March 3rd, 2015: Local Headlines

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The Girl Scouts of the Desert Southwest Troop #370 from Bayard recently celebrated Thinking Day, a day for Girl Scouts to think about other Girl Scouts from other countries.  The troop celebrated with girls sharing information about different countries; such as customary foods, crafts and heritage.  The girls celebrated by crafting and wearing headdresses from Panama.  Learn more about Girl Scouts by calling 538-2481 or visit the local scouts online at www.gsdsw.org.

Pinos Altos Volunteer Fire and Rescue added a new six-wheel UTV with water and foam fire fighting for areas that are difficult to access.  The vehicle was added to the fleet to increase access to roads with barely passable dirt tracks that a traditional brush truck could not safely travel.  Volunteers were required to pass an Emergency Vehicle Operations Class geared specifically to UTC driving.

In legislative action:

Legislation that will help New Mexico’s National Guard Members and their families has passed the House floor by a unanimous 67-0 vote.  The legislation will allow National Guard members to be eligible for the maximum amount of life insurance policies available, $400,000, through the federal service members’ group life insurance program.

Legislation that toughens penalties for trying to lure children into a vehicle or home with the intention of harming them cleared the House Judiciary Committee on Saturday by a unanimous vote of 7-0.  Currently, trying to lure a child is only a misdemeanor.  Under this new law, enticement of a child between the ages of 13 to 16 would be a fourth-degree felony and a third-degree felony if the child is under the age of 13.

Legislation that will protect pregnant women in the workplace and ensure that New Mexico meets federal guidelines passed the House Business and Employment committee by a unanimous 10-0 vote.  The legislation makes employers provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, such as more flexibility with their schedules, shorter hours or leave time.  It also ensures a woman’s job is protected while she is pregnant, while at the same time allowing her to look after her health.

Legislation toughening penalties for possessing child pornography passed the House Judiciary Committee unanimously.  Currently, offenders are charged with just one count of possession of child pornography even if they possess dozens of images.  This legislation would make it clear that every image in possession is an additional count of child pornography.  By clarifying the law, there will be greater accountability and justice to the offenders.

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March 2nd, 2015: Local Headlines

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The Silver City Woman’s Club will serve as Voting Convenience Center for tomorrow’s March 3rd Election for the positions of Councilor in Districts 1 and 3.  The Woman’s Club is centrally located and easily accessible, and voters will no longer have to determine their specific polling location for their Council District.  Any questions regarding the election may be directed to the Town Clerk at 534-6346.

Over 300 girls in the 5th through 8th grades from Grant, Luna, Hidalgo, and Catron Counties participated in Expanding Your Horizons 2015.  The program helps girls to get interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  Each girl in attendance selected 3 classes of 20 available options to attend and participate in various discussions including fields ranging from mining and medicine to computer software.

In sports:

The WNMU Mustang basketball team ended the season with an 84-83 win against New Mexico Highlands University.  Brandon Tanter led the Mustangs in baskets with a season-high 25 points.

The Lady Mustangs also defeated New Mexico Highlands in a 51-45 win over the weekend, and clenched the #8 spot in the RMAC postseason tournament.  The Lady Mustangs will travel to Grand Junction to take on #1 Colorado Mesa tomorrow night.

In legislative action:

The House of Representatives passed a budget that increases education funding and directs these funds into New Mexico’s classrooms: including reading coaches, programs to help struggling students, and debit cards for teachers to purchase classroom supplies.  The budget also raises the annual starting teacher salary by $2,000.  Many resources are going toward getting kids to read by the 3rd grade.

Representative Steve Pearce issued the following statement on Friday after the House voted on a pair of bills relating to the funding of the Department of Homeland Security: “In November, the people sent an overwhelming message to Congress that they were tired of an ineffective, broken Washington. One of the most glaring examples is President Obama’s continual unlawful and unilateral actions,” stated Pearce. “Nearly a month ago, the House responded to the people’s calls by passing a bill that fully funds the Department of Homeland Security, while also prohibiting the President’s executive order.  After weeks of delays, the Senate has chosen a different path. They have opted to move forward with a DHS funding bill that allows the President to continue his reckless and unconstitutional actions.”

