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Morning Word: Same-sex marriage in front of NM Supreme Court today

Morales launches gov campaign and more NM news...

October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
By Matthew Reichbach
  • Reminder: The same-sex marriage oral arguments in front of the state Supreme Court will be webcast today, starting at 9:00 am at KOAT.com, KOB.com and KUNM.org. I will be watching that way because I have caught whatever bug is going around -- plus it saves on gas money.
  • State Sen. Howie Morales "formally" launched his gubernatorial campaign Tuesday in Silver City.
  • Milan Simonich, who has been following Morales' potential bid for some time, also spoke to Morales on Tuesday.
    He cited a last-minute bill to cut corporate taxes as one example. Martinez pushed hard for the bill, and another part of it "forces" local governments to raise taxes to make up for lost state revenue, Morales said.

    He called it a back-door tax increase that amounted to a broken promise by Martinez.

    “She said she would not raise taxes but did exactly that,” he said.
  • NPR looks at how Dona Ana County Clerk Lynn Ellins ignited the same-sex marriage debate in the state. It should be pointed out, his effort was completely separate from the case in Bernalillo County which is in front of the state Supreme Court this morning.
  • A Republican has stepped up to take on Michelle Lujan Grisham in the 1st Congressional District. Former Albuquerque city councilor Mike McEntee announced he will seek the Republican nomination.
  • The Santa Fe Reporter spoke to Republican Senate candidate David Clements about his long-shot Senate run.
    He’s also part of a group of libertarians and Ron Paul supporters who, after months of on-the-ground planning, swarmed the DARP convention this past spring. Their efforts paid off as they took most of DARP’s officer positions and 21 of 29 available state GOP central committee seats.

    Now, Clements is attempting to bring the same brand of conservative politics statewide in a long-shot bid for the Senate seat currently held by Democrat Tom Udall, who before earning the Senate spot served for a decade as a US Representative, and before that was a two-term New Mexico attorney general.
  • Clements' candidacy made me remember the last time a similar libertarian-leaning candidate got a big amount of attention: Adam Kokesh. Kokesh who ran for the Republican nomination in the 3rd Congressional District and lost in the primary. Where is he now? Kokesh is facing a trial for carrying a firearm in Washington D.C. outside his home or office starting Thursday.
  • The Department of Health has reached a settlement in a whistleblower suit with Bob Ortiz. The news means they dropped a subpoena of the notes from the Santa Fe Reporter's Joey Peters.
  • A group is proposing the reimposition of the food tax.
    New Mexico Municipal League Executive Director Bill Fulginiti said Tuesday that the food tax idea has nearly unanimous support from municipal leaders. If approved by state lawmakers during the 2014 legislative session, he said, it would give cities a way to absorb the loss of a big-dollar tax subsidy from the state without having to raise their local base tax rates.

    “It seems to solve a whole bunch of problems without winners and losers,” Fulginiti said after testifying before an interim legislative committee in the state Capitol.
    The governor is opposed to the idea. The reason this is even coming up is because the state legislatures and Governor Susana Martinez ended the "hold harmless" provision for municipalities and counties. This means the areas will lose revenue from the state, which many say will force the local governments to raise gross receipts taxes.

    The Albuquerque Journal story says legislators pointed out that the local governments won't be able to raise the gross receipts taxes enough to make up for the lost revenue.
  • Hundreds of people in Albuquerque protested the Public Education Department's teacher evaluation plan on Tuesday.
    Protest organizers say the PED teacher evaluations are simply unfair and they're going into place without legislative input.

    Secondly, they say those evaluations mean more standardized testing for already burdened students, which also determine 50 percent of a teacher's performance. It's gotten to the point where some teachers, including those in Albuquerque Public Schools, are considering a strike.
  • APS, meanwhile, is currently 100 teachers short.
    “What I hear in schools is people who are ready to retire saying, 'This isn't what I signed up for. I'm retiring now. The whole system has become so blaming and punitive,’” said Bernstein.

    Bernstein said it’s not a problem with APS, but one that’s been felt across New Mexico.
  • The price of oil is dropping, which is bad news for New Mexico's revenues. New Mexico is heavily dependent on the oil and gas industry. According to KRQE a year ago, a dollar rise in the price of crude oil meant another $19 million for the state in revenue.
  • Rural New Mexico is facing a water supply crisis according to KUNM.
    In fact, this summer, the wells in three New Mexico towns dried up and water had to be trucked in.

