Morning Word: WIPP Could Reopen This Year
New Mexico Environment Department cautiously optimisticMorning WordTuesday, February 9, 2016
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant could reopen this year if everything falls into place. Laura Villagran reports:
This month, The Department of Energy plans to roll out a new schedule for restarting some waste emplacement and new estimates for what the recovery will cost. Previous estimates pegged it at $500 million, but that number is now expected to run higher.
Todd Shrader, the Energy Department’s Carlsbad Field Office manager, told a recent town hall meeting that operating plans known as the “performance measurement baseline” support a restart of waste emplacement in late 2016 “at an 80 percent confidence level.”
The New Mexico Environment Department also is “cautiously optimistic” that operations could restart this year. But the Environment Department says the Department of Energy must first meet the requirements of the state’s compliance orders issued in the aftermath of the radiation release and an unrelated underground fire that also occurred in February 2014.
A spokesperson for the Human Services Department on Monday took issue with the AG's decision to not prosecute the organizations, implying -- but not providing proof -- that there was enough evidence for a prosecution.
"The decision to not prosecute clear over-billing and misusing Medicaid funds on things like private planes and luxury travel in the tropics belongs to the Attorney General," HSD spokesperson Kyler B Nerison wrote in an e-mail. "We respect but disagree with that decision and continue to believe that those funds should be used to help the people who need it the most."Thousands Enrolled in Health Insurance Exchange
BeWellNM, the state’s official health insurance exchange, reports nearly 55,000 New Mexicans are now receiving coverage with one of the companies that offer insurance through the Internet portal, which was created under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Kasich Could Emerge from Obscurity
Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Bernie Sanders scored early wins in the tiny town of Dixville Notch, NH, as primary voting got underway in the Granite State just after midnight.
Johnson Shows Off New Campaign Video
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who hopes to secure his second straight Libertarian Party nomination for president, has launched his first video of the campaign. It touts his record as a fiscal conservative and being “cool” on social issues and his success as an ethical businessman. Across the country, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is seriously considering an independent campaign for the White House. Frustrated with the current political debate, the billionaire called "the level of discourse and discussion distressingly banal.”
- An effort to cap minimum wages in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Las Cruces is dead on arrival. Republicans have amended their bill and now only want to “preempt any local labor laws that regulate what private-sector employers must offer workers in terms of hours, scheduling, leave and certain benefits.”
- The state’s citizen legislators, who often whine about not getting paid even though they knew the terms when they ran for office, don’t exactly go empty handed. The Associated Press reports, “More than $2.3 million was paid out to state lawmakers to offset personal expenses and travel.” The Santa Fe New Mexican has posted what every legislator received last year.
- Rep. Eliseo Alcon, D-Milan, wants to know why colleagues want to allow cities to use their lodger’s tax revenue to subsidize commercial airlines.
- A bill that would reform capital outlay allocations in New Mexico appears to have bipartisan support from businesses and unions alike.
- Democrats, upset with the Public Education Department for “demonizing” full-time teachers, killed a measure backed by the agency to allow schools to hire adjunct teachers for grades 7-12.
- Gov. Susan Martinez’ third-grade reading retention bill has stalled out in the Senate.
- Joey Peters reports that “a proposed constitutional amendment that would change the bail process in New Mexico cleared its first House committee Monday afternoon.”
- “A bill aimed at toughening New Mexico’s child pornography laws is steaming toward Gov. Susana Martinez’s desk, but it looks a lot different from the way it did just a week ago,” according to Dan Boyd.
- A bill to help prevent Native American suicides cleared the Senate Indian and Cultural Affairs Committee. "The bill appropriates $150,000 to fund a clearing house for Native American suicide prevention which provides culturally appropriate suicide prevention, intervention and post-event assistance statewide to Native American individuals, families and tribes, nations and pueblos."
- Chris Quintana reports, “A measure that strikes down the minimum percentage of revenue the New Mexico Lottery has to contribute to the lottery scholarship fund glided through a Senate panel Monday. ... Opponents of the measure say the 30 percent benchmark is the only accountability measure in place for the lottery and that removing the benchmark would result in losses for the scholarship fund. Others said the bill would further hurt those addicted to gambling.”
- Habitually truant high school students could have their driver’s licenses suspended. Legislation to ensure all New Mexico students make it to class passed the House Education Committee by a vote of 7-5.
- Better Call Saul actor Patrick Fabian was a guest speaker for this year’s Film and Media Day at the Legislature. He spoke in opposition to “right-to-work” legislation that passed the House of Representatives last year but stalled in the Senate. “Right-to-work is a poison pill,” he said. “Things are just starting to get good and can get better in New Mexico.”
- Senators confirmed two new University of New Mexico regents, Ryan Berryman and Marron Lee, on Monday. They also used the hearing as a venue to express support for a new UNM hospital.
New Mexico In Depth journalist Laura Paskus says we shouldn’t be taking this winter’s moisture for granted, since the Southwest is already shifting toward a drier climate.
Actress Margot Robbie, who spent time in New Mexico last year shooting Tina Fey’s upcoming movie Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, irritated a bunch of New Mexicans after the Super Bowl on Sunday. During an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Robbie told the host people who live in New Mexico have "lots of missing teeth.”