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Morning Word: Tests Go On Despite Protests

Diné Nation upset with New York fashion designers

Local NewsTuesday, March 3, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
PARCC testing is underway for New Mexico students despite protests and walkouts around the state. Newsman Tom Joles has apologized to KOB's staff and returned to his anchor chair. That, plus your daily legislative roundup in this quick Morning Word.

It's Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Students who walked out of class on Monday to protest the PARCC tests will be getting marked down for an unexcused absence.

See more at KOB 4.

Despite protests in Santa Fe last week, student testing went smoothly here on Monday.

Robert Nott has details.

After sending home a PARCC opt-out form to parents, a teacher in Farmington has been put on paid leave.

See why here.

State Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, who is also a public school teacher, talked to New Mexico Political Report about the tests and the protests.

See the video interview here.

Republican Aubrey Dunn isn’t the first public lands commissioner to decide to put an oil pump jack in front his state building in Santa Fe. Democrat Alex Armijo did it in 1979 after a big fight with the city’s historic design review board. New York Sculptor James Taylor says he’s cool with the state moving his "The Brickhead: Hope" piece to another location as long as people can still view and enjoy it.

Read Staci Matlock’s story here.

First Judicial District Judge Sarah Singleton doesn’t think Gov. Susana Martinez’ records custodian is adequately conducting searches for SFR’s public records requests. Singleton also invoked the Pentagon Papers when attorneys argued the paper had published stolen emails.

Justin Horwath has more on SFR’s legal complaint.

Santa Fe City Councilor Signe Lindell’s measure to ban the sale of miniature bottles of alcohol to reduce their litter in city limits is headed to the full council, despite a tie vote in the finance committee yesterday.

Daniel J. Chacón has more.

A Santa Fe man who was busted for practicing dentistry here without a license has been sentenced to six and a half years in prison. “El Dentista” Eliver Kestler was also ordered to pay some of his victims restitution.

Blair Miller has details.

After a homeless man died in Taos in January, his Texas family is working to make sure others struggling on the street are not forgotten.

Andrew Oxford has the sad story of Miguel Gomez.

KOB anchor Tom Joles is back on the job after spending a week “cooling off” at home following a newsroom brouhaha with reporter Stuart Dyson. Before returning to the desk, Joles emailed an apology to co-workers for his role in the shouting match.
"I take full responsibility for my role in that. I’ve always believed exceptional journalism is not a casual endeavor. It requires honest confrontation, a dogged search for the truth, an unending effort to be fair, and the non-stop questioning of every single thing we do in the newsroom." 

Read more at the ABQ Journal.

New Mexico Legislative News: 
  • A bill that would require more disclosure from lobbyists is headed to the House after it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee – Steve Terrell has the story. 
  • The Senate also approved a bill that would allow home delivery of wine and beer with a restaurant food order – Deborah Baker reports.
  • Nonviolent felons who have served their time may not have to notify prospective employers about their record in the future. The Senate has voted to expand a “Ban the Box” law – ABQ Journal.
  • Lawmakers have killed a bill that would have banned horse slaughters in New Mexico – Lauren Villagran has details.
  • The New Mexico Senate has approved a hemp research and development bill – KOB.
  • If your child attends a private school they still won’t be allowed to join public school athletic teams after a Senate vote on Monday – Santa Fe New Mexican.
  • Investigative reporter and television anchor Chris Ramirez is really good at walking backward inside the roundhouse. Before strutting in reverse, Ramirez talked to Republican Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, about House bills languishing in the Senate – Only on 4.
  • She may have lost her reelection campaign, but Albuquerque Firefighter Emily Kane is taking the city’s ban on employees running for state office to the State Supreme Court – Ryan Luby.
City slickers at The New York Times Magazine have no idea that New Mexico is a state. Artwork depicting a globe mislabels the state as Mexico. The snafu follows a similar mistake by a contestant on The Bachelor.

See more at the ABQ Journal. 

Fashion designers have upset quite a few people in the Navajo Nation with the “disrespectful” use of the Yei design in their new lineups.
“The Yeis are the deities that are sought out to restore harmony and beauty back into the life of people,” say David J. Tsosie, a Navajo healer and former president of Azee’ Bee Nahaghá of Diné Nation. 
Read more at the Navajo Times. 

SFR v Susana Martinez: Private Accounts

Judge says records custodian searches do not appear adequate

Local NewsMonday, March 2, 2015 by Justin Horwath

Two days before Christmas, attorneys representing Gov. Susana Martinez filed a motion with the First Judicial District Court to defend against SFR's ongoing lawsuit that alleges New Mexico's chief executive violated the state's public records law on a variety of counts and unlawfully retaliated against the paper.

