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New Harvest

State lawmakers say marijuana legislation is heading for debate in the upcoming legislative session

Local NewsTuesday, November 25, 2014 by Joey Peters

Add another marijuana bill to the upcoming legislative session.

State Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Doña Ana, now plans to introduce a bill to legalize marijuana in New Mexico that is modeled after the legalization measure that voters approved in Oregon earlier this month. Specifically, McCamley’s bill will allow people to store up to eight ounces of marijuana in their homes at a time and grow up to four plants themselves. Full-budded pot would be taxed at $35 per ounce and be adjusted for inflation when necessary. 

McCamley, pictured left, gave a primer of the bill in Santa Fe on Nov. 25 to the Legislative Council Health & Human Services Committee. He pleaded with his colleagues to not “get caught up in stereotypes about what this is and isn’t.”

“This is not a joke,” McCamley said at the hearing. “When people bring up marijuana legalization, people think, ‘Oh, Cheech and Chong, Half-Baked, Reefer Madness, it’s supposed to be funny.’ It’s not funny.” 

Under the bill, 40 percent of those taxes would go to public education, 20 percent would go toward addiction services, 20 percent to local law enforcement, 15 percent to state police and 5 percent for abuse prevention. McCamley added that he would like to see THC percentage labeling on the product, noting that it's similar to alcohol labeling. He also wants to add a provision allowing cultivation of industrial hemp. 

The state Alcohol & Gaming Department would oversee marijuana production. McCamley stresses the importance of oversight to make sure that marijuana revenue is going to the state’s economy, not drug cartels. 

Still, he admits going for a full legalization effort by statute will not likely get far in the upcoming session, which will be presided over by a Republican-controlled House of Representative and a Republican governor. But he says he's introducing the bill to start a discussion. 

State Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Bernalillo, plans to again carry a similar legalization bill asking for a constitutional amendment that voters can approve. 

“It’s clear that this is going to happen,” Ortiz y Pino said at the hearing. “The question is when.”

Animal Controls

City Finance Committee says for new animal services officers won't be added right away despite chief's request

Local NewsTuesday, November 25, 2014 by Justin Horwath

The Santa Fe Police Department’s Animal Services Division will have to wait until at least next year to get additional taxpayer funding for additional officers.

The City Council Finance Committee on Nov. 17 postponed an item in which Police Chief Eric Garcia requested roughly $207,000 for two additional animal services officers. That taxpayer money would have included salary, vehicles, equipment and training for the positions, according to Johnny Martinez, manager of the Animal Services Division.

The SFPD division is currently authorized for six full-time officers in addition to Martinez, who as manager spends much of his time at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society—which leases offices to the city—on supervisory duties for the division.

The other officers are supposed to fan out across the city every day, enforcing Santa Fe’s animal control ordinances. One position remains vacant. During a ride-along with SFR [Dog Days, November 12, 2014], Martinez told us it’s difficult to recruit the right person for the job. Currently, the five animal control officers make between $12.74 and $15.11 per hour, according to the city’s transparency portal. Martinez makes $23.03 per hour, according to the data.

The division received roughly 6,500 calls for service in 2013, says Martinez, who says the division’s workload has increased after the city’s population increased by roughly 13,250 residents following its annexation of county land.

Carmichael Dominguez, chair of the Finance Committee, tells SFR that SFPD should have asked for the additional positions when the city was hammering out the budget early this year. “That’s one option,” Dominguez says when asked if the division will have to wait until the middle of 2015, the start of the city’s next fiscal year. “Unless they find [an additional] funding source, whether it be through reclassification of other positions or some kind of salary saving somewhere. They’ll have to wait until the next budget cycle.” 

Morning Word: Changes Coming to The Morning Word

Massey headed to work in state government

Morning WordTuesday, November 25, 2014 by Matthew Reichbach

AP Correspondent Leaves for State Government

Barry Massey beomes legislative and PR guy for Administrative Office of the Courts

Local NewsMonday, November 24, 2014 by Joey Peters

Come this January's state legislative session, a familiar face in the Roundhouse press corps will grace the Capitol from a different position. 

