Morning Word: Chummy Relations
Commissioners accused of ex-parte communications with PNM executivesMorning WordThursday, September 3, 2015
Are Public Regulation commissioners too "chummy" with Public Service Company of New Mexico business executives? New Energy Economy, which opposes PNM's rate increase request and plan to replace coal energy with more coal and nuclear power, thinks so and they want four out of five commissioners recused from voting on the issues later this year.
Rodella's Fines Unpaid
US prosecutors won't be allowed to seize $70,000 from former Rio Arriba Sheriff Tommy Rodella. A judge has said they have to wait until after Rodella's appeal hearing in Denver later this month. Prosecutors want the money to pay a portion of Rodella's court fines.
Impeachment Drums Begin to Beat
New Mexico House Speaker Don Tripp has initiated plans to select a bipartisan committee to consider whether there's enough evidence to impeach Secretary of State Dianna Duran. He's also asking the attorney general for a copy of the criminal case file. Meanwhile, Duran is staying in touch with members of her staff via phone. They say they haven't discussed the 64-count indictment filed against her last week and that discussions have been centered on the day-to-day operations of her office.
Viki Harrison, the executive director at Common Cause, says the case against Duran is evidence the Legislature needs to set up an independent state election commission and to seriously consider the way campaign finance reports are audited. Right now, only about 10 percent of candidates' financial reports get a closer look.
The corruption charges against Duran have Alan Webber, a former Democratic Party gubernatorial primary candidate, speaking out. He says state leaders needs to "stop pretending everything is okay" and acknowledge problems facing New Mexico. To start, Webber proposes a "grassroots strategy" to create jobs.
Gov. Susana Martinez has unveiled Frontier Communities Initiative. It's aimed at helping seven small New Mexico towns (Eagle Nest, Mountainair, Santa Clara, Santa Rosa, Springer, Tularosa and Villanueva) with economic development projects in their historic districts.
An independent review released by the state auditor's office on Wednesday shows New Mexico isn't spending enough money on special education programs. In fact, over a three-year period, we fell short of federal requirements by more than $110 million. Chris Quintana at the Santa Fe New Mexican writes, "The audit report says the Public Education Department’s failure to comply with federal spending rules could cost the state tens of millions of dollars in federal special-education funds in the future to help pay for counseling, classroom aides, diagnostics, and speech and language services for the 46,500 special-education students in New Mexico."
Former Gov. Gary Johnson isn't mincing words after reading SFR's "Green Rush" article revealing the names of some medical cannabis license applicants and learning that his former secretary of public safety, Darren White, is on the list. Johnson accuses White of hypocrisy since he resigned from Johnson's administration after his own conservative ideas about the War on Drugs began to evolve after being re-elected to a second term in 1998.
More than 110 people were arrested for not paying child support during an annual campaign to collect payments. KRQE reports, "The total amount of child support collected from the roundup so far—combined with collections from the amnesty period—is more than $150,000.
Despite some tragic shooting deaths this year, the number of police officers killed in the line of duty is down again this year.
Forfeiture Laws Debated
Despite a new state law, it doesn't look like some cities plan to stop seizing cars after DWI arrests. Nearly six months after new legislation was signed into law defining when state and local government officials in New Mexico can take vehicles and other private property through forfeiture actions, disagreement continues over exactly what limits the law places on governments, according to Daniel J. Chacón, who covered a vehicle forfeiture conference in Santa Fe on Wednesday.