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If Signed, How Narrow Will State Interpret Hemp Law?

Local NewsThursday, March 26, 2015 by Joey Peters

One of the rare bills that cruised through both chambers of the state Legislature this session would allow the state to grow hemp for research purposes.

Based on how the state Department of Agriculture interprets the legislation, New Mexico farmers still may not be able to grow the plant for a while. Jessica Gelay, a policy coordinator with Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico, says that based on her reading of the bill, nothing would prevent the Department of Agriculture, which is housed at New Mexico State University, from being able to contract with private farmers to grow hemp, so long as its tied to research purposes.

But Gelay says that during committee discussions, lawmakers spoke about only allowing the department to grow hemp.

"Certainly the discussions did not indicate they'd be licensing anyone but New Mexico State University," Gelay says.

The bill, which currently sits on the governor's desk, is based on the 2013 federal Farm Bill, which allows states to write their own laws to grow hemp for research purposes. Though that research must be tied to a university or an agriculture department, states like Kentucky also allow private farmers to grow hemp, as long as they're contracted with the state or a university. 

Earlier this month, Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Katie Goetz pointed SFR to a federal Drug Enforcement Agency memo to Kentucky that appears to abide by a more conservative interpretation of Section 7606 of the 2013 Farm Bill.

"Only institutions of higher education and State departments of agriculture may be used to grow or cultivate industrial hemp," reads the letter, dated May 22, 2014. "Accordingly, it is the position of DEA that Section 7606 does not provide any authorization to private growers who are not institutions of higher education or a State department of agriculture within the meaning of Section 7606."

Gelay stresses, however, that the New Mexico hemp bill will give the state authority to write its own hemp laws if the federal government lifts more restrictions for growing the plant. That clears a path to commercial production of the plant without having to pass another bill in the state legislature.

Gov. Susana Martinez has remained mum on whether she'll sign the hemp bill, sponsored by state Sen. Cisco McSorely, D-Bernalillo. The bill passed both chambers with wide bipartisan support.

New Mexicans Continue to Fall Ill to Mean Flu Virus

The Department of Health reports 28 flu-related deaths this season, including the death of a baby in Dona Ana County

Local NewsThursday, March 26, 2015 by Justin Horwath
Influenza "continues to circulate in New Mexico" reports the secretary of the state Department of Health. The common strain this season has led to more hospitalizations than the last go-round, especially for children younger than 5 and adults 65 or older. 

The department reports one flu-related pediatric death this season. A 1 year-old Dona Ana county child with influenza B passed away, according to DOH.

“Some people who get flu may develop severe illness and complications, including death, and we must still be on alert,” says Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward in a news release. “People who develop influenza—particularly if they are at high risk for severe disease and complications, such as the elderly and children younger than 5 years of age—should seek medical care and antiviral medication as soon as possible.”  

For every 100,000 New Mexicans, 40 have been hospitalized for the lab-confirmed flu this season, according to DOH. The 2012-13 flu season saw a hospitalization rate of 29 per 100,000 New Mexicans, the department says. 

The current rate is almost twice as high for children under five, according to DOH. For adults 65 or older, the hospitalization rate has been three times the rate of the overall population.

DOH reports there's been 27 adult influenza-related deaths this flu season as well as 127 pneumonia-related deaths in New Mexico. 

Ward says vaccination is the "best protection against influenza" and adds that "washing your hands frequently and staying home when you are sick can also reduce transmission of the flu and other viruses."

Morning Word: Judge Accused of Racial Slur

Public defenders want District Court Judge Fred Van Soelen removed from the bench

Morning WordThursday, March 26, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
The public defender's office in Curry County wants a judge who is accused of making racial slurs taken off the bench. But that judge says his comments have been taken out of context. Spring moisture may delay the start of New Mexico's wildfire season, and we take a minute to remember television personality George Fischbeck.

It's Thursday, March 26, 2015

A New Mexico judge could undergo an investigation over allegations that he found humor in the video that shows fraternity brothers singing a racist chant at the University of Oklahoma.
According to the public defender's office in Clovis, an assistant public defender overheard District Court Judge Fred Van Soelen telling an assistant district attorney that the video "would have been funnier thirty years ago." Based on that alleged comment alone, the public defender, Chandler Blair, who is African American, wants the judge permanently excused from all public defender cases. 

Ryan Luby has more at KOB. 