Barry Massey, who has been covering New Mexico's legislative process for the Associated Press for 21 years, has accepted a job advocating for the state's judicial system as the legislative liaison for the Administrative Office of the Courts and as its the public information officer.

Massey, who could always be counted on to show up at the Roundhouse wearing a bow tie, left a 35-year career at AP earlier this month. At the Roundhouse, he helmed news coverage under four different governors and carved a reputation for rapid reporting and deep policy analysis.

Trip Jennings, executive director for New Mexico in Depth, was one of Massey's reporter peers during recent legislative sessions.

"Barry is one of the best government reporters I've worked with over the years," Jennings says. "When it comes to the state budget, he's scary smart and his knowledge of New Mexico's tax code is unparalleled among journalists working in the state. He's aggressive too. The state's press corps has lost a huge asset."

Heath Haussamen, who also covered New Mexico politics for years, echoes similar praises.

"Barry's depth of knowledge of the state budget and other complex issues won't be easily replaced," Haussamen, deputy director of New Mexico in Depth, says. "I'll miss his understanding of state government and his professionalism."

Fresh out of college, Massey began as an AP desk editor in the Kansas City bureau in 1979. He covered the Kansas legislature in the early '80s before becoming a regional reporter in Washington DC. There, he covered issues like farm legislation and traveled with Bob Dole's failed 1988 presidential campaign. 

He came to New Mexico in 1993. One of Massey's first duties, he expects, is to advocate for funding for two new district judge positions, among other issues this upcoming session. He starts on Dec.1.

"This is going to be a whole different experience," he tells SFR in an interview Monday. "One of the things I particularly enjoyed in Santa Fe was covering the state appellate courts. Now I will be dealing with those issues in a different way, but will still be involved in the judiciary."

Picture in the Tweet below from left are AP reporters Susan Montoya Bryan and Russell Contreras, Massey and former AP Bureau Chief Julie Aicher. 

Gila Diversion Moves Forward

Interstate Stream Commission votes to tell feds they want to use water from wild Gila River

Local NewsMonday, November 24, 2014 by Laura Paskus

Today in Albuquerque, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission voted in favor of building a project on the Gila River that will divert the river’s waters in southwestern New Mexico for potential use by homes, farms and businesses.

With only one commissioner, Blaine Sanchez, voting against the diversion alternative, the state will now notify the Secretary of the US Department of the Interior. Commissioner Topper Thorpe, who is also chairman of the Gila Basin Irrigation Commission, abstained from participating in the vote. 

Although Sanchez voiced an opposing vote, he said during the meeting he could have supported a diversion project, had there been more information available involving how it would be funded or who will pay for it.

Moments after the vote was taken, outgoing State Engineer Scott Verhines, secretary of the commission, read a message that the commission now plans to deliver to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

In 2004, Congress passed federal legislation allowing New Mexico ten years to decide if it would meet future water needs in four New Mexico counties through conservation and efficiency or by diverting water from the Gila and storing it in off-river channels. The federal government has set aside $66 million for the project already, pledging up to another $62 million if the state decided on a diversion project by the end of 2014.

The vote was a surprise to no one, as the commission's staff had already voiced support for diversion. Most recently, its lawyers convinced a judge to allow deliberations to continue despite a lawsuit alleging the commission's planning process violated the state Open Meetings Act.

The next step in the project is that New Mexico must produce engineering designs and get ready for an extensive federal review environmental review.

“New Mexico’s financial options will remain open for years to come,” reads a statement issued by Acting Interstate Stream Commission Director Amy Haas. “If New Mexico determines down the road that our options are overly costly or no longer feasible, we have the option to change course. Today’s vote is not a commitment to a short term obligation; it is a commitment to the long term health of New Mexico as a whole.”

