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Morning Word: Lawmakers Tell Governor to Consider Tax Hike

Morning WordTuesday, July 26, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
State Faces Budget Crisis
More lawmakers, including some Republicans, are calling on Gov. Susana Martinez to call a special session to deal with a $650 million revenue shortfall that includes a $150 million deficit for the fiscal year that just ended and an estimated $500 million for the current fiscal year. The lawmakers suggest Martinez may have to consider raising taxes in an election year.

Film, TV Spending in NM Increased by $100 million 
Hollywood producers continue to take advantage of the state’s tax incentives. Last year, they spent $387 million in New Mexico—an increase of almost $100 million—and this year is already off to a good start. “Wolverine 3” and “Granite Mountain” are filming here this summer, and Better Saul Call crews will film Season 3 starting in September.

Universities Partner Lockheed on Sandia Contract Proposal
New Mexico State University and New Mexico Tech are jumping into help Lockheed Martin put together its bid to continue managing Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque. The schools are offering to help commercialize research and provide graduates to staff the lab.
 
Popular Pollster Dies 
Bruce Donisthorpe, a well-regarded Republican operative and local pollster, died Sunday from an apparent heart attack. Before launching his own polling company, Donisthorpe served as a public information officer in the administration of Gov. Garrey Carruthers and later worked as a congressional staffer for Joe Skeen.

False Alarm
Officials in Hugo, Colorado say new tests of the town's well water show no traces of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

Cannabis Limits Stall Dispensary Expansion
Duke Rodriguez, who already operates six medical cannabis dispensaries in New Mexico, tells SFR that he’s ready to open 13 new locations and hire 85 new employees but can’t until health department approve his plans. The regulators have been reluctant to give the go-ahead because their restrictive rules only allow producers to grow a maximum of 450 plants, which would make it difficult for Ultra Health to supply medication to all the new locations. Rodriguez wants the plant limit increased or eliminated altogether.

Democrats to Endorse Legal Weed

Delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia are expected to add legalization of marijuana to the party's platform for the first time.

DNC Emails Undermine Party Unity

Last night, first lady Michele Obama, along with Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, urged DNC delegates to unite behind Hillary Clinton for president. New Mexico super delegate US Rep. Ben Ray Luján hopes emails from the DNC leaked just before the party’s convention won't boost the divide between Sanders and Clinton supporters.
Those emails at the DNC should have never been written, they have no place in our discourse, and they are just wrong,” Luján, D-Santa Fe, said through a spokesman in a written statement. “Debbie Wasserman Schultz made a decision to put the country ahead of herself personally, and she made the right decision by stepping down. That was the right thing to do.”

Gila River Panel Told to “Clean Up Its Act”
A panel responsible for managing the Gila River water diversion programs violated the state’s Open Meetings Act at least two times this year when it conducted business behind closed doors and without public input, according to Assistant Attorney General Dylan Lange.
Allyson Siwik, executive director Gila Conservation Coalition, said in a statement that the entity “needs to clean up its act.”

“Citizens have a legal right to public access to its proceedings,” she said. “The entity’s decisions related to a Gila River diversion could saddle taxpayers and water users with hundreds of millions of dollars in construction costs and harm New Mexico’s last wild river.”

Bregman’s Debut Falls Short

Alex Bregman had a chance for a grand slam in his major league debut last night in Houston, but the ball fell just short and the new third basemen went 0-4 at the plate as the Astros fell to the Yankees. He’ll get another shot tonight.

Cannabis Supply in Checkmate

Producer says low plant limit stunts job growth

Local NewsMonday, July 25, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
An internal report produced by New Mexico Department of Health’s Office of Policy and Accountability reveals that Medical Cannabis Program administrators, who have been struggling to keep up with new patient registrations and annual program renewals, only processed 62 percent of them on time between January and March.

State law requires the paperwork be approved or denied in 30 days or less, but the report (see page 49) shows that administrators set a goal to complete only 97 percent of the applications within the legal timeframe even though the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act doesn’t provide them that option.

A SFR investigation reveals the backlog that's lasting up to 60 days for some applicants is just the tip of the iceberg.

