August 20 First News: Sen. Heinrich is urging approval of SunZia project route. (listen)

Senator Martin Heinrich is urging the US Department of the Interior to support the 500-mile long SunZia Southwest Transmission Line's route across southern New Mexico as it stands. The Army's White Sands Missile Range has voiced opposition, saying a 45-mile stretch of it will disrupt vital operations there. The SunZia project manager has warned that any re-routing will likely kill the enterprise as it would require new environmental impact studies that would take years to complete. Senator Heinrich says that loss of the project would do great harm to New Mexico's renewable energy market and cost the state tens of thousands of potential jobs. The Bureau of Land Management’s decision on approval of the route is due next month.

It's a sentence of 10 years for the political consultant found guilty of misappropriating millions of dollars in federal funds awarded to New Mexico. Media consultant Armando Gutierrez was hired by former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron back in 2004 to produce a voter education campaign. Receiving some $6 million to work with, he was found guilty of overbilling and paying out kickbacks. Apart from the prison time imposed, Gutierrez has also been ordered to make restitution of some $2.5 million.

The trial has begun regarding a 2011 fistfight at Santa Fe’s Plaza that resulted in a man’s death. 60-year-old Eresmo Baca is facing an aggravated battery charge that could result in a three year prison term. Baca claims he was approached by some men offering some jewelry for sale. One of them, 39-year-old Sebastian Gordon, became belligerent and aggressive. Baca maintains he defended himself, delivering a blow that knocked Gordon to the ground. He later died from the injuries he sustained. The case continues today in state district court.

Today's meeting of the Santa Fe Board of Education is expected to ratify that agreement between the local teachers union and Santa Fe Public Schools providing teachers and some staff with a one-and-half percent pay raise.  One percent of that was made possible by actions by state lawmakers during the legislative session.  The other half-percent comes from more recent local negotiations. Upon formal approval, it will be the highest average salary increase in New Mexico. The Santa Fe Public School district remains one of the state’s lowest funded on a per student basis.

The New Mexico Department of Health has identified a poultry hatchery in Portales as the source of a salmonella outbreak sickening over 300 people in 37 states. 19 cases have been reported here in New Mexico tied to the Privett Hatchery which supplies baby chicks, ducklings, and other live baby poultry to feed stores and mail order customers nationwide. No deaths have been reported but 51 people have required hospitalization.

Members of the public along with family and legislative colleagues will gather at the Roundhouse Rotunda this afternoon for a memorial honoring representative Stephen Easley. The Eldorado resident, a freshman democratic representative for District 50,  died last week at age 60.

Weather for Santa Fe – mostly sunny today with highs near 85 and a 40% chance for late-day showers. Drier tomorrow through the remainder of the workweek with just slight chances for isolated showers.  Overnight lows throughout the period in the upper 50s.