As news of the decision circulated, however, advocacy groups began to sound off. The New Mexico Wildlife Federation calls the plan "harmful, wasteful and unnecessary."

"The project would construct a permanent diversion of the Gila River, one of the nation’s few remaining free-flowing rivers, damaging important wildlife habitat and negatively affecting hunting and fishing in a region whose economy relies on sportsmen," reads a statement issued this afternoon. 

Allyson Siwik, director of the Gila Conservation Coalition, says of the vote: "I think the Interstate Stream Commission has had its mind made up for 10 years," she said.

See more details about the decision in Wednesday's edition of SFR.

Minority Report

New House Minority leader Brian Egolf says Democrats must force Republicans to justify majority in state House

Local NewsMonday, November 24, 2014 by Justin Horwath
As the newly named minority leader of Democrats in New Mexico's House of Representatives, Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, will be at the helm a Democratic party caucus that hasn't been in the minority in decades.

Following the Republican sweep of New Mexico's lower chamber—where GOP lawmakers now hold a 37-33 advantage following November elections—Democrats named Egolf to post as they head into the 60-day legislative session next year.

Because they've held power in the chamber for decades, House Democrats are now going to have to create a brand new playbook in how to legislate in the minority.

Asked if his caucus would look to the old House Republican tactics that included filibusters and other methods to hold up Democratic legislation, Egolf responds that "it’s way too early to say what we’re going to be doing on any particular issue." But he hints at a strategy. He says this of his role as minority leader: "Trying to define as clearly as possible what it means to be Democrat."

That includes forcing debate on Republican-led legislation. "It’s our role now to hold the Republicans accountable," he says.

Egolf, an attorney by trade who has said that he plans to serve only one term as minority leaders, says legislative priorities for House Democrats will include increasing the statewide minimum wage to "at least" $10.10 an hour, reducing the amount of state-imposed standardized testing in schools and "tax fairness." 

The session begins on Jan. 20.

Morning Word: Cabinet Shakeups Continue

Egolf is named House Minority Leader

Morning WordMonday, November 24, 2014 by Matthew Reichbach
  • 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.

'Different Conversation'

Sen. Peter Wirth addresses constituents after Republicans take over New Mexico House of Representatives

Local NewsSunday, November 23, 2014 by Justin Horwath
State Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, told constituents gathered at Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse on a gray Sunday morning that before the election, he thought he'd be having a "different conversation" with them about the upcoming 60-day legislative session that starts in January.

But that was before Republicans took control of the New Mexico Legislature's lower chamber for the first time in more than 60 years.

With a 37-33 advantage in the House for at least two years and another 4 years in the governorship, the GOP now has more power to implement the party's legislative agenda than it has in decades.

The state Senate, where Democrats hold a 25-17 advantage, will see "a whole string of bills" previously stopped in the House when Democrats held the majority there now "screaming into the Senate," Wirth said.

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.

While Democrats control the Senate, majority lawmakers in that chamber often undergo ideological divides on core liberal issues, with rural Democrats exhibiting streaks of independence from urban colleagues and the state Democratic Party.

House Democrats "have a whole set of rules" that will protect the minority party, he said, recalling the days when former state Rep. Dan Foley, R-Roswell, "a master at using the rules to assist the [Republican] agenda," would stall Democrats' agenda with filibusters by describing Roswell public works projects in "in detail" as Democratic lawmakers sat like "stool pigeons as we're watching Republicans run the show."

"I thought for a minute and I said, 'No, the Republicans are doing exactly what they were elected to do,'" Wirth said he responded to a question from a caller to a radio show denouncing Republican filibusters.

He also praised the House Democrats selection of Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, as the minority leader.

Wirth said Democrats and Republicans could find common ground on fixing a "completely broken" and "regressive" tax code.

