from a Deming restaurant.
Filed under: Morning Word