June 10 First News: Los Alamos Security Workers Ratify New Five-Year Contract (Listen)
Security workers who protect Los Alamos National Laboratory have ratified a new five-year contract. Union officials announced Tuesday that the deal was reached after both sides compromised and union workers got a no-lockout pledge from security contractor SOC-Los Alamos. International Guards Union of America Local 69 negotiators walked out of talks last month, accusing SOC-Los Alamos of negotiating in bad faith. But the talks that began in January got back on track. Union agent Chris Mandril says guards will begin immediately paying 15 percent of their health insurance premiums. In return, they'll receive a 10 percent match for their 401(k) contributions starting next year. Mandril says the 401(k) match was an important retirement benefit that puts Los Alamos guards on par with security workers at other federal nuclear facilities.
Former Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella, who was convicted earlier this year in in a road rage case, is no longer a peace officer in New Mexico. The New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy Board voted Tuesday to revoke Rodella’s officer certification. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas told reporters Rodella's conviction was an embarrassment. He was sentenced in January to ten years in federal prison for abusing a driver in a bizarre, off-duty traffic stop that prosecutors described as a fit of road rage. He also was ordered to pay a 200-thousand dollar fine and more than ten-thousand in restitution. The former lawman was elected sheriff in 2010, despite having been ousted as a magistrate judge by the state Supreme Court two years earlier for misconduct.
Gambling compacts negotiated by the state and a handful of American Indian tribes have cleared their final hurdle. The U.S. Interior Department reviewed the compacts but took no action. Under federal law, the agreements are considered approved by the agency as long as they're consistent with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, Kevin Washburn, spelled out some concerns the department had with the compacts in a four-page letter sent Tuesday to Governor Susana Martinez and tribal leaders. Washburn pointed to an apparent increase in revenue sharing rates for some tribes, but he acknowledged that the agreements had the support of the tribes. Under the compacts, the Navajo Nation, Jicarilla and Mescalero Apache nations and three pueblos can operate casinos for another two decades.
Despite a wet spring over much of the nation, the Obama administration is warning of potentially catastrophic wildfires this summer, especially in the Southwest and Northwest. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell discussed wildfire threats and fire outlook Tuesday in Denver. Jewell says drought and climate change are increasing wildfire danger. Federal fire managers say heavy precipitation in May reduced the likelihood of wildfires this month across much of the nation, but the danger will increase from July through September. The Agriculture and Interior departments say federal firefighting costs are expected to range between one-billion and two-billion dollars.. The high end would exceed their combined firefighting budget of just under one-and-a-half billion. If that happens, they would have to transfer money from programs meant to reduce long-term fire danger.
The National Weather Service says heavy rain is possible in central and western parts of the state as the remnants of Hurricane Blanca move east. The weather service on Tuesday afternoon issued a flash flood watch for much of northwest New Mexico but warned that heavy rain in other areas also could trigger flooding. Mountainous areas of northern and western New Mexico will see the most rain with as much as two inches possible. Between a half-inch and one inch of rain is expected to fall north and west of Albuquerque through Wednesday evening. Lingering showers are possible after that.
Santa Fe Weather: Santa Fe Weather: Mostly cloudy today with the high near 80 with a 30-percent chance for scattered showers and thunderstorms. Tonight: Expect mostly cloudy skies with a 20-percent chance for showers and thunderstorms, the overnight low, 57. Tomorrow: Mostly sunny, the high 80 and a continued 20-percent chance for precipitation.