One argument stood out in the otherwise routine briefing: That the doctrine of unclean hands should prevent SFR from "profiting from its own illegal or inequitable activity through an award of equitable relief, attorney fees, or damages."

In so many words, the governor had accused SFR of criminal activity. Martinez claimed in the motion that SFR obtained "email messages through illegal transfers from Mr. [Jamie] Estrada"—her former campaign manager who is now serving out a federal prison sentence for his role in intercepting emails sent to campaign accounts of Martinez and her staffers.

The judge in the case shot down that line of reasoning.

Leaked messages

The governor's office said no responsive records existed when SFR  filed Inspection of Public Record Act requests that asked for messages transmitted over the private accounts of Martinez staffers on specific dates.

But two emails made public thanks to Estrada's leaks, and transmitted on the requests' listed dates, showed Martinez' office policies and procedures in responding to IPRA requests are "inadequate," SFR claims in its lawsuit. The governor's office defends the responses as adequate.

On Feb. 24, lawyers for SFR and Martinez argued over whether First Judicial District Court Judge Sarah Singleton should dismiss SFR's claim that the governor violated the open records law in not disclosing the emails.

"Apparently what was happening here, as has been alleged in our motion," Paul Kennedy, the governor's lawyer, told the judge, "is that the plaintiff obtained stolen emails from a political operative and began to publish them—which we contend is minimally inequitable conduct disqualifying them from equitable relief."

"You weren't involved in the tobacco litigation, were you?" Singleton responded.

Kennedy: "The which?" 

Singleton: "The tobacco litigation." 

Kennedy: "I thankfully was not your honor."

"Unfortunately, I was," Singleton replied, "and the whole case was built on stolen documents. Didn't matter."

"Right," retorted Kennedy. "But they weren't stolen in violation of federal law. And people didn't necessarily go to prison for having stolen them. In this case, that's exactly what happened. And this plaintiff disseminated, knowingly disseminated, stolen...goods."

"Objection your honor!" interjected SFR attorney Daniel Yohalem. 

"This plaintiff didn't steal anything," Singleton said. 

The judge went on to reference the 1971 US Supreme Court ruling in The New York Times v USA. For US media outlets, the court's ruling in favor of the Times, allowing it to publish contents of the top-secret Pentagon Papers, is a landmark freedom-of-the-press case. 

The Times obtained the classified Pentagon Papers study—which showed how presidential administrations deceived the American public about the extent of the US involvement in Vietnam—from whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. The government brought an unsuccessful prosecution against Ellsberg for leaking the classified information. But it notably declined to charge the media outlets that published its contents with any crimes.

"And so I suppose that you thought that the gravamen of the offense with the Pentagon Papers was that The New York Times published them," Singleton asked Kennedy, "not that Daniel Ellsberg stole them?"

"Well he was," Kennedy responded, "Ellsberg was prosecuted for that, too." 

"Right," Singleton said. "But nobody prosecuted The New York Times." 

"No," replied Kennedy.

"Ok," said Singleton. "What did they [SFR] do that was wrong?"

"Well it was against the law to traffic in stolen items," Kennedy argued. "Whether they were prosecuted or not is a different question."

"Well, somehow I don't think that was the correct analogy," said Singleton.

"Regardless of the legality of it or not," Kennedy replied, "the plaintiff certainly comes into court with unclean hands."

"No," said the judge, "I don't think that's true."

Private accounts

Kennedy went on to argue that Singleton should toss out SFR's claims about private emails accounts because the paper's IPRA requests "lacked reasonable particularity." Had the governor's records custodian known SFR was seeking those specific leaked emails, she might have been able to locate the messages, Kennedy argued, instead of playing a "game of 20 questions."

IPRA specifically states that government agencies need not know the motive of someone submitting a request for public records. The requests would not only have allowed SFR to obtain the already leaked emails, but also to obtain any additional messages between the parties on the same days.

The governor's office is also proffering another extraordinary claim: That the US Constitution's Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures would prevent a records custodian from searching a state employee's private email accounts without consent—or a search warrant.

The judge should focus on whether the governor's records custodian made a "legally adequate search for public records under the statute," as opposed to the results of that search, argued Kennedy, in another prong of attack. Martinez records custodian Pamela Cason approached Martinez staffers named in the request and inquired whether they had emails responsive to SFR's requests, Kennedy argued. 