A citizens advisory group wants the New Mexico Environment Department to consider allowing Los Alamos National Laboratories and the US Department of Energy to pay off its $54 million Waste Isolation Pilot Plant leak fines with contributions and work on other state environmental improvement projects.
Negotiations over the fines are ongoing, according to officials in Washington DC and in Santa Fe, but under a draft recommendation from the Northern New Mexico Citizens Advisory Board, those fines could be paid to the state in projects that reduce pollution and protect the health of people living near the lab rather than an actual cash. 

Staci Matlock has more. 

While lawmakers have approved a new 22-year gaming compact with most of the state’s tribes, Gov. Susana Martinez still isn’t ready to sign a tribal compact with the Fort Sill Apaches until they reach an agreement with the federal government to allow them to operate casinos on land they acquired in southern New Mexico in 1999.

Read more at the ABQ Journal. 

Site Selection magazine says New Mexico ranks 5th in the Mountain Region for attracting new companies to the state. The Land of Enchantment is 38th overall.
Texas by far smoked the competition nationwide with 689 projects in 2014. Ohio came in a distant second place with 582. New Mexico only had 19 projects in 2014. 

Dan Mayfield has more at ABQ Business First. 

Maybe those out-of-state firms who moved to New Mexico liked the improvement in the state’s school graduation rate.
The 7 percentage point improvement in New Mexico’s four-year high school graduation rate between 2011 and 2013 was the third best in the United States, according to a state-by-state comparison by the U.S. Education Department. The state’s four-year graduation rate increased in each of those years, growing from 63 percent in 2011 to 70 percent in 2013 – fueled in large part by an increase in the number of Hispanic students who earned diplomas. 

Read more at the ABQ Journal.  

SFR's Joey Peters has a great story about how Santa Fe is using digital technology to help students learn.

Read the cover story here.

Here’s some good news: Jacob Grant, the Albuquerque undercover police detective who was shot by his own lieutenant, is finally out of the hospital.

See more at KOAT. 

Former Game and Fish Director Jim Lane, who resigned his position without explanation last October, has a new job at the state land office. Lane has supported ranchers' and farmers' efforts at the Roundhouse to take away the Game and Fish Department's oversight of cougars.

Deborah Baker has details. 

A fire weather meteorologist believes that seasonal precipitation may mean a shorter wildfire season in New Mexico this year.

See more at KRQE. 

Doña Ana County gets mixed ratings in a new health rankings study published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The annual study cited the average life expectancy of county residents and quality of life. The county's premature death rate was far lower than both the state and nation. New Mexico Department of Health officials said Doña Ana County residents have an average life expectancy of 80.2 years. That is just slightly above the average life expectancy in the United States, but less than New Mexico's average. 

Read it at the Las Cruces Sun-News. 

Bernalillo County Commissioners will hear more testimony about that 22-square-mile Santolina land project being planned for Albuquerque’s far West Side.
Fifty years from now, supporters say, it could be home to 90,000 or more people, rivaling the size of Rio Rancho now. The development team says the plan would ensure smart, well-coordinated growth and make it easier to attract employers to the West Side. Opponents questioned Santolina’s fringe location and its strain on the water supply, among other criticisms. 

Dan McKay tackles the controversy here.  

Journalist Lauren Villagran takes a look at another water controversy in southern New Mexico, where  Deming officials want to take water from the Gila River.

Read it UpFront. 

At least one lawmaker thinks the governor should consider calling a one-day special session to get project money approved and flowing to communities around the state.

Read more at Ringside Seat. 

Politicians on both sides of the aisle want Gov. Martinez to sign their asset-seizure reform bill.

Andy Lyman has the political analysis. 

Joel Lee Compton isn’t going to be walking out of prison anytime soon. He was sentenced to death after being convicted for killing Albuquerque Police Officer Gerald Kline in 1983, but former Gov. Tony Anaya commuted his sentence to life in prison. The New Mexico Parole Board has denied his petition for parole.

See more at KOB. 

The annual pilgrimage to El Santuario de Chimayó is right around the corner, and emergency management teams are already preparing.

KRQE has details.

Old-timers around New Mexico are mourning the loss of George Fischbeck. The former Albuquerque science teacher and popular television personality died in Los Angeles yesterday. He was 92.

Read more at the Los Angeles Times. 

