Shutdown hurting workers outside government

Federal employees and contractors aren’t the the only ones suffering because of the government’s nearly monthlong partial shutdown. A local construction company with an $8.4 million contract to build two new hangars for private aviation companies at the Santa Fe airport is unable to begin work on the project because it needs approval from the Federal Aviation Administration — whose employees are furloughed because of the budget impasse in Congress. “It’s a design-and-build project,” said Peter Brill, president of Sarcon Construction, referring to the work his company has done on the architectural and engineering side. “We’ve been on this for about nine months, getting construction documents ready.” But the company hasn’t been able to break ground because the FAA approval has been held up by the shutdown.

Nuclear weapons contractors repeatedly violate shipping rules for dangerous materials

Plutonium capable of being used in a nuclear weapon, conventional explosives, and highly toxic chemicals have been improperly packaged or shipped by nuclear weapons contractors at least 25 times in the past five years, according to government documents. While the materials were not ultimately lost, the documents reveal repeated instances in which hazardous substances vital to making nuclear bombs and their components were mislabeled before shipment. That means those transporting and receiving them were not warned of the safety risks and did not take required precautions to protect themselves or the public, the reports say. The risks were discovered after regulators conducted inspections during transit, when the packages were opened at their destinations, during scientific analysis after the items were removed from packaging, or — in the worst cases — after releases of radioactive contaminants by unwary recipients, the Center for Public Integrity’s investigation showed. Only a few, slight penalties appear to have been imposed for these mistakes.

Legislators start the conversation on drones

New Mexico legislators are joining the conversation on drones and discussing the devices’ role in the state. The interim Science, Technology & Telecommunications Committee heard a presentation on Monday about the use of drones in New Mexico. Present at the meeting was Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park. McCamley, a supporter of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs, told New Mexico Political Report that he would like to see more legislation that outlines how and when drones can be used for personal use. Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration prohibits the commercial use of drones without an FAA approved pilot’s license.

Did NM come out ahead? Google pays $1 million as it leaves

After announcing last week that it is moving a Moriarty-based subsidiary to California, Google will pay back New Mexico $1 million for funds that went toward building infrastructure. “Though our Titan team is transitioning to the Bay Area, we entered into an agreement with the City and State in good faith,” Google government affairs manager Angie Wellings wrote in a statement to New Mexico Political Report. “We hope this payment allows the community to better position itself for the next wave of investments in Moriarty and in New Mexico.” The move comes nearly one year after the state Economic Development Department announced it was spending $1 million on infrastructure for a building for Titan Aerospace, the solar-powered drone manufacturer that Google bought in 2014. At the time, Gov. Susana Martinez announced that the investments would create between 200 to 300 new jobs.