Red flag law passes committee
Yesterday, lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee narrowly passed an amended version of a proposed law that would allow police to confiscate weapons from people deemed a threat to themselves or others. The amendments narrowed the scope of SB5, the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Act, so that only law enforcement agents would be able to petition the court to confiscate weapons; previously, household members also could do so. The committee passed the revised bill 6-5. The full Senate will take up the bill next. The bill's co-sponsor, Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, says the amendments were intended to address concerns by the controversial bill's critics. "We believe we've struck the proper balance," he said.
House approves increased spending bill
The state House of Representatives yesterday approved a $7.6 billion spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which includes money to increase early childhood education programs, teacher salaries and health care. The budget represents more a half-billion dollar increase over current spending, largely due to increased oil and gas revenue. The vote passed 46-24, with Democrats in favor and Republicans critical of the spending, which they said could lead to problems in the event of a downturn in oil revenue. "We are terrified about the spending being proposed," Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, said. "We have seen this movie before." The Senate will take up the bill next.
NM Senators decry Trump acquittal
New Mexico Democrat US Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich both spoke out yesterday following the acquittal of President Donald Trump, expressing frustrating with the outcome of the impeachment trial ($TNM). Both voted to convict the president. In an interview with The Santa Fe New Mexican, Udall said, "We just failed to hold a fair and honest impeachment trial. This is certainly a low point in our history." Heinrich, in a statement, said: "President Donald Trump has proven to be unfit for the office he occupies. He abused his powers and continues to engage in a cover-up. He presents a clear and present danger to our national security and, more fundamentally, to our democracy."
Fires spark investigations
Investigators are looking into two recent fires in Santa Fe. ($TNM). Santa Fe Police say video surveillance of a fire that ignited in a trash can Tuesday near the Boys & Girls Clubs on Alto Street shows someone getting out of a car, lighting the trash can on fire, returning to take a burning piece of paper out of the bin and place it in a recycling bin, which then also caught fire and burned. The fire did not cause damage to the building, which was empty at the time. Fire investigators also were called over the weekend to Capital High, where a fire on a construction site south of the campus caused $120,000 worth of damage.
In Episode 13 of "Your New Mexico Government," a podcast devoted to the 54th Legislature, host Khalil Ekulona talks with New Mexico PBS Executive Producer Kevin McDonald about what has happened so far, including discussions on the House floor about the budget, and another committee hearing regarding the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection Order Act, or "Red Flag" law. The two also discuss what's still in store for the second half of the 30-day session, including the governor's College Opportunity Scholarship and a measure that would legalize cannabis for recreational adult use. "Your New Mexico Government" is a collaboration between SFR, New Mexico PBS and KUNM radio.
SFR reports this week on a new program for Spanish speakers who need help with basic literacy and education, including computer skills. The Consulate of Mexico in Albuquerque and Santa Fe nonprofit EarthCare will establish a Plaza Comunitaria at the Zona del Sol building on the Southside. Four different certified courses are set to start this month, including primary education and computer classes, basic literacy in Spanish and beginner English lessons. Santa Fe's Plaza Comunitaria will be New Mexico's second. The first one began in the Cibola County Correctional Center and the third is set to begin soon in Albuquerque, according to Santa Fe program coordinator Cipriana Jurado Herrera.
Solar power on the reservation
The New York Times takes a look at Native Renewables, which is installing off-grid solar panels for families on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah ($). The company installed systems for three homes last year and plans to install the systems for 100 homes in 2020. Co-founder and Executive Director Wahleah Johns says, "These families are going to be the model of how we should be living in a more just and sustainable way." According to the Times, tribal lands have the highest rates of homes without electricity in the US, and approximately three-quarters of those homes are in the Navajo Nation. SFR also weighs in on solar power this week, with a report on the proposed Community Solar Act, which is winding its way through the Legislature.
O’Keeffe and Stieglitz auction
Sotheby's New York announced earlier this week that it will hold a dedicated auction in March to sell Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz's art and personal effects. The sale includes more than 100 rare paintings, sculpture, photographs, books, manuscripts and artifacts, some of which have never been shown or offered for sale before. All of the items are from Juan Hamilton's collection—he was the sole beneficiary and executor of O'Keeffe's estate when she died in 1986; Hamilton also will offer some of his own works in the auction. "It has been a privilege to live with and care for these works for many years. But it is now time to allow others the opportunity to enjoy and learn from these treasures," Hamilton said in a statement.
This is February
Today will be sunny with a high near 37 and wind chill values as low as -10. Northwest wind 15 to 20 mph. Tomorrow will be slightly more humane with mostly sunny skies and highs near 48 (still windy, though). So far, the weekend is looking much the same, with mid 40s temps and sunny skies, until Sunday night when we have a chance for precipitation that continues through the start of next week. Wait and see.
Thanks for reading! The Word needed a break from reading about impeachment votes and screwy caucuses, and turned to this recent Wired article about people faking out Google Maps.