Duke Rodriguez, the president and chief executive officer of Ultra Health, which already manages six cannabis dispensary locations in New Mexico, tells SFR that he’s prepared to create 85 new dispensary jobs around the state with an average pay of $15 per hour, but the health department is dragging its feet. He wants them to approve his plan to open 13 new dispensaries in rural cities without full-time dispensaries (stores that are open at least 40 hours a week.)

Rodriguez, who is already writing rent checks for leased, but still unoccupied spaces in Alamogordo, Silver City, Deming, Carlsbad and other cities, says Charles Castillo, a health department compliance officer, emailed his staff last Friday to express concerns about Ultra Health’s ability to reliably supply enough medication to the proposed new locations. 

 
Ultra Health has proposed 13 new medical cannabis dispensary locations in underserved areas of the state. (Click on each location marker for more site information).

Growers currently pay a $90,000 annual licensure fee, but are limited to 450 plants.

“The issue which has affected further consideration of your organization’s amendments requesting additional dispensaries relates only to your ability to adequately supply those proposed dispensaries with a steady and reliable supply of usable medical cannabis,” writes Castillo. “Simply stated, you yourself have indicated on numerous occasions that with the maximum 450 plant count it would be extremely difficult, even under optimal conditions and an ideal production cycle, to adequately serve the needs of even six dispensaries with that plant count.”

Instead, Castillo wants Rodriguez to negotiate wholesale agreements with smaller producers without a large dispensary infrastructure or Ultra Health's marketing expertise.

“You were advised on several occasions that if you could produce Memorandums of Understanding (MOU), Memorandums of Agreement (MOA), or other formal agreements between yourselves and such producers, that we could move forward in considering additional dispensaries,” writes Castillo.

Castillo's explanation doesn’t sit well with Rodriguez or Ultra Health General Manager Leonard Salgado. They tell SFR that before last Friday they had not heard anything from program staff since the end of April and that they were never told that “adequate supply” was the sole concern for delaying their business expansion.

After reviewing Castillo’s email, Rodriguez and Salgado want the department to provide them any modeling data that shows how the regulators calculate adequate supply based on patient demand, since the number of enrolled patients is up 93 percent since last summer. 

They also want to know what regulatory criteria being used to consider other growers’ requests to open additional locations, like New Mexicann Natural Medicine’s newest stores in Taos, Española and Las Vegas.

At the same time, Rodriguez is expressing another level of frustration.

He claims that prospective employees, just like patients, are having to wait up to two months for their Licensed Nonprofit Employee cards to be processed.

“By the time we call them, they’ve already found other jobs,” says Rodriguez. "Most people can't wait two months to start work."

Last week, SFR asked health department spokesman Kenny Vigil why employee cards are also being delayed, but after initially stating he'd check, we didn't get an answer before publication. If we hear back we'll update the post.

For now, Rodriguez and Salgado estimate the state will receive up to $3.5 million in gross receipts taxes from medical cannabis sales this fiscal year. They want lawmakers to propose bills to lift plant limits imposed by the health department and consider transferring regulator control from the health department to the regulation and licensing department. 

Rodriguez also suggests that if lawmakers return to the Roundhouse for a special session to deal with a looming budget deficit, they once again consider legalizing cannabis for social use. 

“It could generate up to $131 million in new revenues, depending on the tax rate” says Rodriguez, who cautions about more deep spending cuts.

“We do not have a spending problem; we have a revenue problem. In healthcare it is well understood that if you cut too deeply, you are no longer cutting into fat but are cutting into needed muscle,” says Rodriguez, adding the cannabis could be the perfect prescription for what ails New Mexico.

Morning Word: Dem Convention Opens in Philadelphia

Morning WordMonday, July 25, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Philadelphia Story
Hillary Clinton on Friday selected Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate, and there's no doubt they have the votes needed to win the Democratic Party nomination. But as the DNC gets underway in Philadelphia, party leaders' hopes for a peaceful, united convention turned grim Sunday as Bernie Sanders supporters staged loud protests.
[Bernie] Sanders crowds, already angry over WikiLeaks' posting of 19,000 DNC emails that suggest Democratic officials favored Hillary Clinton over Sanders during the nominating contests, erupted in joy upon hearing that DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz would step down after the convention. Sanders had called for her resignation hours earlier.
No Love for Trump
Even before the Democrats take a floor vote, we know two things: The Washington Post and fellow New York City billionaire Michael Bloomberg won’t be endorsing Republican Donald Trump this fall. In an extraordinary move, The Post declares that Trump is unfit for the presidency and "a threat to democracy."  Bloomberg, who briefly considered an independent campaign himself, and who has been critical of Trump’s views on immigration, says he'll endorse her, arguing "Clinton is the best choice for moderate voters."