Morning Word: Solar Farms Get Go-Ahead Vote

Thousands of oil field jobs still on the line

Morning WordWednesday, March 25, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Harvesting more of the sun's energy in Santa Fe is one step closer to reality. Video archiving legislative committee meetings is a good idea, but it won't become a reality until lawmakers agree to it. That, plus the devastating impact of oil price declines in New Mexico. Conservative forecasts show 2,000 or more jobs could be lost around the state.

It's Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Santa Fe County Commission has approved the Public Service Company’s plans to build two solar farms.
“The approval of these solar centers is an important step forward as we continue to build a cleaner, more diverse resource portfolio, including renewable energy, to responsibly meet the needs of our customers in the communities we serve,” Ron Darnell, PNM’s senior vice president of public policy, said in a statement released immediately after the votes. 
Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

Bloomfield city councilors have decided to take another step toward creating their own electric utility. They’re hiring a legal team to help with the effort.
Bloomfield utility customers pay the city of Farmington $12 million in gross revenue for power each year, City Manager David Fuqua said after the meeting. The city owning and operating its own electric utility would lead to greater savings for customers and keep those dollars in Bloomfield, he said. 
Read more at the Farmington Daily Times. 

Thousands of oil field jobs in New Mexico are on the line as oil prices continue to decline. The New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department estimates 2,000 positions could be cut in the next few months, and that number may be “conservative.”
The number of drilling rigs operating in the state has dropped from 85 last spring to 60, department Secretary David Martin told participants at the annual San Juan Basin Energy Conference in Farmington on Tuesday. The rig count dropped in both the Permian Basin in southeastern New Mexico and the San Juan Basin in the Four Corners area as producers slashed planned production to compensate for plummeting oil prices, which fell from more than $100 per barrel last summer to less than $45 in early January. 
Read more at the ABQ Journal. 

BP’s onshore business chief says the company has decided not to sell its assets in the San Juan Basin after all. He says the company is focused on becoming more efficient. Other industry executives attending an energy conference in Farmington are expressing frustration with fracking bans imposed by local government and by the lack of a railroad to transport crude oil for refining and sale, as well as receiving industry goods.

James Fenton has more. 

Speaking of “oil trains,” KRQE’s Matt Grubs discovered most but not all volatile crude oil shipments are bypassing New Mexico.
Just what’s on the freight trains that rumble across the state is a closely held secret. Railroads have fought attempts to force them to disclose manifests publicly, citing trade secrets and safety concerns. 
See Matt’s story here. 

KUNM’s Ed Williams reports new federal fracking rules will impact about half of the state’s wells, because they’re drilled on public lands.
Wally Drangmeister, of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, said that could put New Mexico at a disadvantage in attracting energy development. “Just to have another layer of regulation, the biggest impact is not necessarily an environmental protection, it’s just an increased cost,” he said. 
Listen to more on KUNM. 

A New Mexico Environment Department geologist says plans are set to start building a groundwater remediation well on an Albuquerque church’s property to start cleaning up the decades-old Kirtland Air Force Base gas plume leak.

Read Ollie Reed’s piece here. 

Both of New Mexico’s US Senators want Los Alamos National Laboratory to be able to set aside up to 10 percent of its budget for Laboratory Directed Research and Development. That program advances frontiers of science and engineering, invests in critical national security missions and helps recruit and retain staff for national laboratories.

Read it at the Carlsbad Current-Argus. 

It will cost more to shop in Santa Fe after County Commissioners agreed to increase gross receipt taxes.
The increase, which will add almost 13 cents to every $100 purchase, is intended to make up for revenue reductions due to the state phasing out payments intended to reimburse local governments for money they lost when New Mexico exempted groceries and medicine from the gross receipts tax in 2004. 
Daniel J Chacón has details. 

The Doña Ana CountyCommission has also voted to increase gross receipts taxes 3/8 of 1 percent. The increase starts July 1.

Read more at the Las Cruces Sun-News.

A good case is being made to require that video recordings of legislative committee meetings be archived after Phil Griego’s resignation from the Senate this month. A video from a Senate Rules Committee last year shows Griego offering what appears to be misleading testimony in support of a resolution to sell a state building he later earned a sales commission for help brokering. 

Read about the benefits of archiving at the ABQ Journal.

Even before Griego collects his first state retirement check, two people who want to replace him in the Senate are sharing their vision of how they can best serve the district.

Justin Horwath has the story at SFR. 