SFR attorney Katherine Murray pointed to statements made by Cason that there's no training on retention and maintenance of electronic public records in the governor's office. Cason said that she doesn't conduct follow-up "as to inquiring where individual staff members searched," for the emails, Murray argued. 

Kennedy asked Singleton to dismiss that part of the case that alleges the private emails should have been provided, a request the judge denied.

"It seems to me that there are questions of fact about the adequacy of the search," Singleton said.

The judge said she sensed an element of "gotcha" to SFR's IPRA requests. But that doesn't speak to the adequacy of the searches.

"Effectively Ms. Cason delegated the responsibility to determine whether or not there were public documents that were contained on private email accounts," said Singleton. "And she did so without any discernible or disclosed procedures for determining whether the people that she delegated this to did an adequate search to find public documents."

The judge added later, "and when you delegate the responsibility for doing the search, you better have some procedures for determining that your delegation was adequate and I don't see that being here."

Among 11 motions heard on Feb. 24, Singleton also granted SFR's attorneys explicit permission to depose five staffers in the governor's office and ordered the defendant to provide additional discovery. It's unlikely the case will move to trial before 2016.

The Albuquerque Journal and Santa Fe New Mexican also wrote about the hearing. 

The Journal reported that the governor traveled all or parts of 272 days during her first term, based on records disclosed by the governor's office in the lawsuit. Most of the governor's out-of-state travel was for political purposes. Singleton ruled in the hearing that the governor doesn't have to disclose details about political calendar appointments. 

Morning Word: Jeepers, Beepers and Creepers

Monday morning trippin'

Morning WordMonday, March 2, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
If you've got cabin fever after a big winter storm this weekend, we're going on a road trip with news from around the state that includes a big legislative news recap.

It's Monday, March 2, 2015

Students around New Mexico are planning more protests of the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers test today. Hundreds of students, with permission from parents and administrators, have already been speaking out against PARCC.

Read it at the Carlsbad Current-Argus. 

Even an eighth grader in Grant County is asking commissioners to support students opposition to the test.

Read more at the Silver City Sun-News.

Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera is defending the test and says students shouldn’t be too anxious about it.
The tests are based on Common Core education standards the state adopted in 2010 that spell out what math and English language skills students should master at each grade level. Though schools have begun modeling their instruction around the standards, this is the first year students in grades three through 11 will be tested on them. 
Read more at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

Gov. Susana Martinez has declined a challenge to take the test herself. She might be too busy traveling out of state. Records show she spent 272 days on the road during her first four years in office. The records were submitted by attorneys defending her in a lawsuit filed by the Santa Fe Reporter.

Thom Cole has a map of Martinez’ trips. 

Martinez might want to plan a staycation and visit Taos Ski Valley to see all the improvements being made there.
The village has created a Tax Increment Development District, commonly known as a TIDD, and is asking the Legislature to authorize $44 million in tax-exempt bonds backed by newly generated local and state tax revenues to reimburse Bacon's company for public infrastructure improvements. The bills have bipartisan support and got unanimous do-pass votes from committees in the House and Senate last week. 
Read more at the Taos News. 

It doesn't look like Santa Fe School Superintendent Joel Boyd is going to be packing for a trip to Fort Worth, Texas. He’s decided to complete his contract in New Mexico.

Robert Nott has more. 

Two Alamogordo educators are planning a trip aboard NASA's flying telescope to learn more about infrared astronomy.

Read more online. 

Back on the ground, a city councilor wants to survey recently retired Albuquerque Police Department officers to find out why so many of them are hitting the road.

Read it at the ABQ Journal. 

Albuquerque city attorneys might have to walk to court to defend their position to block the media from videotaping personnel hearings for fired police officers because it violates the state Open Meetings Act.

Read more here. 

If you’re looking for a day trip this spring, the Trinity Site at White Sands Missile Range, where the world’s first atomic bomb was tested, will be open to the public twice this year, April 3 and Oct. 4. Fiscal constraints at the Department of Defense over the past few years had limited access to one day.

Read it at the Las Cruces Sun-News. 

Before pushing off on a spring canoe journey on any San Juan County rivers you might want to wait to see why there is so much human waste bacteria in the water. Scientists there are asking for more money to study the problem.

Read more at the Farmington Daily Time. 

New Mexico Legislative News:

  • Students learning how to lobby had an interesting elevator trip with Rod Adair, a former state senator – New Mexico Political Journal
  • Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, thinks right-to-work legislation will pass the Senate – ABQ Business First
  • Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, wants scanned copies of state contracts put online – New Mexico In Depth. 
  • The American Civil Liberties Union in New Mexico is opposing two abortion restriction bill that are headed to the House floor – Joey Peters has more at SFR.
  • A new Indian gaming compact is headed to the Senate – Santa Fe New Mexican
  • House Republicans have blocked a bill to requiring more diaper changing stations in public places – Santa Fe New Mexican
  • A bill that would have prohibited coyote-killing contests may have passed the Senate, but it died pretty quickly in a House committee – ABQ Journal.

