Balderas, other AGs ask DeVos to keep protections for students at for-profit colleges

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas signed onto a letter with ten other attorneys general asking Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to not change change protections for college students from for-profit colleges. The letter lists a number of for-profit colleges that were investigated and sued by attorneys general, many of which have since gone out of business. “I am urging Secretary DeVos and the Congress to protect New Mexico students from the great harm that is inflicted when these corporations put profits over people,” Balderas said in a statement announcing the letter. “I will continue to fight at the state level to protect New Mexicans from abusive practices that can ruin their finances and harm their families, but Secretary DeVos must act at the federal level to ensure federal protections for our students.”

The letter says that many of the for-profit colleges “engaged in a variety of deceptive and abusive practices.” The practices, the letter states, harmed both students and taxpayers. The attorneys general seek “new regulations and reformulating policies to help protect students and taxpayers.”

The letter comes even as the New York Times wrote about how for-profit colleges will likely benefit from those in the Donald Trump administration.

Emergency funding bill for New Mexico courts heads to governor

After weeks of wrangling over emergency funds for New Mexico courts, the Legislature is sending the governor a bill that would provide $1.6 million to cover expenses for the next few months. The House of Representatives on Tuesday concurred with the Senate’s version of House Bill 261, which, if signed by Gov. Susana Martinez, will pay for jury trials and other costs for courts around the state for the rest of the budget year, which ends on June 30. The House initially passed a bill appropriating only $800,000, which would cover the cost of jury trials. However, the Senate doubled that amount to cover the judicial branch’s entire shortfall. House Republican Leader Nate Gentry of Albuquerque, the bill’s sponsor, asked House members to accept the Senate’s changes.

Dems: Popular vote should determine presidential winner

New Mexico’s five electoral college votes would be awarded to the presidential candidate who received the most popular votes nationally, under a bill that state senators approved Monday in a party-line decision. All 26 Democratic senators voted for the measure and all 16 Republicans opposed it, perhaps a predictable outcome three months after Republican Donald Trump lost the popular vote but handily won the presidency in the electoral college. The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, said the electoral college allows presidential candidates to ignore most voters because it largely functions as a winner-take-all system in individual states. “Candidates have no reason to pay attention to states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind,” Stewart said. In addition, she said, minority-party voters in heavily Republican or overwhelmingly Democratic states believe that their votes don’t matter because the electoral college takes precedence over the popular vote.

Around NM: Navajo Generating Station, Gila River plans and climate change in the news

The Navajo Generating Station is on the Navajo Nation near Page, Arizona. But the plant’s closure in 2019, announced last week by Salt River Project, will have implications across the West. The coal-fired power plant is among the region’s largest polluters, contributing to smog at National Parks like the Grand Canyon and emitting 44,000 tons of carbon each day. It also employs nearly 1,000 people, most of whom are from the Navajo Nation or the Hopi Tribe. The Associated Press covered the announcement from SRP and how it might affect local economies and the Kayenta Mine, which is owned by Peabody Energy and has supplied coal to the plant for decades.

ABQ Jewish Community Center again part of wave of bomb threats

For the second time in two months, Albuquerque’s Jewish Community Center was targeted with a bomb threat today. It was one of at least 10 bomb threats to different JCCs across the country. Fred Duran, a spokesman with the Albuquerque Police Department, said the bomb threat to the Albuquerque location “came through the phone.” JCC staff evacuated the building after the threat came, and APD officers found no bomb inside, according to Duran. Everything at the JCC is currently operating “back to normal,” Duran added. Similar bomb threats were directed against JCCs today in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Texas, New York and Alabama, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Mexican gray wolf numbers up from last year

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its annual survey numbers for Mexican Gray Wolves in the Gila National Forest. As of the end of December, there were 113 wolves living in the recovery area, which includes areas in both New Mexico and Arizona. That’s an increase of 16 from the 2015 survey. In a statement, the agency’s southwest regional director Benjamin Tuggle said the goal is to achieve an annual growth rate of 10 percent. According to the survey, there are a total of 21 packs, with at least 50 wolves in New Mexico and 63 in Arizona.

Reported plan to use National Guard to apprehend immigrants included NM

A draft memo from the White House to deploy National Guard troops in certain states to aid in rounding up those in the country illegally. One of those states is New Mexico. At least two spokesmen have denied the report from the Associated Press. The AP first reported on the existence of the draft memo this morning and said that Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly wrote the memo himself. From the AP report:
Four states that border on Mexico are included in the proposal — California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — but it also encompasses seven states contiguous to those four — Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Legislator gets letter telling him to ‘Go back to Mexico’

A Hispanic legislator born in El Paso received an anonymous letter in the mail telling him to “Go back to Mexico.”

State Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, received the letter in the mail Wednesday, after returning from the Roundhouse. The unsigned letter just read, “Go back to Mexico! You do not represent us!”

The Albuquerque Democrat is one of the sponsors of legislation aiming to stop the federal government from building a border wall in New Mexico and has been a harsh critic of rhetoric from President Donald Trump. “I think the president has elevated hateful rhetoric across the country to such a degree that it’s emboldening certain people to come out and say those types of things,” Martínez told NM Political Report, adding that he is not surprised by the letter. Still, he says that recent news on immigration keeps the letter in perspective.

Panel OKs bill to end coyote-killing contests

The state Senate Conservation Committee approved a ban Monday on coyote-killing contests in New Mexico after hearing from advocates, who called the contests barbaric, and opponents, who argued the competitions are a way to reduce coyote killings of livestock. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, and Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, moves next to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Similar legislation was approved in the Senate in 2015 but died in the House. Sen. Pat Woods of Broadview, the top Republican on the Senate Conservation Committee, voted against the legislation, Senate Bill 268. He said he received a call from a rancher in McCalister who reported he had lost 200 lambs since the beginning of the year to coyotes.

Nukes should count as green energy, says state rep

An Eddy County state representative wants to remove three words from the New Mexico Renewable Energy Act. That slight change would classify nuclear energy as a source of renewable energy. Republican state Rep. Cathrynn Brown, an attorney, introduced HB 406, which is scheduled for the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday. The Renewable Energy Act requires public utilities, like PNM and Xcel Energy to provide customers with a certain amount of electricity generated from renewable sources. Currently, renewable sources include solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, certain hydropower facilities and fuel cells that don’t rely on fossil fuels.