April 20 First News: City To Cut Dozens Of Temp Workers

Apr 20, 2016

The city of Santa Fe is ending employment for dozens of workers hired as temporary employees as it finalizes its budget for the next fiscal year that starts in July.  The Santa Fe New Mexican reports City Manager Brian Snyder told a reporter that the 54 layoffs are not a budget-balancing measure, but an effort to follow best practices.  Some of the people hired on a temporary basis have actually been working well beyond their terms, some even for years, across all departments.  The New Mexican says their pay ranges from almost $11 to $40 per hour.  The city has been struggling to make budget cuts as it faces a possible deficit of up to $18-million.  Administrators have cut back some programs and will charge the water division a franchise fee, among other measures, but it still needs to cut operational costs by $5.7-million.  City finance chief Oscar Rodriguez has said a hiring freeze and job cuts by attrition will help close the gap.

Even though Governor Susana Martinez has pulled out of a planned speech at North Carolina’s state Republican Convention next month because of what staff calls a scheduling conflict, both her office and North Carolina officials say she plans to campaign with Governor Pat McCrory as he runs for re-election later this year. That’s according to today’s Santa Fe New Mexican. McCrory has faced fierce criticism after signing a law that makes it illegal for transgender people to use restrooms they identify with, rather than the gender listed on their birth certificates.  Since then companies have cancelled plans to relocate to North Carolina, and musicians have cancelled concerts.  Santa Fe’s mayor has banned taxpayer-funded travel to that state.

Intel Corporation is cutting thousands of jobs from its global operations, according to the Albuquerque Journal, although the paper says it’s not clear how Intel’s Rio Rancho plant will be affected. That facility has shrunk by 42 percent over the last three years, according to the Journal, leaving 1900 working at its sprawling facility northwest of Albuquerque.  The company says it wants to direct more resources to developing its market for mobile, data service and cloud-based technology, according to the Journal.  Intel says it will notify employees of layoffs in the next two months, and the reorg will be complete by next year.  Over the years Intel has received millions of dollars in tax credits from the State of New Mexico.

Gov. Susana Martinez on Tuesday announced a program that will use citizen watchdogs to monitor court hearings by state judges who are routinely lenient in drunken driving cases. She says social media feeds will soon be able to tell if drunken driving offenders are let off too easy.  Staffers with Mothers Against Drunk Driving will serve as monitors.  They'll send details about lenient sentences to state officials, who will identify repeat offenders and the judges in tweets or Facebook posts.  Martinez says the program aims to show the failure to crack down on those convicted of multiple DUI violations.  It comes as police departments from New England to the Southwest have taken to social media in recent years to post booking photos of suspects.

Governor Martinez is expressing fundamental differences with presidential candidate Donald Trump on his proposal to build a bigger wall along the southern U.S. border and make Mexico pay for it.  Martinez told the Associated Press on Tuesday that building fences can impact the U.S. economy and relationship with trading partners in Mexico and farther south.  The chairwoman of the Republican Governors Association confirmed comments made behind closed doors as she traveled last week to a Republican gala in New York City attended by Trump, and a Republican Governors Association fundraiser in Florida.  Martinez is frequently mentioned as a potential vice presidential pick. She says she understands the need for a secure border as a former prosecutor who has lived near the border for some 50 years.

Two Las Cruces residents accused of possessing a pound of methamphetamine have pleaded guilty to a drug charge.  David S. Thompson, 29, and Marlene C. Sandoval, 38, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a charge of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine.  Authorities say the drug was discovered after the vehicle Thompson and Sandoval were in was pulled over for speeding in Dona Ana County.  The methamphetamine was found in a shoe inside the vehicle.

New Mexico's board of nursing is investigating a complaint that a Planned Parenthood nurse prescribed an abortion drug in violation of state law.  The Albuquerque Journal reports the complaint says the nurse practitioner who prescribed the abortion medication violated the law that stipulates licensed physicians alone can perform abortions.  Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Whitney Phillips said in a written statement that nurse practitioners are not performing surgical abortions.  Her statement references a 2007 lawsuit ruling that said nurse practitioners who prescribe the abortion drug mifepristone do not violate the state criminal abortion law.  Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved new labeling guidelines for mifepristone that gave women 70 days from the start of their last period to begin the medication.  The previous timeline was 49 days.  A drug task force in southwestern New Mexico is facing scrutiny over the handling and storing of evidence by law enforcement officers.

The Silver City Sun-News reports that Sixth Judicial District Attorney Francesca Estevez says she is aware of possible irregularities surrounding the federally-funded Region VII High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Task Force.  Estevez says officials have been told of allegations of lack of internal controls and a lack of policies or procedures involving evidence.  Officials say some cases involved missing incident reports.  The Region VII Drug Task Force is made up of local law enforcement officers assigned to investigate and prosecute drug trafficking in Grant, Hidalgo and Luna Counties.

Royalty owners and drillers who are tired of layoffs and losses resulting from depressed energy prices in the nation's most prolific oil-producing area are embarking on a grass-roots campaign aimed at salvaging a major sector of the U.S. economy.  Their target: foreign oil imports.  The effort launched with forums this week in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico, home to the Permian Basin.  Supporters are pushing for the next president of the United States to issue a proclamation setting quotas for imports — something that hasn't been done in more than four decades.  Oil fell in the past two years from above $100 a barrel to touch 12-year lows under $30 a barrel earlier this year. Quota supporters blame Middle East producers for flooding the market and fueling the price war. 

In national news:

Tennessee lawmakers are scheduled to vote Wednesday on an effort to override Gov. Bill Haslam's veto of a bill seeking to make the Bible the state's official book.  The Republican governor last week turned back the bill over constitutional concerns and because of concerns the measure "trivializes" what he considers a sacred text.  Sponsors argued that the measure seeks to honor the economic and historical impact of the Bible in Tennessee history, rather than a state endorsement of religion.  But opponents say it diminishes the significance of the Bible to place it alongside other state symbols like the official salamander, reptile or rock.  It only takes majorities in both chambers to override a governor's veto in Tennessee. The Legislature is expected to adjourn for the year later today.