It might be an awful year for the Lobo basketball team, but the school’s men and women’s track and field teams dominated the indoor conference this year.

Read more at the Daily Lobo. 

More Than Meets The Eye?

Bill that bans late-term abortions also allows pharmacists to object giving out certain medication

Local NewsFriday, February 27, 2015 by Joey Peters

A bill that would ban abortions after a fetus reaches 20 weeks of gestation got predicted opposition from Democrats before passing the House Judiciary Committee—but not for the usual reasons. 

Steve Allen, a lobbyist with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, was the first to bring up a tucked-in provision that gives pharmacists the right to refuse abortion medication to women based on personal and religious beliefs. 

"There's lots of reasons our organization opposes this bill," Allen told the committee, "but one aspect particularly troubling is the expanded religious exemption."

Currently, hospitals can refuse to perform abortions based on religious exemption statutes. But the late term abortion ban, sponsored by state Rep. Yvette Herrrell, R-Otero, expands that provision of the law by adding the "any pharmacist or any person under direction of a pharmacist" can refuse to dispense medicine that results in "the termination of a pregnancy." The bill defines pregnancy as the "implantation of a developing embryo." 

"I think this bill does much more than raise the issues addressed by its supporters," State Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe said. "The extent and reach of this is vastly broader than I have heard anyone discuss it at all."

Egolf argued that the bill's terminology in the medicine exemption provision is so broad that it can apply to women early in their pregnancy. A pharmacist could, for example, decide under personal beliefs not to give out the morning-after pill to a woman on her first day of pregnancy, Egolf argued. 

That's because a pharmacist, he argued, can under the bill decide decide "whether there has been implantation of an embryo."

"I can imagine that the morning-after pill, if a doctor writes a prescription of that, then we're going to get into a legal discussion," Egolf said. 

Two pills, Plan B and RU-486, are used in last-minute cases. Plan B prevents ovulation and fertilization. RU-486, known as the abortion pill, ends pregnancies that are seven weeks or younger.  Plan B is available without a prescription over the counter, but patients with insurance coverage can only access that benefit by using a prescription. 

The bill passed committee on a party line 7-6 vote. It now goes to the House floor. 

This Weekend

Get some culture

Weekend PicksFriday, February 27, 2015 by SFR

Je Suis Artoonist

In response to the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, cartoonist Issa Nyaphaga presents his political work. Nyaphaga once worked for the satirical paper during his time seeking asylum in Paris.

More Info >>

Dante's Ulysses

Gabe Pihas speaks on the integration of pagan and ancient text into Dante's largely Christian writings, focusing on the interaction between the writer and the character of Ulysses.

More Info >>


A Taste of Tibetan Music

Singers from the local Tibetan community share traditional songs while you sip on chai tea.

More Info >>

For Colored Girls

Ntozake Shange’s work combines poetry, drama, music, and dance to tell the story of seven different women of color who struggle with oppression in a racist and sexist society.

More Info >>


Spring Fever

Sepia floral tapestries by Romanian guest artist Lucia Grigore highlight a group show on the theme Botanica.

More Info >>

Dinner with Santa Fe Brewing

Santa Fe Brewing Company showcases their 2015 line of esoteric and heady hops, paired with exotic edibles from executive chefs Allan Keller and Brian Muller.

More Info >>




Get more information about how to spend your fun days when you sign up for the SFR Weekend newsletter, delivered to your inbox each Friday afternoon.

Morning Word: Martinez Doesn't Want to Win a Burrito

Former Gov. Gary Johnson will take one for the road

Morning WordFriday, February 27, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
The first of four winter storms has slammed into the New Mexico. There are almost 250 delays and closings around the state and icy slick roads are making driving conditions difficult. If you have flight plans you better check online before heading to the Sunport.

It's Friday, February 27, 2015

It doesn’t look Gov. Susana Martinez wants a chance to win a breakfast burrito. She’s turning down Sen. Michael Sanchez’, D-Belen, challenge to take the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test.

Read more at Roundhouse Roundup. 

Maybe Martinez knows that those standardized tests are “no day at the PARCC.”
Come March, when the standardized test known as PARCC makes its debut in schools, no one involved — students, parents, teachers and administrators — will leave the year unscathed by the high-stakes exam and the culture of testing it’s fostered. 
Read it at the Taos News. 

