Back to school

New Mexico's Higher Education Department is requesting $946.2 million for fiscal year 2021, a 9% increase that follows a more than 30% reduction in per-student funding between 2008 and 2018 ($TNM). Higher Education Secretary Kate O'Neill says higher education appropriations represented 15.5% of the state budget in 2010, but only 12.2% in the current fiscal year, even though the Legislature passed increases to the budget earlier this year. She noted that "revenues have not yet returned to the levels needed to support higher education throughout the state." The budget request includes $35 million for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's proposal to expand the Opportunity Scholarship that would eliminate tuition and fees for New Mexicans attending public universities and colleges.

Fired up

Lawmakers yesterday criticized Public Regulation Commissioners' actions over the new Energy Transition Act, saying the regulators are overstepping their authority and costing communities money. The law sets ambitious goals for renewable energy development and financial remediation to communities impacted by the closure of the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station near Farmington. The PRC is considering a variety of aspects of the law, including whether it usurps its own evaluation of closing the generating station. The state Supreme Court last month denied a request by environmental groups and Public Service Co. of New Mexico to force regulators to abide by the act.

You be the judge

District Court Judge Jason Lidyard has rejected the District Attorney's Office's request that the judge recuse himself from its embezzlement case against former Northern New Mexico College financial director Henrietta Trujillo. Lidyard accused the DA's office of "judge shopping." Lidyard previously rejected a plea deal for Trujillo that would have allowed her to pay back the college in $82,000 and avoid jail time. The DA said Lidyard's comments in rejecting the deal might impact the outcome of the case. This is not the first clash between the DA and Lidyard, a former prosecutor.

Going to Seeds

A jury yesterday found Laura Seeds guilty of five felony voter fraud counts related to her husband Robert Seeds' 2016 election campaign for Española City Council. Each is a fourth degree felony, punishable by up to 18 months in prison and fines up to $5,000. Witnesses told the jury they had seen Seeds with absentee ballots belonging to other people, which is illegal under state law unless the ballots belong to an immediate family member or caregiver. Seeds characterized the trial as a "witch hunt" by Attorney General Hector Balderas, and members of the Seeds family shoved both New Mexican and Rio Grande SUN reporters following the trial.

Sounds like a bargain

Former New Mexico state Sen. Phil Maloof, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress here in 1998, just sold his three-bedroom, 6,200-square-foot Las Vegas penthouse condo for $12.475 million ($LAT). The 59th-floor apartment—which includes a professional-grade wet bar, gym, rooftop deck, hot tub and DJ booth—is located in the Palms Place skyscraper owned by the Maloof family, who also own the Palms Casino Resort next door. Maloof originally tried to sell his pad for $38 million five years ago, with the inclusion of Pablo Picasso paintings and a two-year lease on a Lamborghini. The apartment's new owner, TurnKey Pads founder Bryan Ercolano, says he plans to rent it out for events.

Such a supple wrist…

Yes, those are partial lyrics from The Who's "Pinball Wizard." How could we resist, given this week's story by SFR's Alex De Vore on New Mexico Pinball. The group—fans of pinball, natch—meets every Wednesday at 6 pm at The Alley (153 Paseo de Peralta, 557-6789) to share their love of the game. And what a game it is, complete with a history that connects to post-prohibition American, circa 1942 and a resurrection in the 1970s thanks to the prowess of pinball legend Roger Sharpe.

Head on the hill

Santa Fe Prep announced its new head of school yesterday: Aaron I. Schubach takes over as of  July 1, 2020, replacing Jim Leonard, who had been at the helm for more than 20 years. Schubach comes to the job from The Colorado Springs School, where he has been head of school for the last five years. In a letter on the Prep website, Schubach writes: "Fourteen years ago, while earning a master's degree from St John's, I rode my bike past Santa Fe Prep every day and marveled at this distinctive and intentional school in an inspiring location."

Good day, sunshine!

Sunny today, with a high near 59 and north wind 10 to 15 mph becoming west in the afternoon, according to the  National Weather Service. More sunny days this weekend, with highs in the low 60s Saturday and Sunday with winds 10 to 15 mph in the afternoon (pretty sure that's Frisbee weather but actually have no idea). Evening temps the next few days will hover around 30. Colder weather is expected to arrive on Monday.

Thanks for reading! The Word devoured this week's Fork newsletter and is now counting the seconds until she can visit Chainé Pena's new cookie shop and devour some macarons. Am also wondering if Pena sells posters of her macarons because those are some beautiful finicky cookies.