Feb. 13 First News: House Approves Repeal of Immigrant Driver License Law (Listen)

Feb 13, 2015

The New Mexico House of Representatives voted 39-29 Thursday to repeal a state law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. Albuquerque Republican Representative Paul Pacheco repeatedly spoke to what he said was the need for the repeal. *****021315-Pacheco-1 :09***** Pacheco denied his measure was anti-immigrant, although not everyone was convinced. Bill opponent and Democratic Representative Antonio ‘Moe“ Maestas: *****021315-Maestas-1 :11***** The vote was largely along party lines. An effort by Santa Fe House Minority Leader Brian Egolf to approve a substitute that would have created a two-tiered system for driver’s licenses, as some other states have done was also defeated. The repeal effort has been a priority of Governor Susana Martinez since she was first elected Governor. The bill now moves to the Senate, where Democrats hold the majority and the chamber’s leadership has vowed to defeat it.

Has New Mexico’s Taxation and Revenue Department been discriminating against immigrants who use Internal Revenue Service-issued identification numbers rather than social security numbers? It appears a judge will make that determination. Santa Fe-based Somos Un Pueblo Unido and the Texas-based Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, or “MALDEF” on Thursday filed lawsuits making such allegations. Specifically, the suits charge that the state’s tax agency and its Secretary Demesia Padilla have been denying tax refunds to thousands of immigrants who use their individual tax identification numbers—or ITINs—issued by the IRS to file their New Mexico tax returns. Somos Director Marcela Diaz accuses the tax agency and the Martinez administration of creating hardships for immigrants. *****021315-Diaz-3 :24***** For its part, MALDEF attorney Marisa Bono charges the agency has purposely victimized immigrants. *****021315-Bono-3 :29***** Padilla responded calling the lawsuits a “bogus political charade.” Padilla said, quote, “They’re asking us to turn a blind eye when illegal immigrants seek tax refunds using tax returns that have fraudulent social security numbers.  That’s ridiculous.”

If a bill introduced by Republican Senator Sue Wilson Beffort becomes law, heart defibrillators would likely be more widely available. Wilson-Beffort of Sandia Park says currently, businesses don’t place the life-saving devices in their shops out of fear of being sued. Her bill would change that. *****021315-SWB-2 :28***** Wilson Beffort said  that 400-thousand people suffer an out of hospital cardiac arrest every year in the United States.  The survival from such an incident in most cities across the country is less than 10-percent. However, she says in cities like Seattle where there is widespread placement of defibrillators, survival is more than 50-percent. 

A majority of the Santa Fe City Council's members are proposing a new citywide ban on the sale of small bottles of liquor called miniatures. The New Mexican reports that the draft ordinance is intended to combat litter and that the council members' support indicates that it has enough backing to become law. It would prohibit the sale of single-serving containers of alcoholic beverages in sizes of eight ounces or less but exempt packages of four or more. The proposal is tentatively scheduled for a council vote next month.

Santa Fe is again considering the idea of requiring stores to charge shoppers 10 cents for paper bags. The city initially considered requiring a fee for paper bags as part of a 2013 ordinance that generally prohibits stores from providing single-use plastic bags. The proposed fee for paper bags was intended to help promote use of reusable bags, but it was removed from the ordinance because it was considered an illegal tax. The idea has been revived because officials say not enough shoppers are using reusable bags. City Attorney Kelly Brennan said the current proposal for a fee for paper bags would be permitted because merchants would get a portion of the money to recover their costs. City Council committees are expected to consider the proposal in March.

Scientists warn the Southwest and Central Plains could face "megadroughts" during the second half of this century. And they could last for decades. The scientists write in a study in the journal Science Advances that global warming will lead to "unprecedented drought conditions" -- the worst in more than 1,000 years. The study is based on current increasing rates of rising emissions of carbon dioxide and complex simulations run by 17 different computer models, which generally agreed on the outcome. The Southwest will see less rain. But the biggest problem in both regions will be the heat, which will increase evaporation and dry out the soil. The lead author is NASA atmospheric scientist Benjamin Cook, who says, "We're going to have to think about a much drier future in western North America."

Santa Fe Weather: Sunny skies through Saturday…today’s high, 58 warming to 60 tomorrow. Tonight, expect mostly clear skies with the overnight low, 36.