In response to SFR's question about whether lawmakers would try to pass legislation that would force online retailers like Amazon that sell products to New Mexicans but don't have to pay gross receipts taxes on those sales because they're not located in the state, Wirth responded that's another "basic fairness issues" and that the state could "bring in a chunk of revenue" by taxing those entities. "Is she willing to engage in tax reform for the state of New Mexico?" Wirth asked of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

For the past two years, Wirth's legislation that would require outside groups making independent expenditures in elections to disclosure donors supporting those expenditures has passed in the Senate but died in the House, "right toward the end of the session," he said. Nonprofits on both sides of  the political spectrum, like labor and anti-abortion groups, have opposed the bill. It might get further this year, he said, noting that Rep. Jim Smith, R-Albuquerque, will co-sponsor the bill on the House side and naming Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, as another Republican ally in the House in his fight to pass the legislation. He encouraged the audience to personally interact with lawmakers instead of "through the mailer that comes every other day" during campaigns.

The bill would also etch a definition of illegal coordination between outside spending groups and campaigns, which is already prohibited on the federal level but is not enforced by Republican Secretary of State Diana Duran, who has cited a lack of a state definition in the law of coordination.

Journey Santa Fe organized the conversation with Wirth, who responded to audience questions.

A board member of New Mexicans for Gun Safety in the audience told Wirth that citizens have feared to testify on issues because citizens are able to open carry firearms in the Roundhouse. Wirth responded that last year he unsuccessfully attempted to amend Senate rules to restrict the ability of people to bring weapons into Senate committees.

Wirth, a state lawmaker for ten years, chairs the Senate Conservation Committee.

In response to questions about water issues, With says that while up to 77 percent of water in the state is used for agriculture, he doesn't view conservation as a rural versus urban issue. He questioned the project that would divert water from the Gila River and praised Gov. Martinez for signing his legislation that limits a subdivision's ability to use domestic wells, despite objections from oil interests.

Audience members cheered at a question about how the Democratic Party can better represent interests of its constituents.

Wirth responded that "what seems to have been lost are Democratic senior statesmen" and called the selection process of candidates during the primary elections "broken."

"I hope we can send a signal that the Democratic Party is not dead," he said

Rick May Headed Back To DC

The former New Mexico cabinet secretary will be staff director for the US House Budget Committee

Local NewsFriday, November 21, 2014 by Joey Peters

Rick May, the former New Mexico cabinet secretary who had a public falling out with Gov. Susana Martinez, is headed back to Washington DC to work on the federal budget.

May will serve as staff director of the US House Budget Committee, which he directed in the '90s under a similar Republican-controlled Congress. The incoming committee chairman is Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia, who will replace Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin. 

The new position is a political turnaround for May, went through several tumultuous periods during his brief career with the Martinez administration. 

Soon after her 2010 election to the governor's office, Martinez named May to head the state Department of Finance and Administration, where he worked to balance a $450 million shortfall. After the 2011 state Legislative session, May started clashing with the new administration, maintaining that Martinez' staff shut him out of key budget meetings for not toeing their line.

May was eventually side-shifted to a job as CEO of the New Mexico Finance Authority, a quasi-governmental agency that provides local infrastructure with cheap loans. Shortly before heading NMFA, May came across a memo written by the Martinez administration outlining a plan to substantially downsize the agency. The point of the proposed downsize, May argued, was to outsource NMFA's work to private industry.

"They want the Finance Authority to be this sleepy little entity that only gives small loans to small communities, and…that these local communities should go through these private entities and pay higher interest rates,” May told SFR last year. “These other private entities are going to charge a lot higher fees than the Finance Authority ever did. They view the Finance Authority, I guess, as unfair competition.”

The Martinez administration downplayed the memo as "a sheet of notes" that only represented informal ideas. May disagreed and alleged that the administration was attempting to "dismantle and destroy" the agency. 

Soon, a scandal hit NMFA when it was revealed that May's comptroller, Greg Campbell, forged an internal audit of the agency. May's team at NMFA hired an independent investigator look into the matter. He also claimed that Campbell lied to him and NMFA staff on several occasions about the audit. None of this was enough to save his job. In August 2012, the board overseeing NMFA fired May. 