We’re pretty sure that former Gov. Gary Johnson wants a breakfast burrito and a healthy heaping of green chile before he leaves the state to run for president in 2016.

Read it at Reason.com  

While Johnson will probably have to sue to get into televised campaign debates, he got to debate marijuana legalization at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington DC yesterday.
“Having a debate right now over whether or not to legalize marijuana is kind of like having a debate over whether the sun is going to come up tomorrow,” Johnson said, drawing cheers from the audience. “I am one of the 100 million Americans who have used marijuana …I am anything but criminal for having done that.” 
Read more at The Blaze. 

La Frontera New Mexico, an Arizona-based behavioral health care provider, is also poised to head out of state after less than two years.
“It’s like watching the air slip out of a balloon. The balloon is collapsing,” Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, said of the state’s behavioral health care system since the 2013 shake-up. “There are people with serious mental illnesses who are a danger to themselves and others out there, and they’re not getting care. They need our help, and we’re letting them down. What are we going to do with them?”


Read more at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

While everyone is racing for the exits, at least 102,000 New Mexico children have inched above the poverty level with the assistance of some government programs, according to the Annie E Casey Foundation.
There are more than 572,000 children under age 18 living in New Mexico, and 31 percent of them, or about 190,000 children, live in homes that are at or below the federal poverty level – $24,000 a year for a family of four. 
Rick Nathanson has more. 

Bernalillo County commissioners have approved a small tax hike to fund mental health needs, addiction treatment services and general county operations.
Beginning July 1, 2015, the three-sixteenths of a percent gross receipts tax will generate about $20 million dollars for mental health and $10 million for general operations per year. It will cost shoppers an additional one cent on a $10 purchase, according to the commission. The tax hike for mental health programs will fund supportive housing, a crisis response center, intensive case management and prevention programs. 
Read more at KOB. 

New Energy Economy, the nonprofit solar advocacy group leading the opposition to the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s power replacement plan, says the utility’s current proposal “shifts the burden of PNM’s toxic assets from shareholders to ratepayers.”

Read my story at SFR. 

New Mexico Legislative News: 

  • Agriculture has always been big business in New Mexico. Now it looks like hemp has a good chance to become the state’s next cash crop – New Mexico Political Report.  
  • While the Hemp Research and Development bill is advancing, so is a bill that would limit the amount of lottery scholarships – Santa Fe New Mexican
  • Jerks who beat or abuse their kids could face tougher penalties soon – Albuquerque Journal
  • Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, doesn’t want publicly financed candidates, like those running for the public regulation commission, to be able to pay themselves with the money. He also wants to limit how much unopposed candidates receive – Deborah Baker has details
  • Smokers are going to have to take a deep breath and wait before they light up in a car with children in it. The House has approved the ban, 34-23 – Albuquerque Journal
  • First responders, like firefighters and police officers, could get additional assistance if they’re injured on the job – D’Val Westphal

A nurse hotline in New Mexico is being touted as one of the best in the nation.
In operation since 2006, it has kept tens of thousands of New Mexicans out of emergency rooms and saved the state more than $68 million in health care expenses. 
Read more about the service here. 

A group of Native Americans wants the City of Albuquerque to abolish Columbus Day. Leaders of a group calling itself Red Nation, say “Columbus Day celebrates genocide.”
“Indigenous peoples continue to be marginalized and exploited by racist holidays, mascots, imagery, and representation. By continuing to celebrate Columbus Day the City of Albuquerque contributes to the very palpable climate of racism against Indigenous people.” 
The group plans a drumming event and demonstration rally downtown tonight, beginning at 4:30 pm.

Read it at Native News. 

Enjoy your weekend. Hope you get to play in the snow. Stay safe and keep warm.

Embattled Charter School Administrator Weighed in on Veto

Under fire for a percieved conflict of interst, charter leader writes scathing letter urging action that governor later took

Local NewsFriday, February 27, 2015 by Joey Peters

The former administrator of an Albuquerque charter school being investigated by the FBI may have influenced the governor's veto of legislation that would have brought more regulations to charter schools.

During the 2013 state legislative session, state Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort, R-Bernalillo, carried a bill that would have, among other things, barred charter schools from making contracts with companies that the schools' employees or representatives have stakes in. 

It was this part of Beffort's "School Leases & Interest Conflicts" act that Scott Glasrud, then-head administrator of Southwest Secondary Learning Centers (SSLC), took issue with in an April 2013 email to state Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera. 

