Senate adds to budget

The Senate Finance Committee's version of New Mexico's $6.3 billion budget has heftier pay raises for state police and judges, more money for Bernalillo County's District Attorney, and starts to repay money taken from school districts to balance previous budgets. The committee released its budget ($) over the weekend. Lawmakers have until noon on Thursday to finish work.

Finance showdown

A proposed constitutional amendment that would take more money each year—about $150 million—from the state's Land Grant Permanent Fund is headed to the Senate Finance Committee. It's the final committee stop before a full Senate vote. It's also traditionally been the last stop for the proposal, as fiscally conservative members haven't yet warmed to larger payouts from the fund, which pays hundreds of millions annually for New Mexico schools. The resolution has already passed the House.

Pick ’em

The Word isn't sure what the odds are for this bill, but if the House approves it and the governor signs it, the state's lieutenant governor would be selected by each major party's nominee for governor. Right now, party voters pick a running mate for the governor in the primary election. Supporters say it would ensure a more ideologically aligned pair and could potentially make for more effective government.

Spaceport secrecy bill moves ahead 

Officials at Spaceport America are another step closer to broadening the definition of trade secrets in order to keep certain information about tenants confidential. Open government advocates say the measure gives the taxpayer-funded spaceport special exemptions no other state agency has. The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously endorsed the bill, which now goes to the Senate floor.

Judge gives millions to bone cement victims

A federal bankruptcy judge has awarded more than $12 million to victims of a money-making surgery involving hot bone cement, which is apparently as awful as it sounds. Two physicians at an Alamogordo hospital, Christian Schlicht and Frank Bryant, performed the surgeries about a decade ago. The malpractice and negligence claims have piled up, forcing the hospital into bankruptcy. In 2016, a judge decided Quorum Health Resources was partially responsible for allowing the surgeries. The award went to four victims. Dozens of cases are still yet to be decided.

Remedial woes

The Santa Fe Community College says 76 percent of its incoming students need to take a remedial math course and two thirds of its new students have to enroll in remedial English. There's a huge cost ($) to colleges across the state and country that have to provide such courses. Having to take them decreases the chance that students will finish on time.

New cat

A fellow down by Ruidoso may have seen a jaguarundi, which is not a made-up animal. The cat is native to South America but has been seen in North America from time to time. Rex Hill, who lives just north of Ruidoso, says a strange-looking cat was messing with a bird that had become stuck in a squirrel trap in his back yard.

Get ready

The snow this weekend (even last night!) was awesome. But it's a drop in a snowpack bucket that is woefully empty this year. If you're a TV news watcher, you're going to hear the phrase "tinder-dry" an awful lot this spring. While there's little hope of getting back to near-normal levels of the snowpack that caches moisture for our state, there does seem to be more moisture in the forecast. It'll warm today and then really warm Tuesday and Wednesday before the next solid chance of precipitation.

Thanks for reading! The Word does, in fact, want to build a snowman.

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