New Mexico’s Republican Party is already gearing up for the 2016 election. Dan Boyd reports the state GOP has hired four new executives to lead next year’s state campaigns, which will be focused on keeping control of the House and trying to win control of the Senate.

Read it here.

A longtime New Mexico artist and philanthropist donated $50,000 to the Western New Mexico University Foundation to establish an artist lecture series that will promote women in the arts.

Read it at the Silver City Sun-News. 

George Gonzales, who served as Santa Fe’s mayor from 1968 to 1972 and is the father of current Mayor Javier Gonzales, has died.

Read about his career in music and the radio business here. 

3 Questions

with Alice Anne Thompson

3 QuestionsWednesday, March 25, 2015 by Red Cell

On Wednesday, at the St. Francis Auditorium, author and historian Alice Anne Thompson presents excerpts from her upcoming book, The Women of the Santa Fe Trail, and speaks about the women who braved the treacherous 900-mile path.

Who were the people who traveled the trail from Missouri to SF, since so few women were included?
Most of the people who traveled to Santa Fe were single men who went on a lark, like for spring break. Some of them were actually English college students. They were just going out there to see the Indians before they all died off, or to see New Mexico and see what pure Hispanic culture was like before it was contaminated by Americans. These were young, very wealthy snips. When they got out there, they were very ethnocentric and almost misogynistic. They were very contemptuous of what they saw. They were all male; they were all around 18. What did they know about life?

In your book, American Caravan, you write about the life of your great-great aunt, Sr. Mary Alphonsa Thompson, who followed the trail. What were her reasons for making the journey?
My father’s side of the family is very English. But they were one of the few families who remained Catholic after the Revolutionary War, so they didn’t get their heads chopped off. Four of the girls in the family joined a Catholic convent founded by two of my other great-great aunts, the Sisters of Loretto. I guess the reason they joined was, they would rather live in a beautiful abbey with tapestries, stained glass, paintings and beautiful songs than be married to a farmer and have 14 kids and die.

What do you see as the legacy of the women of the Santa Fe Trail?
I don’t know what they did, but they all lived into their 80s, while everyone else in Victorian America didn’t make it through their 40s. They were beautifully educated women. The most tenacious and resilient women. They had to pick themselves back up and carry on, fix lunches in the morning, put on four little pairs of mittens and comb hair and put in ribbons. They had to just pull themselves together. And every single woman I know has had to do the same thing. The women in my book were chosen not because they shaped history, but because they reflect it and in many cases inspired it.


Fiesta Queen

Author brings NM-centric tome home

PicksWednesday, March 25, 2015 by Enrique Limón

There are many words of praise revolving around Kirstin Valdez Quade’s Night at the Fiestas: Stories. A collection of state-centered tales heavily influenced by her upbringing and local lore, Fiestas, a 2014 National Book Foundation “5 under 35” honoree, has led its author into a sort of cultural whirlwind. One that propels her to a Santa Fe stop on Thursday.


SFR: Are you blown away by your book’s overwhelmingly positive reaction?
KVQ:
I am, I am. It’s so harrowing to think of my work out in the world. I’m just so delighted and grateful.


How did your personal journey influence
Night at the Fiestas?
My mother’s family is from Northern New Mexico, and they’ve been there for hundreds of years. I was born in Albuquerque, and as a little kid I spent every day with my great-grandmother. I’ve always been really close to my grandparents and older relatives and spent so much time asking them questions about their lives, what was it like growing up in little towns like Torreon and Springer. When I was a kid, my parents and I moved away, and I spent the rest of my childhood moving around a lot…My grandmother’s house in Santa Fe was always the place we always returned to, and that always felt like home to me. It’s the landscape that feels like home to me; it has always fueled my imagination.


How so?

There’s something about that landscape that just triggers ideas for me. I’ve lived in so many other places, and no other place does that for me.


What do you take away from readings like the one that’s going to happen here in Santa Fe? What are people’s reactions like?

You know, I’ve heard mostly from my family [laughs] and my grandmother, who sometimes is taken aback. She told me once, ‘Oh, mijita, I didn’t know you knew so many bad words.’ I think that’s one reaction.


Night at the Fiestas: Stories
6 pm Thursday, March 26. Free.
Collected Works Bookstore
202 Galisteo St.,
988-4226


The People’s Lines

News BriefsWednesday, March 25, 2015 by Joey Peters

Last year, Santa Fe voters approved a new way to redraw the city’s voting boundaries—with the input of members of the public.

