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Morning Word: Unemployment Numbers Jump in August

September 21, 2016, 7:30 am
Unemployment Still High
The state’s unemployment rate is still the second highest in the nation and the numbers keeping getting worse. In August, unemployment was at 6.6 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—almost two percentage points higher than the 4.9 percent national average and way above the 2.9 percent unemployment rate in South Dakota. At least it’s not the worst rate; Alaska topped New Mexico with 6.8 percent of workers claiming unemployment. 

Lawmakers Will Consider Death Penalty Reinstatement During Special Session
State Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, is going to sponsor Gov. Susana Martinez’ proposal to reinstate the death penalty in New Mexico during a yet-to-be-scheduled special session. The legislation isn’t likely to get passed by the Democrat-controlled state senate, but Martinez and her team get to put lawmakers on the record about the issue before the Nov. 8 election.
Amber Widgery, a death penalty policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures, said no state has enacted a law to reinstate capital punishment after a legislative repeal over the last 40 years. "I haven't seen a reinstatement bill get traction in recent memory," she said.
Martinez’ Popularity Among the Lowest in the Country
The governor’s popularity continues to fall and now she’s ranked the 11th least popular governor in the US. Steve Terrell reports, “There were some bright spots for Martinez in the poll. It showed that more people in New Mexico approve of her job performance than disapprove, so in the jargon of pollsters, she’s “above water. And the numbers are slightly better for the governor than some recent polls. According to the new poll, 50 percent of those who responded approve of Martinez’s job performance. Forty-five percent disapprove.” 

State Fails to Collect Tax Revenue from Health Insurance Premiums
“The state failed to collect nearly $200 million in taxes from health insurance companies during a recent five-year period,” according to a report released Tuesday by State Auditor Tim Keller and reported by Joey Peters.
The state Office of the Superintendent of Insurance (OSI) should have collected more than $193 million between April 2010 and April 2015, according to the report. OSI’s purpose is to collect premium taxes from insurers who do business in New Mexico. In the report, Keller noted that the $193 million total is based on a sample representing 26 percent of all premium taxes collected during the time period.

"The ultimate amount due to the State is likely to be far more than the sums identified in the Audit,” Keller wrote.
Drug Overdose Fatalities Continue to Rise in Santa Fe County
The New Mexico Health Department reports that drug overdose deaths dropped by 9 percent around most of New Mexico, but not in Santa Fe County, which saw a 6.7 percent increase.
Other counties that saw a rise in fatal overdoses between 2014 and 2015 are Bernalillo, Chaves, Doña Ana, Eddy, Guadalupe, Los Alamos, Quay, Roosevelt, Sierra and Taos. Each reported an increase of one to three deaths since 2014. Rio Arriba County had the state’s highest rate of fatal drug overdoses in 2015, at 81.4 deaths per 100,000 residents, despite a 30 percent decrease from 2014, when it reported 40 deaths and a rate of 110.2.
Garcia Gets Contract Extension
Santa Fe Public School’s interim superintendent Veronica Garcia now has a permanent contract extension through 2018. Garcia will earn $180,000 a year. 

Infrantry Bound
Very cool. Anissa Martinez, 18, who just graduated from Española Valley High School Valley High School in May, has taken her oath and will become the state’s first woman to join the Army’s infantry.

All in a Week
So the Morning Word takes a look at daily news from around the state, but if you want a good laugh about some of the stories that made news over the past week, you should check out SFR’s snarky 7 Days column online.

 

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Morning Word: Death Penalty Reinstatement Would Cost State Millions

Morning Word At the same time New Mexico lawmakers are trying to shore up the state’s budget, the New Mexico Public Defender's Office is questioning the costs associated with reinstating the death penalty.  ... More

Sept. 22, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr

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