State Employees Fear Retaliation
The state of New Mexico is paying out millions to settle employees’ civil rights cases. Agency staffers worry about retaliation or being blackballed if they speak up or ask for a job transfer, Staci Matlock reports. Sonya Quintana quit her job as human resources director at the New Mexico Game and Fish Department after detailing sexual harassment by the secretary, who also resigned. 

Call Centers Saturate Albuquerque Job Market
The Albuquerque Journal has an interesting news feature on the 28 call centers operating around the Duke City. We didn’t know this, but the industry employs about 12,000 people in the metro area. Supporters say call centers provide "economic base jobs" 
that bring new money to the state.

For the Record
Arthur Alpert, a frequent critic of the state’s largest daily newspaper, says he’s frustrated that some guest editorials are not properly identified as being penned by individuals and organizations funded by the Koch brothers' various companies and foundations.

Veterans Up Front
With most of New Mexico’s Bataan Death march survivors now in their 90s, The New Mexican Hispanic Culture Preservation League is pushing lawmakers to honor the men with the Congressional Gold Medal.

Living the Dream
This weekend local baseball sensation Alex Bregman got the call he’s dreamed about since he was a young boy. He’s been called up by the Houston Astros and will make his major league debut Monday against the New York Yankees.

Early Harvest
Here’s some good news to start your week off: Chile farmers are already starting to harvest green chile and they say the crops look great this year.

Hot in Here

Weather coverage in New Mexico is missing the mark

Local NewsFriday, July 22, 2016 by Laura Paskus

It’s been hot. On Monday, temperature  records were broken or tied in Capulin, Roswell, Clayton, Clines Corners, Santa Fe, and Tucumcari.

Cue the small talk and the paper fans, because there’s not much more to say about New Mexico’s weather lately.

At least that's what you’d think when turning on television news or picking up most of the state’s newspapers.

In a Portales News-Tribune story reprinted by the  Albuquerque Journal this week, there was coverage of how the hot, dry weather is affecting farmers: “(Z-7 Farms Owner Rick) Ledbetter said he anticipates more crop failures if there is no rain or moisture, leading to the reliance on insurance money in the coming months.”

That’s a big news story.

Farmers in eastern New Mexico already rely heavily on dwindling  groundwatersupplies—and are still suffering economic blows from the last drought. And while the reporter mentions insurance money, it’s also worth noting that farmers have to rely on federal  subsidies, too.

Already, it’s tough to make a living as a farmer. In Roosevelt County, where per capita income is $18,086, the amount of irrigated acreage decreased by 34 percent between 2007 and 2014. According to the region's draft water  plan, the number of dairies has dropped, too, and there's no demand from dairy farmers for loans. The plan also notes that hay for livestock is trucked from Colorado because it's too expensive to grow in eastern New Mexico.

In that recent news story, the reporter quoted Roosevelt County Extension Agent Patrick Kircher saying, “It certainly is a challenge with the current climate conditions. It’s not the easiest time to be in agriculture.”

A lot more could be said about New Mexico’s current climate conditions. Like, about how warming temperatures will continue to affect snowpack and surface water flows. Or about how groundwater levels are dropping in places throughout the state. Farmers need to worry not only about water supplies, but also pest control and a growing season that’s longer than it was just a few decades ago. Continued warmer temperatures also affect air quality and public health, as well as the health—and flammability—of the state’s grasslands and forests.

Whether these are rural newspapers, the daily weather report on television, or the state’s largest paper, not giving readers information about climate change – and what scientists say will occur in New Mexico as the region continues warming – does a great disservice to the public.

To serve the needs of all New Mexicans, editors and publishers should be encouraging their reporters and newscasters to incorporate data about climate change into stories about the  economy,  planning,  infrastructure projects,  workforce issues,  tourism, and the myriad of issues reporters cover in their communities. Warming even affects sports and recreation.