Beffort's bill had passed both chambers by wide margins, including unanimously in the state House of Representatives. But Gov. Susana Martinez gave it a pocket veto after the session. 

Whether he influenced the process or not, this was exactly what Glasrud requested from Skandera. 

"As written, SB333 should receive a VETO in its current form and the language should be worked out in the interim," Glasrud wrote to her. 

Among concerns about SSLC are Glasrud's co-ownership of a company that leases a building to the charter school. An audit also found that the school had spent $1.1 million on airplane rentals for its aviation program with the company, Diamond Aviation. Last summer, the FBI raided the school and seized documents.

A federal investigation is into the school is pending. PED's role in overseeing the school has been questioned.

But Enrique Knell, a spokesman for Gov. Susana Martinez, says that charter school accountability has increased "dramatically" in recent years here. Beffort's bill, Knell says, "had some very good components in it, including disclosure requirements that are a step in the right direction."

"But the measure would have left kids out in the cold because it automatically kicked in, closing down schools immediately and hurting students," Knell says. "The measure would’ve also taken away critical flexibility between our school districts and charter schools."

In Glasrud's email to Skandera, the former administrator admits his school's situation was raising eyebrows. 

"In full disclosure, this provision was written into SB333 because of the interim [Legislative Finance Committee] report that identified apparent conflicts of interest by charter operators, administrators, and Board members," he wrote. "I had one of those apparent conflicts of interest." 

But Glasrud went on to write that all his conflicts were disclosed with the charter school's governing board before the contracts were made. Then he outlines how Beffort's legislation violates the state constitution and three state statutes.

The state constitution, he argues, doesn't allow the state to "immediately VOID existing contracts." He also cited a provision of the State Procurement Code that allows waivers "from contemporaneous employment and unlawful employee participation." 

Charter school leases need to be flexible, Glasrud argued, because "many charter schools are set up for specific purposes and to serve specific populations." 

"For example, schools set up to work with incarcerated youth are generally located within jails," he wrote.

At the end of the letter, Glasrud urges Skandera to do what she can. "I understand the Governor's Office is planning to review this legislation this evening," Glasrud wrote her. "Your assistance in bringing these concerns to her attention is greatly appreciated!"

Skandera responded with a thanks, saying she'll take his comments into consideration. PED Chief of Staff Ellen Hur says that the education department "agrees with the general concept" of Beffort's bill, "but had some concerns about potential unanticipated outcomes." She adds that it's "common practice" for every state agency to share feedback on legislation with the state legislature and the governor's office. 

Knell adds that Martinez "would support this bill with the minor tweaks it would need to address the unintended consequences."

Glasrud resigned from his position at the charter school shortly after the FBI raid. 

Read Glasrud's email to Skandera below:

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Morning Word: FCC Considers Net Neutrality Rules

Right-to-work legislation heads to state Senate

Morning WordThursday, February 26, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Bundle up because there are winter storm advisories and watches across much of New Mexico today and tomorrow. It’s going to be cold, wet and windy, and it looks like another storm is headed down from the Rockies, just in time for the weekend. Santa Fe public schools are on a normal schedule, but check here for other closings and delays. Also, state House lawmakers have approved right-to-work legislation along with an increase in the state’s minimum wage, but don’t get too excited yet, it still has to pass the Senate before going to the governor's office.

It's Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Federal Communications Commission plans to adopt net neutrality rules today. The details of the FCC's regulation haven't been released, despite objections from two Republican commissioners. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has revealed a broad outline of what he wants the FCC to do:
Prevent broadband providers from blocking any legal Internet content and prohibit them from creating fast lanes for content providers that pay extra for this prioritization.
Read more at ABQ Business First.
 
US Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, wants to make sure federal workers continue to get paid if funding for the Department of Homeland Security runs out.
In December, Congress passed a $1.014 trillion funding package that avoided a full government shutdown but left DHS and its more than 240,000 federal employees in limbo with only partial-year funding that expires this Friday, Feb. 27. The Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act of 2015 is similar to language passed into law during or following previous government shutdowns. 
Read more at the Los Alamos Daily Post. 

US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-New Mexico, doesn’t want the Albuquerque Police Department to have access to a Department of Defense training center in the future.
The training center, east of Albuquerque in Coyote Canyon, offers a variety of classes for federal agents and the military to train on how to keep nuclear materials safe and secure. It also offers classes that cover topics such as “force on force,” “vehicle ambush,” and “tactical leadership,” according to the training center’s website. 
Lujan Grisham cited APD’s use of force and questions about police militarization as reasons to suspend the training.

