August 14 First News: Santa Fe City Council Okays Boosting Fines For Texting and Driving (Listen)

Aug 14, 2014

Put down that cell phone—Santa Fe City Councilors have unanimously approved doubling the fine for texting and driving—and tripled the fine if you’re busted using your mobile device in a school zone. The stiffer fines—200-dollars and 300 near schools-=- take effect one week from this coming Monday. The fines are far higher than the state’s anti-texting law, which calls for a 25-dollar fine, 50-dollars after the first offense.

Artesia Mayor Phil Burch says federal immigration authorities are seeking an extension on a deadline for providing federally-mandated education to detained immigrant children. Burch told the Artesia News this week that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement needs additional time to choose among educational contractors. Currently, more than 600 women and children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are detained at Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia while they await either deportation or asylum. Federal officials say the center has to provide educational services for the detained children.

Following City Council approval of Mayor Javier Gonzales’ “People to the Plaza” plan in late June, Santa Fe’s downtown has a new look. Eight tables with seating have been placed on Lincoln Avenue, which has been closed for the summer. Gonzales is pleased with the results: *****081414-Gonzales-1 :27***** The plan changed substantially from its initial call to close Old Santa Fe Trail and Palace Avenue. Lincoln will re-open a week after Fiestas and the tables will be placed in storage. City Council will consider the status of the People to the Plaza effort in coming weeks.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gary King proposes using one of New Mexico's endowment funds to provide additional money for public schools and expand early childhood programs. King outlined his educational policies Wednesday, which include supporting a proposed constitutional amendment to increase yearly allocations from the Land Grant Permanent Fund. He also wants to end what he terms "high-stakes" testing that students must pass to graduate. King contends that expanding early childhood education can help children succeed in school and in the workforce. King supports a measure introduced in this year's Legislature by Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. Republican Governor Susana Martinez opposes the proposal, which the Legislative Finance Committee estimates would provide nearly 700 million-dollars during its first three years for schools and early childhood programs such as pre-kindergarten.

A state hearing officer says New Mexico should delay making changes to its medical marijuana program. The New Mexican reports that hearing officer Susan Hapka recommends that current rules remain unchanged until an advisory board makes its own recommendations and another public hearing is held.

New Mexico officials have announced the state has opened up a "trade and higher education center" in Mexico City. Officials announced today that the center will be located at the World Trade Center-Mexico and be staffed by two experts in international business development and higher education. Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry says the office is a big step for international trade development in Albuquerque and New Mexico. The center also will work to recruit Mexican undergraduate and graduate students to the University of New Mexico's degree programs. Berry and UNM President Robert Frank will lead an official delegation to Mexico City next week to meet with Mexican officials and inaugurate the office.

Two coalitions of advocacy groups have filed notices that they intend to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its withdrawal of proposed protections for the wolverine. The federal agency reversed course Tuesday and said it does not consider climate change a threat to the long-term survival of the members of the weasel family. Wolverines need deep, late-season snow to den, and wildlife officials last year proposed increased protections to keep the animals from extinction. But Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe says predictions about the localized effects of climate change are uncertain. The notices filed Wednesday by Earthjustice and the Western Environmental Law Center give officials 60 days to reconsider. Earthjustice attorney Adrienne Maxwell says the government is ignoring evidence that warmer temperatures will reduce wolverine habitat.

Santa Fe Weather:  Partly sunny today with a high near 79 with a 40-percent chance for showers and thunderstorms, mainly after noon. Tonight: Mostly cloudy with the low down to 58 and a 30-percent chance for scattered showers and thunderstorms. Tomorrow: Mostly sunny with a 30-percent chance for shows and thunderstorms and the high, 85.