Just this week, NASA  reported that June 2016 was 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. That breaks last year’s record for the warmest June on record. So far this year, the average global temperature is 1.89 degrees above the 20th century average. That shatters last year’s record of 0.36 degrees higher than average.

There was a time when television managers, newspaper editors, and publishers could hide behind the faux debate over whether climate change was real or not. That time is long gone. And by ignoring one of the state’s most pressing issues, editors and newscasters are blowing a big story.

Laura Paskus is an independent journalist.This report is part of the New Mexico In Depth project called "At the Precipice: New Mexico's Changing Climate." 

Trump Paints Dark Picture

Morning WordFriday, July 22, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Trump Applauds Himself 
Donald Trump used his acceptance speech Thursday night to fire up delegates at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. That came just two hours after New Mexico delegate Lisa Shin, head of Korean Americans for Trump, took the stage at Quicken Loans Arena. The Los Alamos eye doctor told the crowd she believes that presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is a "direct threat to the American dream."  

Lujan Grisham to Speak at DNC
It looks like US Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham is the only New Mexican currently scheduled to speak at next week’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Matthew Reichbach reports it’s still not clear what role Rep. Ben Ray Luján, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, will have at the convention.

Black Lives Matter Rally Attracts Dozens in Santa Fe
About 60 people rallied in Santa Fe Thursday in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“The purpose of the action is to call upon Santa Fe residents to see and confront the many manifestations of state violence against Black communities whether in racial discrimination in policing and the courts, the lack of jobs and affordable housing, or the biases rampant in K-12 education,” organizers said in a news release.
Fish and Wildlife Refutes Wolf Program Criticism
Officials at the US Fish and Wildlife Service are disputing a report claiming they’ve mismanaged the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program in New Mexico.
Residents interviewed for the report, including livestock owners in the area, said the service had failed to effectively communicate with the community about the presence or threat posed by wolves in the area, failed to fully compensate ranchers for livestock losses as a result of predatory wolves and did not record or effectively respond to nuisance complaints filed about wolves. Residents also alleged that the service had deliberately disposed of slaughtered livestock without alerting the ranchers.
US Rep. Steve Pearce, R-NM, called the report “damning.”

Geothermal Exploration Study Delayed 
US Forest Service officials have decided to seek more public input before they launch a study to determine if land around the Valles Caldera National Preserve would be suitable for geothermal energy exploration and development.

APS Short Hundreds of Teachers
Less than a month before the start of the new school year, officials in the state’s largest school district are still scrambling to recruit teachers.

Morales Urges District Attorney to Resign 
State Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, wants 6th Judicial District Attorney Francesca Estevez to resign after  a lapel camera video appeared to show her intoxicated during a traffic stop, according to a KRQE report.  Morales sent this letter to New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, asking him to investigate why police officers let her drive away.

THC Found in Colorado Water Well 
If you’re headed to Colorado this weekend, you may want to bring some bottled water. Lincoln County officials say they’ve found traces of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, in the town of Hugo’s water supply. 

That's it for this week. Have a great weekend and if you see Gwyneth Doland out and about buy her a beer margarita (—ed.) for getting up early to copy edit the Morning Word. 

Overdrawn

UPDATE: No answer from Gov. Martinez on request for special session to address budget shortfall

Local NewsThursday, July 21, 2016 by Steven Hsieh

It’s clear now that New Mexico closed the fiscal year on June 30 with a massive budget shortfall, even though the state isn’t sure how big the final gap will be. 

Current estimates based on new reports from legislative money watchers show a shortfall of more than $150 million as tax revenues have failed to meet previous estimates, likely necessitating a complete draining of the state’s reserve funds, said a top official Thursday at a Roundhouse press conference.

The news means that revenue for the current fiscal year, which began this month, also appears likely to fall short of February projection by $300 to $500 million, leaving the approved spending plan for the next 12 months with a huge gap. 

Yet calls for a special session from Legislative Finance Committee chairman Sen. John Arthur Smith (D-Deming) to rebalance the budget for fiscal year 2016 haven’t elicited a response from the governor, the only official with the power to call lawmakers back to work before the end of the year.