Police reporter Ryan Boetel has the details.

Photojournalists are questioning why two City of Albuquerque officials shut down a fired police officer’s personnel hearing because they didn’t want to be “depicted” on video recording. While administrative hearings are quasi-judicial, they are required to follow civil procedures and state law. The New Mexico Open Meetings Act requires government employees make reasonable accommodations for both audio and video recordings.

Independent journalist Charles Arasim has some video before he was shut down. 

While school board members contemplate new contract incentives to retain Superintendent Joel Boyd, people in Fort Worth Texas are questioning if he’s the best choice to lead their district.

Read it at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

After being suspended for a day for walking out of class to protest PARCC tests, a group of teens want to set up a meeting with Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera.

Joey Peters has the story at SFR.

Las Cruces students are planning to protest the new tests by walking out of class on Monday.

See more at the Las Cruces Sun-News. 

Some parents are still trying to figure out if they are legally permitted to opt their children out of the tests.

KRQE has the answer.

The Public Regulation Commission has decided to wait until after lawmakers consider how ridesharing companies – like Lyft and Uber – should be regulated in New Mexico before issuing the companies actual operating permits.

The Associated Press has more. 

After a series of court rulings, New Mexicans are paying more for uninsured motorists insurance, according to Insurance Superintendent Gene Franchini.
In the most recent case, Franchini said, a 2010 state Supreme Court decision allowed people who had an uninsured claim within the previous seven years to reopen their claims and renegotiate the settlements, forcing insurance carriers to pay out around $350 million in additional claims they hadn’t set aside reserves to cover. 
Rosalie Rayburn has the details. 

New Mexico Legislative News: 

  • After weeks of debate, House members voted 37-30 to pass right-to-work legislation – Santa Fe New Mexican. 
  • A majority of states have independent ethics commissions, now New Mexico is one step closer to getting its own – Deborah Baker has more.  
  • Bills to protect children are rolling smoothly through the Legislature – Vik Jolly has a recap.
  • Investigative reporter Larry Barker, following bills that require more health care pricing transparency, reveals some of the hospitals’ secrets – KRQE
  • A measure that would allow beer and wine delivery to people’s home is advancing through committees – Santa Fe New Mexican
  • New Mexico Supreme Court justices are considering whether the City of Albuquerque can ban its employees from serving in the Legislature – Dan McKay reports
  • The Senate has confirmed two more of Gov. Susana Martinez’ cabinet secretaries – Dan Boyd
  • New Mexico In Depth has been tracking lobbyist spending in Santa Fe, now they have a story about how other states have more extensive reporting requirements, including disclosure of which bills they are working on – Michael Sol Warren
  • If teachers can be evaluated and ranked, Sen. Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, thinks cabinet secretaries should also be evaluated and scored – Milan Simonich


Lee Zlotoff, the man who created MacGyver, is headed to Santa Fe to open a new publishing house. "It'll be cheaper to find designers and editors in Santa Fe than in San Francisco or New York City, and Santa Fe is a very cosmopolitan town; there's a certain Bohemian cool to it," he said.

Dan Mayfield has more. 

Billy the Kid’s hideout house during the Lincoln County War is for sale.

See more the historic property here.  

More details are emerging from that newsroom fracas at KOB.

ABQ Free Press has the scoop. 

Power Plan Limbo

Opposition to PNM replacement proposal for sources of electricity remains high as decision looms

Local NewsThursday, February 26, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
The Public Service Company of New Mexico’s power replacement plan is still up in the air, and it doesn’t look like anything will be decided before April.

The investor-owned utility wants public regulation commissioners to approve its proposal to acquire another 132 megawatts of coal-generated electricity and to bring nuclear power, which is currently bought on the open market from the Palo Verde plant in Arizona, into its New Mexico rate base.

Environmental groups support PNM's plan to shutter two coal stacks at the San Juan Generating Station as a way to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency's Regional Haze Program, but they oppose PNM's future reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

Ashley Schannauer, an independent hearing examiner for the state Public Regulation Commission, has been considering stakeholder briefs submitted to him on Feb. 16 at the conclusion of three weeks of public hearings. The parties were scheduled to file responses to those briefs this week. After Schannauer issues his recommendation, commissioners have the power to make the final decision. No date is set for that vote.

In the meantime, PNM executives claim that their proposal meets legal requirements and is the most reliable and cost efficient for consumers, but renewable energy groups and other stakeholders disagree and have withdrawn their support for a stipulated agreement between the attorney general’s staff and utility.