This year, the experiment of redrawing lines through an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission gets its first test. Former City Councilor Karen Heldmeyer, a familiar face in the city’s civic matters, chairs the commission, which plans to hold public meetings between now and May in each of the city’s districts.

“People are going to come, look at odd maps, say which of them they like and which they don’t, and then we’ll decide on one of them,” Heldmeyer says.

The city’s annexation of land in the southwest part of town last year added 13,000 residents to Santa Fe’s Southside districts. Federal law requires each district to be as evenly matched as possible, which means redistricting needs to happen in Santa Fe before the 2016 municipal elections.

Heldmeyer says the Redistricting Commission will recommend new district boundaries by June. Four of five potential maps are currently available to view on the city’s website.

Though staid in nature, redistricting is almost always controversial. In 2011, the last time Santa Fe redrew its boundaries, then-City Councilor Miguel Chavez accused his colleagues of drawing him out of his district for political reasons.

On the statewide level, redistricting ended up before the state Supreme Court that same year, after a special state legislative session dedicated specifically to the purpose. A bill to create a statewide independent redistricting commission failed in the Legislature last month.

Planned meetings from 5:30 to 7 pm include: Tuesday, April 7 at the Southside Library, Thursday, April 23 at  the Genoveva Chavez Community Center and Thursday, May 7 at the Public School Administration Building.

Replacement Senator

News BriefsWednesday, March 25, 2015 by Justin Horwath

Two of the local nominees vying for the District 39 state Senate seat left vacant by the sudden resignation of Phil Griego amid an ethics scandal represent different political parties. But in interviews with SFR, Santa Fe County Commissioner Liz Stefanics, a Democrat, and Jose Varela Lopez, a Republican, sounded a similar tune when asked about the top priorities of a district that stretches across six different counties.

“I think the greatest needs in the district are…basic infrastructure needs,” says Lopez, a resident of La Cieneguilla. “I would do my utmost to try and advocate for them at the Roundhouse so I could get as much of the infrastructure needs met as possible.”

“There are some common issues” throughout the district, says Stefanics. “For example, I think senior centers are something that are common to all communities.”

Stefanics is a current Santa Fe County Commissioner who says that when she represented Senate District 39 in the mid-90s, parts of four of the six counties that currently make up the district made up her constituency. She argues she knows the needs of the district and that her service in the state Senate gives her a handle on the legislative process. Lopez, president of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association and executive director of the New Mexico Forest Industry Association, says his work with those organizations means he knows the needs of rural communities in the district.

Three counties—Santa Fe, Bernalillo and Valencia—in the district selected Stefanics as a nominee to submit to Gov. Susana Martinez. Lincoln County chose Lopez. Torrance County named former Estancia Mayor Ted Barela, a Republican. San Miguel County selected Hugh Ley, a former Democratic County Commissioner. Gov. Susana Martinez is expected choose the new Senator from that list.

 

Street View

03.25.15

Street ViewTuesday, March 24, 2015 by SFR
Beware: Spring means parking lots downtown are in high demand, even ours.


Send shots to streetview@sfreporter.com or share with #SFRStreetview for a chance to win free movie passes to the CCA Cinematheque.

7 Days

03.25.15

7 DaysTuesday, March 24, 2015 by SFR
1

GOV. REPORTEDLY ‘FURIOUS’ ABOUT DEAD-END SESSION

Hopefully her immediate trip to balmy Florida was the right attitude adjustment.

2

MUSHROOM CHURCH NEIGHBORS STILL FIGHTING

Most March Madness brackets have the hoasca team in the finals.

3

HOSPITAL NEIGHBORS SAY EXPANSION SUCKS

Are those lives saved really worth having a bright light shining in my bedroom window? 

4

MAYOR HOLDS SUMMIT TO END BULLYING IN SCHOOLS

First schools, then City Hall.

5

LONGMIRE LOCAL FILMING CRANKS UP FOR SEASON 4

Watch parties planned at the Mine Shaft will feature taxidermy contests.

6

SANTA FE OPERA NAMED AMONG 10 BEST OUTDOOR MUSIC VENUES

Sadly, the soccer field at the old Downs of Santa Fe didn’t make the list.

7

POLLEN COUNTS ARE UP

Allergy sufferers should try standing on one foot with a neti pot up the nose while singing the state song. Or maybe just some hoasca?

If Signed, How Narrow Will State Interpret Hemp Law?
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