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February 27th, 2015: Local Headlines

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The Office of Admissions and Recruitment at WNMU has announced a list of new scholarships that will be available to the incoming freshman class for the fall 2015 semester.  The scholarships each have their own set of requirements for students based on their state of residency and GPA.  Administered by the Office of Admissions, the scholarships are new opportunities for students who may also qualify for FAFSA based or University Foundation based awards.  See the complete scholarship list at http://admissions.wnmu.edu/save.

In legislative action:

Legislation that will toughen penalties for convicted child abusers and those whose abuse contributes to the death of a child passed the House floor on Thursday by a vote of 50-10.  Currently, those who intentionally beat a child to death only face life in prison if the victim was under the age of 12.  Under the new bill, those who intentionally harm a child leading to the child’s death would face life in prison no matter the child’s ate.  The bill will also toughen penalties for child abusers, increasing the penalty for the first offense from a third degree felony to a second degree felony.  After the first offense, it would increase to a first degree felony.

Legislation to regulate ridesharing companies in New Mexico has cleared the House Transportation and Public Works Committee.  The ridesharing services have expanded safe, reliable transportation options for New Mexicans and provide valuable economic opportunities.  The legislation would streamline regulations in New Mexico and codify the highest safety standards for ridesharing services.  Regulating these services will also provide safety to New Mexico’s consumers.  The legislation will require ridesharing services to provide insurance and conduct rigorous background checks, ensuring accountability.

During a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on the US Forest Service’s fiscal year 2016 budget request, Senator Martin Heinrich continued his fight to reform federal wildfire policy.  He urged the need for more resources to restore New Mexico’s national forests to healthy conditions in order to reduce the cost of catastrophic wildfires.

In a show of bipartisanship, Republican and Democrat lawmakers in the House and Senate held a press conference today to tout the bipartisan Jobs Council initiatives included in the House budget that passed earlier this week.  The initiatives echo recommendations from the bipartisan Jobs Council, which is dedicated to creating 160,000 jobs for New Mexico.  Among other things, the House budget calls for a $35 million increase for the closing fund; $1.6 million for tourism advertising; $7.5 million for the Job Training and Incentive Program (JTIP), which covers the cost of hiring and training new workers; a $600,000 increase will go to the New Mexico MainStreet program, which helps revitalize downtowns across the state.

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February 26th, 2015: Local Headlines

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Bataan Elementary School in Deming is celebrating World Down Syndrome this Saturday in observance of World Down Syndrome Day.  The March 21 date marks the 10th anniversary of World Down Syndrome Day. World Down Syndrome is observed every year on this date because what causes Down syndrome is the triplication of the 21st chromosome in the human body. Triplication means three, the third month of the year is March, and the 21st day represents the 21st chromosome.

More than 1,000 additional New Mexico children could receive government-funded child-care assistance if their parents or guardians ask for it.  The state’s Children, Youth and Families Department is clearing a waiting list of 1,119 children, saying it now has the funds to offer assistance for child care.  The move, a temporary fix, comes as the Martinez administration says it is working to improve the quality of child care in New Mexico and beef up resources to investigate child abuse and neglect cases.  But some activists and lawmakers, including Sen. Howie Morales, a Silver City Democrat, think CYFD should use available federal money to permanently increase spending on child-care assistance, eliminating future waiting lists.

In legislative action:

The New Mexico House of Representatives passed job-creating legislation that will raise the minimum age to $8 per hour and give workers the right to choose whether they financially contribute to a union.  The bill is the result of hours of debate and compromise which raises the minimum wage to the third highest in the region.  The legislation will now head to the Senate.

The State Legislature’s Committee on Compacts will be taking public comment Saturday on the proposed new gambling compacts negotiated between Governor Susana Martinez’ office and the Navajo Nation, the Mescalero and Jicarilla Apache tribes and the pueblos of Jemez and Acoma. The proposed agreement would increase the casinos hours of operations on weekdays. The proposed compacts would also give casinos more flexibility in offering complimentary food and lodging. The compacts have several government hurdles to clear before the end of June, including approval by the U-S Interior Department.

