- ETHICS COMMISSION-NEW MEXICO
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's new Ethics Commission says it has received no complaints so far involving lawmakers or state officials. Agency Executive Director Jeremy Farris says the lack of complaints is probably a result of the agency's website still being new and because commissioners only have jurisdiction over cases after July 1, 2019. Farris says requirements that complaints get notarized also may be discouraging people from coming forward. Commissioner Garrey Carruthers says he hopes state lawmakers later modify the state ethics law to drop the notarization requirements. Voters overwhelmingly approved the creation of the commission in 2018 in the wake of a series of high profile corruption scandals involving public officials.
- NEW MEXICO GUN LAWS
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico state Senate opened debate Friday on a red-flag gun bill that has been propelled by concerns about the 2019 mass shooting in nearby El Paso, Texas, and suicide prevention efforts. The bill as currently written would allow law enforcement officers to petition a state district court to order the temporary surrender of firearms. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham supports new tools for law enforcement to prevent gun violence. Rural sheriffs oppose the Democrat-sponsored legislation, arguing that officers can already intervene in the event of mental health crisis and detain people for their own safety or a danger to others.
- FAIR PAY LAWSUIT-SETTLEMENT
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Department of Corrections has paid its cabinet secretary $195,000 to settle a civil lawsuit alleging she was paid less than a male counterpart because she is a woman. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Thursday that Alisha Tafoya Lucero filed the lawsuit in 2013 when she was deputy warden at a state penitentiary, claiming she was paid $29 an hour while a male colleague in a similar job was paid $39 an hour. Officials say this is one of three lawsuits over violations of the Fair Pay for Women Act that the Court of Appeals ruled in 2018 applies to government employees.
- REFINERY CANCER CHEMICALS
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A report has revealed that an oil refinery in southeast New Mexico is one of 10 facilities in the country releasing high levels of the cancer-causing chemical benzene. The Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday that the HollyFrontier Navajo oil refinery in Artesia is emitting benzene levels four times the Environmental Protection Agency's action level, but is not violating federal law. Officials say that more than 3,000 people live within a mile of the refinery. Benzene is found in crude oil and used to manufacture plastics and pesticides. Federal health officials say prolonged exposure to the chemical can damage bone marrow, decrease red blood cells and lead to cancer.
- CHILE WARS
LEMITAR, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Chile Association wants local chili pepper farmers to become state-certified amid more competition from foreign growers. Association president Glen Duggins told KOAT-TV in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this week farmers are seeing more foreign imports from as far as China or India. He says some of the imported chili peppers are sold under the New Mexico name. Meanwhile, Duggins says state farmers are moving to other more profitable crops. State officials are pressuring local farmers to get their peppers the "Certified New Mexico Chile" label by the New Mexico Chile Association. There are only five large farms that are certified out of about 20 across New Mexico.
PHOENIX (AP) — A Scottsdale man and his mother have been indicted for alleged wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Federal prosecutors say 52-year-old Frank Capri and 68-year-old Debbie Corvo of Cave Creek are accused of orchestrating the collapse of two county music branded restaurant chains in Arizona and across the country. Court documents show Capri was arrested Wednesday and later arraigned in U.S. District Court in Phoenix. He entered a plea of not guilty. According to the Arizona Republic, Capri's company built 20 Toby Keith's I Love This Bar and Grill restaurants beginning in 2009. The newspaper says 19 restaurants closed in about 18 months, and Capri also was behind the financial ruin of 19 Rascal Flatts restaurant projects.
- EXOTIC ANIMALS-FILMING
BELEN, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico couple is facing charges over accusations they illegally imported exotic animals, including a mountain lion and kangaroo, for film productions. Kip and Chelsey Lewis are facing multiple charges of unlawful importation of a nondomestic live animal after New Mexico Department of Game and Fish agents raided their home in December 2018. According to court documents, Chelsey Lewis altered documents for the animals, and Kip Lewis lied about the locations of the animals. Agents also found in the couple's possession a capuchin monkey, a coyote, a prairie dog, a skunk, an American alligator, and a raccoon. Their attorney, Jason Alarid, did not immediately return a message.
- SACRED LAKE-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Fifty years after President Richard Nixon returned a sacred lake and breathtaking mountain wilderness to Native American control, New Mexico state lawmakers are seeking to preserve the political backstory. Indigenous leaders say the return of Blue Lake to the people of Taos Pueblo in 1970 represented a significant milestone in the 20th century Indian rights movement. Newly proposed state legislation would set aside funds to preserve photos and documents from the struggle by Taos Pueblo leaders to reclaim ancestral lands. It would also fund a documentary film and help create educational programs.