“If you want to be responsible, it better be soon,” he said to a room of reporters. 

Asked whether Gov. Susana Martinez plans to convene a special session, spokesperson Michael Lonergan tells SFR, "As she has done since day one, the governor is happy to discuss the state’s budget outlook with legislative leaders, but will insist that we move forward in a cautious, diligent, and responsible way that protects New Mexico’s taxpayers."

A report distributed at the press conference suggests that covering an estimated $150 million budget gap will dry up New Mexico’s operating reserves, forcing lawmakers to tap into a $200 million tobacco settlement piggybank.

Meanwhile, Sen. Stuart Ingle, the Republican who serves as minority floor leader, says it’s still too early to make that decision, pointing to some May and June revenue sources that still have not been tallied. Should the Legislature meet before the end of the year, however, Ingle says nothing would be off the table.

 

Through May of this fiscal year, the state collected about $490 million—about 9.7 percent less revenue than it did during the same period last year. Martinez in February signed a $6.2 billion budget that cut overall spending for the first time in five years. Although most departments saw cuts or remained steady, the plan increased spending in education and public safety. It forecast a 5.5 percent revenue reduction attributable to a sagging global oil market.  
 
According to the new reports, gross receipt tax revenue, which makes up about 35 percent of the state’s general fund, fell $131 million, a 7.5 percent decrease from the same period last year. Corporate income tax revenue fell from $208.6 million to $96 million. Both sources fell well short of February projections.

David Abbey, staff director of the Legislative Finance Committee, says the downfalls are likely ripple effects from a slump in the global non-renewable energy market. Although the price of crude oil per barrel saw a rebound in recent weeks, overall oil production and earnings fell precipitously.

Mining, oil and gas revenue in New Mexico fell significantly, dropping 31.4 percent over the last fiscal year. The state last week had 25 active oil rigs, exactly 50 percent fewer than it did in July 2015. That’s even an improvement from May, when the average active rig count was 18.

New Mexico is particularly reliant on non-renewable energy for revenue. It is one of eight states where oil, natural gas and mining make up 10 percent or more of gross domestic product, according to a study by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, a think tank run out of the State University of New York.

This Weekend

You should be Tom Sawyering

Weekend PicksFriday, July 22, 2016 by SFR

Santa Fe Bandstand: Sol Fire and Lumbre Del Sol

Amado Abeyta leads the rock group, which incorporates Latin influences. Lumbre del Sol plays Chicano rock at 7:15 pm.

More Info >>

Bone Orchard

Alternative Americana as rad and original as their name.

More Info >>

Santa Fe Komedy Klub: Michael Puccini

Headliner Michael Puccini, who was on the TV show Last Comic Standing, is joined by Scotty Goff, a local stand-upper.

More Info >>


ART

Nicholas Ballas, Robert Nott and Jonathan Richards star in the Tony-winner directed by Robert Benedetti. When one of three best friends buys an all-white painting, art and its nature come into question.

More Info >>

Cash'd Out: A Tribute to Johnny Cash

The late, great Man in Black is done proud by the San Diego-based group that plays over 150 of his songs including favorites like ...
there are too many to name.

More Info >>

Scuba and Strangers: Dispatch

Bringing together 96 artists from around New Mexico to create a visual display of the local art scene in which each of Santa Fe's art spaces are represented by a 3x6 inch tile courtesy of the two local arts collectives.

More Info >>


Dave Holland Trio with Chris Potter: New Mexico Jazz Festival

The trio, completed by Kevin Eubanks and Obed Calavarie, is led by Holland, who played with Miles Davis' Bitches Brew band. They are joined by Potter, who is a wind-wizard on the saxophone.

More Info >>

Journeysantafe: Richard McCord

McCord is the co-founder of SFR, Santa Fe living treasure and published author brings a briefcase full of his favorite award-winning articles from his lengthy career in New Mexico.

More Info >>

Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival

Mendelssohn octet, Beethoven and the Pacifica quartet enchant with classics in the acoustic a-list venue.

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.