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February 25th, 2015: Local Headlines

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According to CEO Brian Cunningham, “On March 2nd, GRMC will open a Family Practice Partnership.  This will support our physicians and our community.”  GRMC already operates practices in psychology, cardiology, pain management, and surgery.  Adding the Family Practice will provide residents with more quality health care options.

In legislative action:

An Albuquerque State Senator introduced a bill that seeks to save taxpayers money while at the same time encouraging family bonding and supporting the needs of newborns.  The measures seeks to maximize the health and bonding benefits for children of incarcerated women.  The Senate Public Affairs Committee last week approved a substitute for the bill that now moves on to the Senate Judiciary panel.

The New Mexico House of Representatives has approved a $6.2 billion spending proposal for the next fiscal year that includes pay raises for new teachers and state police officers.  The House voted 42-25 Tuesday after three hours of debate. Five Democrats sided with 37 Republicans in the majority. The bill now moves to the Senate.  While most department budgets remain largely flat, the bill boosts spending for education, the state’s child welfare agency and tourism.  The amount of spending in the bill is nearly the same as that outlined by Gov. Susana Martinez and the Legislative Finance Committee earlier this year.

Today, during a Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s fiscal year 2016 budget request, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) advocated for the continuation of forest restoration projects at the Valles Caldera National Preserve in northern New Mexico to help reduce the risk of catastrophic fire.  Senator Heinrich joined Senator Tom Udall in championing legislation that was signed into law last year to transfer the management of the Valles Caldera National Preserve from the current Board of Trustees to the National Park Service to increase public access. The proposal was developed after extensive input from local residents, sportsmen, veterans organizations, business owners, and elected officials.

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February 23rd, 2015: Local Headlines

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The Marine Corps League Gaffney-Oglesby Detachment 1328 honored three local veterans who took part in the Battle of Iwo Jima 70 years ago.  The three marines who were honored were Curtis Maxwell, Felipe Ortego, and Gene Lewis.  Representatives from Congressman Steve Pearce and Senator Martin Heinrich’s offices were at the luncheon, and were among the speakers who honored the three Marines.  Each Marine was also presented with a proclamation from the New Mexico Department of Veterans Services and a photo of the Iwo Jima Memorial, taken at night by Marine Larry Himes.

The La Plata Middle School Science Olympiad Team attended the state tournament in Socorro over the weekend, and returned with the following awards: 10th place Bio-Process Lab, 7th Place Green Generation, 4th Place Entomology, 4th Place Crime Busters, 4th Place Bridge Building, 3rd Place Fossils, 3rd Place, Road Scholar, and 1st Place Wheeled Vehicle.  Congratulations to all of the participants who competed in the Science Olympiad.

A small, human-caused fire burned a quarter of an acre about one mile north of Bear Creek Cabins in Pinos Altos last week.  The fire was the first of the year of what could be an early fire season.  While it’s earlier than usual, significant fires can pop up before the common fire season on May, June and July.  Though it is too soon to tell, officials suggest that, thanks to good rains and grass growth last summer, in addition to the fact that snow is melting and winds are picking up, conditions look ripe for an early season.

In legislative action:

Legislation that makes it illegal for minors to buy e-cigarettes passed the House floor by a unanimous 52-0 vote.  Currently, state law does not prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, while 39 other states do.  This legislation will prevent minors anywhere in New Mexico from buying e-cigarettes.  The bill will now move to consideration in the Senate.

Legislation that will allow industry professionals to teach part time in the classroom without having to go back to college to receive their teaching degree passed the House floor by a 31-21 vote.  To qualify, the professionals will need a bachelor’s degree; three years of documented work experience in the subject field; a passing score on the appropriate teacher license assessment; and successful completion of a pedagogy class.  They will also be subject to an evaluation process and, if rate ineffective, they will lose their certificate.