Last year, May filed a lawsuit against Martinez, alleging that her administration was withholding emails related to the board's decision to fire him (for the full story on all of this, click here and here). A separate lawsuit filed by May against Clifton Gunderson, the auditing firm hired to do NMFA's audit that May claimed also dropped the ball on the matter, was settled out of court earlier this year.

Earlier this year, May left New Mexico for a job in Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich's administration as executive director of the Ohio Broadcast Educational Media Commission. His new job in Washington DC is much higher profile and identical to the role he held in the '90s.

"It is truly an honor to be named to this important position and I look forward to working with Chairman Price and the members of the House Budget Committee in balancing the federal budget," May said in a statement. "This committee plays a key role in how Congress addresses the nation’s most pressing budget and economic issues and my previous experiences will hopefully assist the Chairman and the Committee in meeting their responsibilities to the American people." 

His lawsuit against Martinez is still pending. 

State Gets Green Light for Gila Decision

Judge says petitioner in open meetings case has to pay $62 million bond to keep restraining order in place

Local NewsFriday, November 21, 2014 by Laura Paskus

A District Court judge in Santa Fe has lifted a temporary restraining order against the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission. The move allows the commission to move ahead with plans to notify the US Department of the Interior that New Mexico plans to build a diversion on the Gila River in southwestern New Mexico.

Although the commission has until the end of December to officially make that decision, it’s a likely move, given that at a public meeting in Silver City last week, state staff recommended commissioners choose that course of action.

Earlier this month, District Court Judge Raymond Ortiz told lawyers for the commission that it may hold meetings that comply with public-access laws and can discuss the Gila, but can't make any decisions about potential projects. The ruling continued a temporary restraining order he put in place after a former director of the commission, Norman Gaume, sued the state for alleged violations of the New Mexico Open Meetings Act.

Ortiz recused himself from the case on Nov. 13—for reasons that have not been made public—and the case was assigned to Judge Francis Mathew, who was appointed to the bench in January 2013 by Gov. Susana Martinez.

During the hearing’s proceedings, attorneys for the Interstate Stream Commission argued that if the restraining order stayed in place, the state would be damaged to the tune of  $62 million. According to Guame, the judge asked how much money he could put toward those losses.

When Guame's attorney said he could pay only about $500 toward the required bond, the judge found the offer insufficient and he lifted the temporary restraining order. A new trial is set for April 6, 2015.

“This is a setback, and it’s certainly not what I had hoped,” says Gaume. “But I’m not going to go away. And more important than that, the facts aren’t going to go away, the opposition isn’t going to go away, the ISC is not going to succeed—and they’re going to waste a lot of money before they inevitably fail.”

Representing the Gila-San Francisco Water Commission, three New Mexico counties, the Village of Columbus and the City of Deming, Pete Domenici, Jr. also spoke at the Thursday hearing, pointing out that the opportunity for southwestern New Mexico to glean water from the Gila River has been building for decades—and that the temporary restraining order deprived them of their rights to the water.

“A restraining order—which would be issued without any hearing, or the opportunity for anyone to present evidence—and to have an effect on something this far-reaching,” Domenici told SFR, “the court should not allow it to continue to hold up the process.”

In mid-November, the nonprofit Gila Conservation Commission had filed an Open Meetings Act violation against the Gila-San Francisco Water Commission with the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General. In regularly-held a meeting a few days later, on Nov. 18, commissioners officially voted on actions already taken, including to intervene in Gaume’s lawsuit against the state.

By the end of 2014, the commission must decide the state’s role in the Arizona Water Rights Settlement, a federal deal that created a mechanism for potential conservation or diversion projects in southwestern New Mexico. In 2004, the feds set aside $66 million, pledging another $34 to $62 million if the state decided on a diversion project by the end of 2014.

New Harvest

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