The Fork

Burgers, Dogs and Beer

The ForkThursday, July 21, 2016 by Gwyneth Doland

New: The Burger Stand at Burro Alley

There’s a new hamburger joint downtown! The Burger Stand at Burro Alley (207 W. San Francisco, 989-3360) which opened on June 1, serves a half dozen different kinds of burgers, including a traditional burger with Vermont cheddar, a black and blue burger (pictured above) with apple chutney, a green chile burger with pepperjack cheese, an avocado burger with habanero-cactus jam and a bacon cheeseburger with chipotle-cocoa ketchup. They’re all about $10. You’ll also find three versions of a hot dog and seven kinds of fries (truffles, duck fat, green chile cheese, bourbon cheese sauce and bacon etc.) plus shakes and a big kids menu. It’s open 11 am-11 pm every day with beer and wine. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Speaking of meat in buns, HOLY HOT DOGS have you tried one of the Mexican dogs from the Taqueria A La Hacienda trailer on Airport Road? It's unbelievably delicious. Here’s a rule of food for you: Mexican hot dogs are awesome. I’ve never had one that disappointed. Go get you one!

Or are you obsessed with burgers? Edible magazine is having its 2016 Green Chile Cheeseburger Smackdown and you can vote for your favorite from a list of 15 contenders (the burger below is by Renee Fox at Loyal Hound). You can download a “passport” that offers a $3 discount off many of the burgers and if you hit enough of those joints you can enter to win various prizes. The top seven vote winners will prepare their burgers for judges at the Smackdown, scheduled for Friday, Sept. 9 in the Farmers Market Pavilion at the Railyards. Tickets cost $20 and include tastes of the burgers, a ballot for the People's Choice Award and a souvenir glass. There are free wine and beer samples and you can pay for a full glass. Early bird tickets cost $30 and get you in an hour early.

If you missed the IPA Challenge at Santa Fe Brewing last weekend you can still catch up. The final round will be held Saturday at Tractor Brewing in Albuquerque, from noon-5 pm. Each $20 ticket includes a tasting flight, a commemorative pint glass and one pint of beer of your choice.



What news do you want to see in this newsletter? We want to hear from you! Let us know! Email thefork@sfreporter.com


Morning Word: Special Session Needed to Fix Budget Deficit

Morning WordThursday, July 21, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Special Session Needed to Fix Deficit
State Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith and State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg want Gov. Susana Martinez to call a special session to fix a $150 million budget shortfall. They want to look at new tax revenues and spending cuts at the start of the 2017 fiscal year.

New York Times: Trump Considered Vetting Martinez for VP
Gov. Susana Martinez was mentioned in a story about how Gov. Mike Pence got the nod for Trump's VP. Martinez repeatedly said she didn’t want the job. Apparently, she was eliminated before the final round.
“Before the list was drawn up, Trump also expressed interest in Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico, but after Martinez did not return repeated phone calls from Lewandowski, Trump said that he was done with her – and then bashed the governor on a campaign stop in Albuquerque in late May.”
Martinez’ staff denies the governor shunned Donald Trump's campaign manager. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence got the nod and used his nomination acceptance speech Wednesday night to try and unify the party.

Former House Speaker Martinez Formally Resigns 
Former House Speaker Kenny Martinez had said he would leave his seat after being hired as Bernalillo County attorney. Harry Garcia of Grants won the Democratic primary and has no Republican challenger for the seat in November. He'll take office in January. Gov. Martinez will only need to appoint an interim representative if she calls a special session before then.

Martinez' resignation letter was received by acting Governor Brad Winter. With the governor and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez out of state at the Republican National Convention, New Mexico Secretary of State and Albuquerque City Councilor Brad Winter is serving as acting governor. The Albuquerque Journal reports Winter isn’t sleeping at the governor's mansion in Santa Fe, and so far he hasn’t signed any executive orders. Following Martinez' lead, Winter also hasn't hosted any press conferences.

Griego Waives Arraignment
Former state Sen. Phil Griego won’t be in court for arraignment this Friday, after all. His attorney told Andy Lyman at New Mexico Political Report that Griego waived the arraignment and pleaded not guilty to all nine felony counts. No trial date has been set. Judge Brett Loveless ordered Griego to stay away from witnesses and request permission if he needs to travel out of state. He remains free on his own recognizance. 