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February 20th, 2015: Local Headlines

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The US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture announce the availability of more than $160 million in funding for research, education, and extension projects that address key challenges affecting US agriculture production.  The Initiative was created to find innovative solutions to challenges faced in society; including hunger and food security, health, climate, food safety, and bioenergy.  See available applications and application deadlines at www.nifa.usda.gov.

The Silver City Town Council passed a notice of intent ordinance to raise the gross receipts tax by one-fourth of one percent at its Thursday meeting.  According to Assistant Town Manager James Marshall, “the quarter percent would basically bring the town back to revenue neutral, which means we don’t have to cut services, we’re able to maintain our police, fire, library and museum.”

Tanah Lowe of Silver City was recently inducted as a 2015 4-H diplomat during the annual 4-H Senior Leadership Retreat in Albuquerque.  Diplomat responsibilities include assisting with livestock shows at the State Fair, planning and conducting the senior leadership retreat, and assisting with the State 4-H conference.

VFW Post 3347 in Arenas Valley named Elieen Piercy, a third-grade teacher at Jose Barrios Elementary School as the 1st place winner of the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizen Education Award.  The post said the community needs to honor those teachers who are deeply concerned about America and its children. The teachers concerned about the perpetuation of America’s noblest traditions and highest ideals. Prime candidates for this award are teachers who teach citizenship education topics regularly, and who promote America’s history and traditions effectively, along with civic responsibility, flag etiquette, and patriotism.

In legislative action:

Legislation that would significantly reduce workers’ compensation in cases when the employee’s death or injury is the result of being drunk or high on the job passed the House floor by a bi-partisan vote of 64-2.

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February 19th, 2014: Local Headlines

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The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture today announced the availability of $9 million in funding to assist low-income individuals and communities in developing local and independent food systems through the Community Food Projects Program.  Community Food Projects involve the entire food system. Projects assess strengths and establish connections among existing food systems, resulting in improved food systems that support self-reliance.  Grants are intended to help eligible, private, nonprofit entities in need of a one-time installment of federal assistance to establish and carry out multipurpose community food projects. Projects are funded from $10,000 to $300,000 and up to 36 months. All grants require a dollar-for-dollar match in resources.

Nominations are now being accepted for the first annual Governor’s Environmental Awards. The new program is a cooperative effort of the New Mexico Environment Department, Energy Minerals, and Natural Resources Department, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Office of the State Engineer, and Office of the Governor.  The purpose of the program is to support, recognize, and celebrate the hard work of those New Mexicans dedicated to restoring and protecting the natural heritage and environmental health of our state. Successful candidates will have demonstrated commitment, collaboration, and innovation through projects resulting in measurable environmental benefits for the state of New Mexico.

In legislative news:

Legislation that would increase the punishment for making any attempt to offer or hire a child for sex has passed the House floor by a unanimous 64-0 vote.  With this bill, anyone convicted of sexual exploitation of a child under the age of 13 will face a first degree felony instead of a second-degree felony as it is under current law. If the victim is between the ages of 14 and 16, then it is a second-degree felony.

Legislation that would require child-proof packaging for all nicotine liquid products used in e-cigarettes passed the House floor on Wednesday by a unanimous vote of 66-0.  This bill will help protect New Mexico’s children from accidentally ingesting and overdosing on nicotine.  To enforce these new rules, the Attorney General will have the ability to pursue a civil action, and a fine of up to $1,000 for failing to comply.

Other bills currently in the works include a bill that would help law enforcement officers injured in the line of duty, a bill that would improve the process for kids in foster care, and a bill that would have offenders convicted of three violent crimes facing mandatory life sentences.

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February 18th, 2015: Local Headlines

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The USDA’s Farm Service Agency reminds producers of upcoming important deadlines for the new safety-net programs established by the 2014 Farm Bill.  The final day to update yield history or reallocate base acres is February 27, 2015, and the final day for farm owners and producers to choose coverage is March 31, 2015.

