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Morning Word: Overbilled, Overblown

June 26, 2017, 7:30 am

It was huge news: Gov. Susana Martinez and her administration had uncovered chronic overbilling among New Mexico's behavioral health service providers. For Southwest Counseling Center, which was forced out of business by the 2013 claim, the overbilling estimate was a whopping $2.8 million. The state settled with SWCC for $485. That's less than .0002 percent.

LANL's latest screw-up
Somebody from Los Alamos National Lab sent nuclear material to two other labs this month using an air courier service. That's a huge no-no, and the feds are once again investigating what seems like a basic error at the lab. LANL seems to have developed a pattern of blowing minds with both science and surprising mistakes. 

We didn't see anything
Because you didn't look. The University of New Mexico hasn't audited the Athletics Department in at least six years and possibly much longer. The department recently admitted to KRQE that it spent $25,000 for potential donors to golf at St. Andrews and Trump Turnberry in Scotland. And it recently acknowledged to that it overpaid former basketball coach Craig Neal and baseball coach Ray Birmingham. Interim president Chaouki Abdallah says UNM has plenty of safeguards.

Pushback on new campaign finance rules
The secretary of state's office has been trying to write new rules which require groups that spend more than $1,000 on political ads during an election cycle to disclose their donors. That's a big deal, because a huge chunk of the money in politics these days comes from groups—liberal, conservative and otherwise—that don't have to do that. The office says requiring a group to disclose its donors doesn't limit its free speech.

Dunn to review drilling permits for water impact
State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn says the depleted Ogallala aquifer that provides water to a huge portion of the middle of the US, including Eastern New Mexico, is devaluing state land. In July, his office will begin reviewing requests from oil and gas drillers to drill new wells to support mineral extraction.  

New gas tax for SF roads?
City Councilor Joseph Maestas thinks the public would be more than willing to shell out an extra two cents per gallon if it meant they could drive on something resembling a smooth road. Maestas wants to put the question to voters when they pick a new mayor and city councilors next March. He tried unsuccessfully to put the measure on a ballot two years ago.

State police shoot man in Rowe
This one's been developing since last night, but New Mexico State Police have confirmed officers shot and killed 36-year-old Rip Huntington. The man had fired shots near a store in Pecos and police chased him to a frontage road off I-25 in Rowe. Police say he threatened himself and them. A member of the tactical team fired the fatal shot.

Heating up again
Don't worry, nothing in the 90s or triple digits for Santa Fe, but after potential for rain Monday and Tuesday, we could see highs in the upper 80s the rest of the week. There's a chance of severe storms this afternoon, so make that Monday hike an eye-opener instead of a sunset one if you can.

Thanks for reading! The Word needs to hit the trails. Leash your dogs.

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