    "When we started seeing these communities run out of water it was like 'why is this occurring?'" said Ryan Flynn, secretary of the State Environment Department.
  • The Taos News looked at how future growth impacts the water debate in the area. No real good piece to excerpt, but be sure to read it to show how big a deal water is throughout the state.
  • A lawsuit alleging violations of the state Inspection of Public Records Act by Quay County is set for November 6. The complaint was filed on July 12; the county faces up to $100 per day in damages if it is found to not have followed the state's expansive open records law.
    In their suit, Swenson and Fleming charged the county failed to disclose any of the numerous public documents requested in a letter sent through their attorney, Pete Domenici of Albuquerque, on March 8.

    The suit also alleges county government officials failed either to notify Domenici, Fleming or Swenson that they had received the request within three days — as the law requires — or to provide any other communications about the request.
  • Meanwhile, Thom Cole at the Journal writes about how a closed settlement from the troubled New Mexico Finance Authority was subject to the Inspection of Public Records Act.
  • There is a burgeoning film industry in Albuquerque.
    In addition to the two TV shows, there are currently five large productions in Albuquerque and numerous smaller ones.

    The other productions include: Manis Film’s thriller “Big Sky” starring Kyra Sedgwick and “La Vida Robot,” a film starring comedian George Lopez and actress Jamie Lee Curtis. “The Night Shift” is an ensemble cast and stars Freddy Rodriguez, while “Killer Women” stars Marc Blucas.
  • Bernalillo County is having a hard time crafting a new investment policy. This is because the County Treasurer hasn't attended the last two meetings.
    In both cases, Ortiz sent the commission a letter instead.

    That’s not enough, commissioners said Tuesday. They questioned whether Ortiz is really committed to cooperating with them on a policy they say is needed to ensure the county’s cash isn’t tied up in long-term investments and unavailable to pay the daily bills. They have expressed concern that the treasurer might have to sell some of the investments at a loss to generate the cash needed to pay for routine operating expenses.
  • The Navajo Nation Council passed an energy policy, rescinding and updating the previous policy passed in 1980. It now heads to Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly.
    "We have new energy platforms to consider as we look to the future of Navajo energy," Shelly said in a Tuesday statement applauding the new policy. "We have the opportunity to purchase a coal mine and attain partial ownership of a power plant, but yet, we must keep a strong grasp on renewable energy sources as well."
  • The town of Taos voted to keep its energy efficiency rules for new buildings in place.
    The council considered an ordinance Tuesday (Oct. 22) that would have suspended part of the town code relating to energy-efficient construction. The code, first adopted in 2009, requires those wishing to build a home to have a certified inspector review plans to ensure they meet specific energy efficiency goals before a building permit is issued. The code also requires an inspector to verify that the constructed building meets those standards before a certificate of occupancy is issued.
  • The Smiley Gallegos case continues to be pushed back and is nearing a decade in the fraud, embezzlement and conspiracy involving money case. And he hasn't seen a court room yet.
  • The Santa Fe public radio station KSFR is creating a two-person team to lead the station.
  • The Union of Concerned Scientists isn't happy with the National Nuclear Security Administration's plans to spend $60 billion on new nuclear warheads.
  • Peanut processor Sunland Inc. considered Chapter 11 bankruptcy first before opting for a Chapter 7 filing.
    A Chapter 11 bankruptcy is a reorganization plan that allows a company to continue functioning with creditors agreeing to accept less, often significantly less than they are owed.

    Chapter 7 bankruptcy closes the doors and a trustee is appointed to sell off assets and distribute the money among creditors.
  • Taos school officials face suspension face suspension after the state discovered the special education program was out of compliance.
  • A Carlsbad woman is being charged with fraud after receiving over $50,000 in federal aid. She didn't tell the government that she was married and living with her husband, who was receiving a salary.
  • The Bureau of Land Management lease sale postponed by the federal government shutdown will take place on November 21.
  • There will be a Homeland Security training at New Mexico State University today and tomorrow.
  • The rate of teen pregnancy in New Mexico is declining, but still ranks second in the nation.
  • Employees at both Sandia and Los Alamos National Labs received NNSA sustainability awards.
  • It looks like bees killed three birds at the Alameda Park Zoo in Alamogordo in July. It is suspected that Africanized (aka "killer") bees were responsible.
    A revision of the Alamogordo ordinance to allow beekeeping within the city limits is currently under consideration by the city commission. Advocates note that more kinder, gentler European bees will dilute the already identified Africanized bee population, making the city safer for those allergic to bee stings.

    European bees and Africanized bees look the same; the only way to differentiate them is genetic testing, which is no longer available at New Mexico State University by state entomologist Dr. Carol Sutherland due to the recent federal sequestration, which eliminated funding.
  • Not New Mexico, but... El Paso's Class AAA baseball team will be called the Chihuahuas. I'm trying to think of one possible way this isn't a terrible idea (this from someone who owns a chihuahua and chihuahua mix). I'm drawing a blank.
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