Gila Regional Medical Center, through continuous assessment and monitoring of services provided to the community, has made the decision to return the Air Ambulance First Right of Refusal Agreement to Air Methods/Native Air.  According to CEO Brian Cunningham, “quality and safety are of utmost importance to (GRMC).  We continuously monitor key activities with all of our major vendors and we will make changes whenever necessary.”  Both TriState and Native Air provide services to the area, so the transition will be seamless as far as the community and patients are concerned.

Work on the Hudson Street Bridge is scheduled to begin the week of April 1, 2015 with surveying, placement of traffic control, and relocation of utilities.  By the second week of April, message boards for detours will shift traffic to the County Truck Bypass Road so the contractor can begin demolition of the existing bridge.  The new bridge is scheduled to be opened to traffic by mid-January of 2016.

In legislative action:

On Monday, the New Mexico House passed House Bill 121, which provides funding for nurses who want to pursue higher degrees and teach nursing at schools in rural New Mexico.  This legislation could increase the number of nurses across the state and increase access to healthcare in rural areas.  Another bill that passed the House cracks down on welfare fraud by toughening penalties for those who sell food stamps and EBT cards.

Yesterday, every female lawmaker in the New Mexico House signed onto a bill that cracks down on domestic violence by giving police officers leeway to arrest the offender within 24 hours.  Under current law, someone who commits domestic violence can flee the scene, and an officer is required to obtain a warrant before arresting the suspect.  If the legislation becomes law, police officers will have 24 hours to arrest the offender without having to obtain a warrant.

The House also passed a bill allowing the state’s best teachers to advance through the ranks faster.  “Highly effective” or “exemplary” teachers would progress through the three-tier system in just four years and be able to earn a minimum of $50,000 per year instead of having to wait six years or more as they do under the current law.  The bill will now head to the Senate.

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February 17th, 2015: Local Headlines

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As a reminder, there will be a public meeting to discuss the Highway 90 Bridge Project tonight at 6 pm at the Grant County Convention Center.  Residents of Grant County wanting information about this project and plans for traffic diversion should attend this meeting.  The re-routing of traffic will have a direct affect on downtown Silver City residents and businesses.

Five new board members were elected to serve at the Thursday meeting of the Grant County Community Foundation.  Joining the nine current members are Deborah Frasca of Life Quest, Priscilla Lucero of the Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments, Sandra Riva of International Transactions, Susie Trujillo of the Grant County Health Council, and Justin Wecks – Operations Specialist at Gila Regional Medical Center.

The Deming Headlight office suffered a break-in Saturday evening at the downtown Maple Street address.  The night crew of carriers and Headlight Circulation Manager discovered the west cargo bay had been partially opened and what appeared to be ashes from the newspaper were scattered around the building.  A suspected arson started small fires around the back shop.

In legislative action:

The House passed a bill that will streamline the New Mexico teacher licensing process, making it easier for quality teachers to become school administrators much faster.  The bill, which passed by a bipartisan vote, would allow quality educators to secure an administrative license in a shorter period of time.  This legislation will allow Level-Two teachers who complete a Public Education Department-approved preparation program the ability to seek an administrative position.  The current six-year licensing process – the longest in the nation — discourages quality teachers from becoming school administrators or even staying in the profession.

The Senate Education committee unanimously passed a bill intended to keep students in school or risk losing their drivers’ licenses if they exceed 10 unexcused absences.  The Senate’s Education Panel approved a substitute for Senate Bill 85 after the Committee added a clause that allows for hardship exemptions.  The state of Georgia, after passing similar legislation, has seen huge drops in truancy rates as well as a major boost in graduation numbers.

New Mexico lawmakers are seeking compensation for families affected by the July 16, 1945 atomic bomb explosion that happened in the New Mexico desert.  Everyone downwind of the blast site paid a heavy price.  Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich introduced a bill this month to get New Mexico residents their fair share of compensation.  The bill would allow anyone who can prove that they were impacted downwind of an actual above-ground explosion to apply to be compensated.

Don’t forget to head out to the Grant County Convention Center tonight at 6 pm for the Highway 90 Bridge Project meeting.

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