Attorneys who wrote PNM’s brief in support of the plan contend that employees investigated a “myriad set of circumstances” and renewable alternatives, but that they “didn’t adequately” meet risk or reliability requirements.

Mariel Nanasi, the executive director for New Energy Economy, a nonprofit renewable energy advocacy group who led the charge against PNM’s proposed power plan, says the proposal included more than $1 billion in mathematical calculation errors.

She thinks the real risk is PNM’s reliance on coal and nuclear-generated power.

“PNM wants PRC commissioners to have ratepayers invest in a plant that only operates at 75 percent reliability,” Nanasi tells SFR. “Their predetermined plan, which simply taps their own resources, has nothing to do with the genuine stakeholder process that is required by state law and regulatory process.”

Nanasi tells SFR, in her view, the current proposal “shifts the burden of PNM’s toxic assets from shareholders to ratepayers.”

Before Schannauer finalizes his reports, Nanasi wants him to strike testimony from PRC Bureau Chief Brunno Carrara “because he illegally owned stock in PNM at the same he was offering agency staff support for the plan.”

Nan Winter, an attorney representing the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility District, writes in a brief that the district withdrew its original support for the stipulated agreement after discovering significant changes and “mistakes.”

“Unfortunately, in this case, should the stipulating parties prevail in getting Commission approval of the Stipulation, all New Mexico ratepayers will bear the risks of these changed circumstances,” writes Winter, urging the commission to reject the plan.

If the PNM’s plan is rejected, it's not clear what the next move would be. Gerard Ortiz, the company's vice president of regulatory affairs, told SFR late last year that rejection or modification of the proposal would lead PNM to " evaluate our options in light of the final order."

Western Resources, Renewable Energy Industries Association, and New Mexico Independent Power Producers have backed out of the Oct. 14, 2014 stipulated agreement, however, it looks like PNM can still count on support from the New Mexico Attorney General’s office, New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers and PRC’s staff.

The New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers group includes Intel. The semiconductor company is the only company in PNM's 30-megawatt rate classification category. At the same time PNM has asked commissioners to consider raising consumer rates by 16 percent, Intel's own rates could be decreased by close to 1.5 percent.

PNM declined multiple requests from SFR to comment on Intel's rate reduction or to answer questions about whether it's tied to Intel's support of the utility's power replacement plan.

Read for yourself. Below, you'll find documents submitted to the PRC's independent hearing officer.

Protesting the PARCC

Suspended teens want meeting with state officals about the standardized test

Local NewsWednesday, February 25, 2015 by Joey Peters

A dozen Santa Fe High School students stood in front of the state Public Education Department today, calling for a meeting with Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera over testing that they say goes too far.

Protests also occurred on Monday and Tuesday, with students walking out of local high schools to express opposition to the PARCC test, a standardized exam that replaces the state's flagship Standards Based Assessment (SBA) test this year. 

Don Jaramillo, a 17-year-old junior at Santa Fe High School, says he and the other students who walked out this morning to protest were suspended for the rest of the day. So they came downtown. 

"If we're going to get suspended, we're going to go to the capitol," says Jaramillo, pictured left. 

Jaramillo says he and his classmates want to express their concerns about the PARCC test. Part of his opposition relates to PARCC's replacement of the SBA.

"We've been taught to do the SBA since third grade," he says. "So we've been practicing our whole life."

In contrast, Jaramillo says specific training for PARCC only began this week. The test, which will take an estimated nine hours to complete over multiple weeks, is also intended to be taken completely on computers. Jaramillo says a practice math test he took for PARCC on a computer recently didn't show him his score. 

He also says the test is taking time from learning in the classroom. 

PARCC's ties to New Mexico run deep. A federally consortium of 14 states, PARCC is an acronym for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College Careers. Each state belonging to the consortium is essentially opted into using the PARCC assessment as its standardized test. 

Last year, the state Public Education Department took on the task of serving as the fiscal agent for a contract to write and administer the test in the entire consortium. The state awarded the contract to education giant corporation Pearson, and critics immediately questioned whether the contract was rigged. A lawsuit over the matter is pending in Santa Fe District Court (for more on this, read here). 

Though a meeting with Skandera didn't seem likely on Wednesday, the students did talk with Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Joel Boyd yesterday.

"We got some answers from him," Jaramillo says, "but we don't know if he supports us because he's leaving."

Boyd was named the lone finalist earlier this month for a more lucrative superintendent position in Fort Worth. He hasn't publicly accepted the job yet. 

Students say a big protest, involving both Santa Fe High School and Capital High School, is planned for Friday. 

Morning Word: Tests Go On Despite Protests
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