The New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee is recommending a state budget totaling more than six billion dollars. The bi-partisan LFC’s spending plan contains a one-and-a-half percent pay raise for public employees and educators. A spokesman says Governor Martinez opposes that provision, drawing a response from Santa Fe State Representative Lucky Varela: *****0106 Varela-1 :16***** The Governor later today will release her budget recommendations for the legislature to consider during its upcoming session.
The 2014 campaign season for the March fourth Santa Fe Municipal elections heats up after the New Year with candidate forums sponsored by the non-profit Santa Fe Neighborhood Network. Sherry Johansen is the neighborhood network’s president: *****Dec. 30 Johansen-2 :13***** Johansen says all three forums will take place at Christus-St. Vincent Hospital’s conference room from 7:30 ‘til 9:30pm. The format consists of candidate remarks followed by a question and answer session.
Santa Fe City Officials this week wrapped up a months-long process of identifying issues to prioritize during the upcoming New Mexico 2014 Legislative Session. City Councilor Peter Ives:
*****Dec. 27 Ives-1 :13***** Ives says the legislative priorities for 2014 are: Changes to the hold-harmless gross receipts tax issue; Funding to expand the Santa Fe Airport Terminal; Funding for the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion—or LEAD—Program; and city water priorities.
The New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously affirmed on Thursday the right of same-sex partners to marry, reasoning that the “protections and responsibilities that result from the marital relationship shall apply equally” to them and to opposite-sex couples. With the ruling, which takes effect immediately, New Mexico becomes one of 17 states and the District of Columbia to permit same-sex marriage.
Santa Fe Police say a crash involving a wrong-way driver on I-25 near the St. Francis Drive exit sent four people, including the errant driver, to the hospital. Law enforcement officials suspect drunk-driving in the crash that occurred just before eight-pm. Santa Fe police say the driver was a 52-year-old local man whose Dodge Stratus crashed into a truck carrying three people – two men and a woman. All four were taken to the hospital, where one is listed in critical condition and another’s in serious condition. The Dodge driver was headed south in the northbound lanes.
An ethics complaint charging Santa Fe City Councilor and Mayoral Candidate Patti Bushee with violating the city’s public finance code has been rejected. Reports says the City’s Ethics and Campaign Review Board voted 4-0 to dismiss the charges that emanated over the summer over a private check Bushee wrote to her former campaign manager. Bushee has since qualified for public campaign financing. The City ethics panel found no violations.
The Santa Fe School District is one of 31 finalists selected for a federal education department grant worth a portion of 120 million-dollars. The Albuquerque Journal reports SFPS is still in the running for a 10 million dollar “Race to the Top” grant. Meantime, Albuquerque Public Schools didn’t make the final cut for a 25 million dollar grant for which it applied. School districts and states do not compete against one another for the grant money. The U-S Department of Education will announce between five and ten winners later this month.
A report from the Legislative Finance Committee criticizes New Mexico’s termination of behavioral health providers resulting from findings in an as-yet unreleased audit of providers receiving Medicaid funding through the Human Services Department. The LFC report released this week says patients suffered as a result of the changes. Citing law enforcement considerations, two judges recently refused in separate cases to order release of the audit, meaning providers weren't told of specific allegations or given a chance to rebut them before funding was cut off.
When Santa Fe voters go to the polls on March fourth, they will decide on nine separate city charter amendments, including two proposals that would make the mayor’s job a full-time post with more authority and a 74-thousand dollar annual salary. City Councilors originally proposed sixteen separate amendments, but combined eight of them into one, all dealing with mayoral power. Councilors on Wednesday also unanimously approved a resolution requesting the state environment department to not permit a permanent nuclear waste dump at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Area G.