Sheriffs oppose proposed red flag gun legislation
SANTA FE — Sheriffs across much of the state are opposed to a proposal from Democratic lawmakers that would allow police or relatives to ask a court to temporarily take away guns from people who might hurt themselves or others, a New Mexico Sheriffs' Association official said.
Sierra County Sheriff Glenn Hamilton, a legislative liaison for the group, said Jan. 8 that members want to ensure gun owners keep their due process protections. He said no compromise was reached so far with lawmakers on the so-called red flag legislation.
Opposition from elected law enforcement officials may portend a repeat of last year's caustic debates about gun control at the Statehouse, where the annual 30-day legislative session begins Jan. 21. Gun control proposals in 2019 spawned a Second Amendment sanctuary movement in mainly rural areas of New Mexico, where sheriffs presented resolutions to their county commissions saying they would not be required to enforce the new laws.
Hamilton said sheriffs are concerned that red flag laws would be ineffective and produce unintended consequences by undermining constitutional protections.
Seventeen states, including Colorado and the District of Columbia, have some sort of red flag law, with most enacting them starting in 2018, gun control groups said.
Supporters of red flag laws say they reduce gun violence, including suicides, and lessen the risk of mass shootings. Gun rights supporters contend they violate not only the right to own firearms but other constitutional guarantees, including the rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham threw her political weight behind efforts to enact red flag gun provisions this year.
Marijuana farms may be straining water supplies
ALBUQUERQUE — More medical marijuana plants are being grown in New Mexico than ever, and the crop could be straining local water supplies.
Two rural water systems in Sandoval County say the crop may be depleting local water supplies, and they say they have been left powerless to stop it, the Albuquerque Journal reports.
The Peña Blanca Water and Sanitation District and Sile Mutual Domestic Water and Sewer Association sent a letter last month to state agencies and legislators describing their concerns over their disappearing water resources.
The groups are asking that all producers applying for a medical cannabis license prove a valid water right for commercial agriculture with the Office of the State Engineer.
The Sile water system serves 154 people west of the Rio Grande between Cochiti and Kewa pueblos. The Peña Blanca system is responsible for delivering water to 448 people on the east side of the river between the same pueblos.
An average household in the Peña Blanca system uses about 3,000 gallons of water a month, president John Gurule said.
A cannabis farm with greenhouses in Peña Blanca that began operating last year is logging 20,000 gallons of domestic water use per month.
New Mexico legalized medical cannabis in 2007. Domestic well water may not be used for agriculture in the state. Farmers must irrigate cannabis or other crops with another water source by acquiring a valid water right.
Nebraska town's grim choice: can it pick up and move?
WINSLOW — It took only minutes for the icy Elkhorn River to surge over a levee and engulf tiny Winslow, but months after the floodwaters receded, the village finds itself struggling to decide its future — or if it has a future.
Will it be reborn atop a nearby hill, or will the town stay put, living under a dark cloud?
This town of about 100 residents is one of a growing number that may face the choice of moving or dying as climate change worsens flood risks, leaving people who have lived for years through nature's extremes to accept that their hometowns may no longer be habitable where they are.
Since the creation of a buyout program in 1989, federal and local governments have poured more than $5 billion into buying tens of thousands of properties threatened by persistent flooding to avoid the need for frequent rebuilding.
Many residents have agreed to move to other places, but still rare is the relocation of entire towns.
Winslow residents must raise their homes, leave or restart the town at a site a few miles away and 100 feet higher with government financial help.
Local leaders found land about 3 miles away on a hilltop and negotiated a price. The town’s mayor hopes to have the purchase finalized by February so crews can begin putting in infrastructure, initially along a single street. Houses would be built or moved in, starting as soon as late next year.
About 25 households — or half of Winslow — have signed on so far. Those who don't move to the new town can take a buyout, which covers 75% of a structure's pre-flood market value, and move elsewhere.
Dole endorses GOP congressman in US Senate race
TOPEKA — Kansas Senate candidate Roger Marshall won the endorsement on Jan. 13 of political icon and 1996 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole, a boost for the congressman's efforts to show GOP leaders he can defeat hardline conservative Kris Kobach in the primary.
Marshall's campaign announced Dole's backing, and Dole tweeted that Marshall is "a true friend to me & a true friend to KS." Marshall, a western Kansas physician, has served in Congress since 2017.
Dole's endorsement came a week after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he would not run for the Kansas seat. Four-term GOP Sen. Pat Roberts is not seeking re-election.
Marshall holds the House seat that Dole, Roberts and fellow Kansas GOP Sen. Jerry Moran all held before being elected to the Senate in 1968, 1996 and 2010.
Dole was Senate majority leader in 1996 when he left Congress after a total of 35 years as part of his unsuccessful run for president. He said in a statement that Marshall has "my full trust."
For this year's Senate race, McConnell and other Republicans wooed Pompeo, a former Wichita-area congressman, because they fear that Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state, will emerge from a crowded GOP field and put a normally safe seat in play. Democrats have not won a Senate race in Kansas since 1932.
Coal power plant closing two units built in 1970s
BILLINGS — One of the largest coal-fired power plants in the western U.S. will close two of its four units this month as the Montana facility edges toward an eventual total shutdown.
Colstrip Units 1 and 2 — built in the 1970s when massive strip mines were being developed across Montana and Wyoming — was scheduled to close by Jan. 5, Talen Energy spokeswoman Taryne Williams said.
The plant employs about 300 people and is the main driver of the economy for the surrounding town of Colstrip, which has about 2,300 people. But it's been unable to compete with surging investments into renewable energy and cheap natural gas, as the coal plant's operating costs have risen with the need for better pollution controls.
Some employees for now will be re-assigned to decommissioning work that will last through mid-2020, Williams said.
The closure of Units 1 and 2 was long anticipated as demand for U.S. coal collapsed in recent years, and came despite vows by elected officials in Montana to find ways to keep it open.
The two closing units are operated by Pennsylvania-based Talen, which co-owns them with Puget Sound Energy of Washington state.