Rail Runner Ridership Drops
Cheap gas is making it easier for commuters to drive to work—but it’s cutting into the ridership of the Rail Runner Express. Passenger counts were down 11 percent between July 2015 and June 2016.

Utility Wants to Extend Gas Pipeline to Mexico
The New Mexico Gas Co. is looking for new economic development opportunities south of the US border and has applied for a federal permit to extend its Santa Theresa pipeline into Mexico.

Weather Coverage Improvements Needed
With record temperatures scorching the state this summer, New Mexico In Depth climate writer Laura Paskus has a heady idea: To serve the needs of all New Mexicans, editors and publishers should be encouraging their reporters and newscasters to incorporate data about climate change into stories about the economy, planning, infrastructure projects, workforce issues, tourism and community issues.

Morning Word: Spaceport Director Resigns

Morning WordWednesday, July 20, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Spaceport Director Announces Resignation
Christine Anderson says she's leaving her job as head of Spaceport America in southern New Mexico to pursue other opportunities.
Anderson took over as executive director five years ago as the tax-payer financed spaceport was just getting off the ground.

She has lauded successes in building a multimillion-dollar launch site and bringing infrastructure to a remote stretch of desert, but delays by anchor tenant Virgin Galactic left the spaceport scrambling for revenue in recent years and some lawmakers have criticized the venture.
New Planets Discovered
While Virgin Galactic works on getting space tourists off the ground, NASA confirmed yesterday that its Kepler telescope has verified 1,284 new planets. “This gives us hope that somewhere out there, around a star much like ours, we can eventually discover another Earth," says Ellen Stofan, chief scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC.

Santa Fe Schools Installing Solar Panels
With an eye on reducing its electric, natural gas and water use, Santa Fe Public Schools are going green as 11 schools are installing solar panels. The district hopes the move will eventually reduce utility bills and free up more money for the classroom.

Treatment Options Explored in Santa Fe
SFR’s Steven Hsieh reports that mobile crisis response teams are looking at new ways to connect Santa Fe's mentally ill patients with treatment options.

Albuquerque School Board Member Accused of Fraud
Albuquerque School Board member Analee Maestas could be facing criminal charges after allegedly altering a receipt in order to collect reimbursement for cleaning she said was done at her charter school, but actually was done at her home. Maestas has claimed she spent the money to pay a vendor for cleaning carpets at a charter school she founded, but a report released by State Auditor Tim Keller says that claim is fraudulent.

Adolescents Smoking and Drinking Less
Teens are smoking and drinking less in New Mexico, according to a health department report. In fact, the rate for binge drinking has been cut in half over the past decade. Teen smoking is down from 25.7 percent in 2005 to 11.4 percent in 2015.

Uranium Mine Cleanup Settlement Reached
The federal government has agreed to spend millions to continue to clean up 16 abandoned uranium around the Navajo Nation at the same time it evaluates another 30 sites.

Fracking May Increase Asthma Attacks
If you suffer from asthma you are 1.5 to 4 times more likely to have an attack if you live near a fracking well site, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine earlier this week.

Trump Officially Nominated
New Mexico’s delegation to the Republican National Convention cast all 24 of their votes for Donald J Trump, who officially won the party’s presidential nomination Tuesday in Cleveland. Meanwhile, Sandra Fish, over at New Mexico In Depth, reports that Trump only collected $32,000 for a VIP reception during his visit to Albuquerque in May

Super Bowl of Politics Lures Johnson
Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson says the general election debates this fall are like “the Super Bowl of politics” and he needs to be included in the national broadcasts in order to have a chance to win. Ryan Lizza has an interesting profile on the former governor of New Mexico in this week’s issue of the The New Yorker.
Johnson has many flaws as a candidate, but being unlikable is not one of them. If he is allowed to debate Trump and Clinton, the two most unpopular presumed nominees in decades, then the most unpredictable election in modern times could get even weirder.
APD Delays Release of Shooting Videos
Shannon Kennedy, a civil rights attorney who has represented families of people killed by Albuquerque Police officers, claims the department’s practice of delaying the release of body camera videos after officer involved shootings is aimed at limiting lawsuits against the department.

Morning Word: Lawmakers Tell Governor to Consider Tax Hike
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