Friday, January 21, 2011

New Katies Law proposal faces uphill battle

During her State of the State address Gov. Susana Martinez asked lawmakers to strengthen Katies Law by requiring law enforcement agencies to take DNA swabs from all suspects arrested on felony charges. But, lawmakers' reaction to the proposal is mixed.

Many, like Sen. Trip Jennings, D-Roswell, worry those swabs are an invasion of privacy and worry about having records expunged if a suspect is later acquitted.

But the mother of Katie Sepich, a 22-year-old graduate student at New Mexico State University, who was brutally raped, strangled, and whose body was eventually abandoned at a dump site in 2003, says legislator’s concerns are unfounded.

Jayann Sepich, who was invited to sit next to First Gentleman Chuck Franco on Tuesday, says since the law was originally adopted in March 2006 only 12 people have asked for their records to be expunged.

Since January 2007 authorities have gathered 7000 swabs from violent offenders, sex offenders, and burglars. And the results have been overwhelming successful.

Sepich said investigators have solved 173 crimes using the DNA records. Now 24 other states have adopted some version of Katies Law and half of those require swabs from all felony arrests, not just from violent offenders.

In our video interview Sepich told us the DNA samples include no genetic information and when they are entered into a computer do not list suspect's name nor social security number. She says the DNA information only surfaces when a match is made. Only after that do investigators received a name of a potential suspect.

Sepich said DNA can easily and quickly be expunged, while fingerprints, which are taken after every misdemeanor arrest, become part of a permanent file. She says scientists picked 13 points in the DNA strand to use as markers and those points contain no genetic information, which should alleviate privacy concerns.

Traveling around the country, Sepich said she’s heartbroken every time she hears about homicides that could have been prevented. One of those cases is Brianna Denison who was killed in Reno two years ago.

Sepich says her murder could have been prevented if James Michael Biela’s DNA had been collected after an earlier domestic violence arrest.

She also thinks the new proposal can help exonerate innocent people up front. She hopes lawmakers approve it and will be in Santa Fe trying to persuade them that "collecting DNA upon felony arrest will not only solve crimes, but prevent crimes, and save lives."

This year’s bill is being carried by Sen. Vernon Azbill , R-Carlsbad and Rep. William Rheem, R-Albuquerque, a retired police officer himself.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cargo urges Martinez to visit Hollywood

As lawmakers prepare to consider what do to with the state’s film incentives, the man who started the first governor's film commission in the world, former Gov. David Cargo, is weighing in on the debate.

He’s urging Gov. Susana Martinez to be more empathic toward the state’s film industry.

Cargo suggests her decision to lower incentives from 25 percent to 15 percent is an “attack” on the industry, and he suggested the new governor plan a trip to Hollywood.

“She needs to go out there and talk to the people in the industry and reassure them that they can film in New Mexico and make a profit,” said Cargo.

He said Hollywood executives want assurances the state is open for business and not political attacks on their industry.

“She ought to be talking about the advantages that the motion picture industry brings to New Mexico, how affirmative it is, how much we gain out of it, all of the wonderful things they’ve really done it. It’s a way of assuring them," said Cargo.

He recommends Martinez learn how to approach movie and television producers.

“She’s explaining this in a campaign mode," said Cargo. "You’re not running against the motion picture companies. You’re running a state, and you’ve got to be involved, not in politics, but in government,” said Cargo.

He disagrees with those making the argument that producers will take their business to states that offer the highest incentives.

“They go were they can film and do it most effectively and they’ve got the most cooperation and they’re welcomed. You see it’s the welcome mat that brings them in," said Cargo. "You bring in more people by empathizing with them and understanding what their problems are and working with them.”

During a news conference a day before Martinez' State of the State address Martinez outlined her legislative priorities and told reporters she plans on sticking with her budget plan which includes the incentive reduction.

She contends the incentive amount needs to be reduced to help balance the budget deficit. Martinez has said her priority is to make sure money is not taken away families and children in the state.

Meanwhile, Cargo gave former Gov. Bill Richardson a B grade for his work luring films to New Mexico, but criticized that administrations heavy reliance on subsidies.

Cargo, who never asked then California Gov. Ronald Reagan to send films to New Mexico, believes Martinez will be more successful going straight to the heart of the industry in Los Angeles.

That’s where Cargo spent his time. In fact, in 1971 he made a cameo appearance in Bunny O'Hare, which starred Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine, as well as parts in 11 other films.

A dedicated promoter of the New Mexico film industry, Cargo, a Republican, was beloved by liberal Democrats in Hollywood, actually becoming personal friends with those behind the camera as well as the stars facing it.

“I had a vision for what we were going to do in filmed entertainment,” said Cargo. “I had a plan. I had a way of working it out. And it worked out rather well -- extraordinarily well.”

Former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish had high praise for Cargo's vision for the film industry.

"Dave Cargo was a visionary governor," said Denish. "He was one of the first New Mexico governors to see the value of the film and television industry to our state's economy."

After his term as governor Cargo shared that vision with his successor Gov. Bruce King. Later he took King, and First Lady Alice King, to visit with some of the producers and studio executives he had already established relationship with in Southern California.

During the trip, they visited Lawrence Welk’s studio During taping of a show, King danced with Albuquerque native Cissy King, while Mr. Welk danced with Alice.

Time to govern

Cargo, who was only 37 when he was elected governor in 1967, also told us he was disappointed in Martinez’ first State of the State speech, calling it "too political."

“She’s got to make the transition from being in campaign mode to being governor. She had a lot of things that were good. But, she’s talking about things that are exciting partisan feelings and that’s not going to get her through the legislature,” said Cargo. “She’s got to get after things that she can agree with them on. She’s got to work with them. She can’t antagonize them.”

Cargo, who celebrated his 82nd birthday last week, wrote an autobiography titled Lonesome Dave several years ago.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tea Partiers want government spending cut

Between 200 and 300 hundred Tea Party supporters rallied in the shaded area of the Roundhouse Tuesday morning just hours before the start of the 2011 legislative session.

Former State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, who only hours before turned her seat over to freshman Rep. Conrad James, R-Albuquerque, greeted the rambunctious crowd and introduced former Gov. Gary Johnson, the rally's keynote speaker.

Arnold-Jones got cheers and applause when she mentioned Johnson's 750 vetoes and her distrust of former Gov. Bill Richardson's administration.

Braving the wind and cold, Johnson told the crowd both political parties are responsible for the state's current economic mess. He said "this level of spending cannot be sustained."

He also said it was time to consider eliminating the State Treasurer's office, claiming a few people could do the job.

In the rotunda, current Treasurer James Lewis responded to the suggestion, "Gary is Gary."

Johnson also weighed in on the House Speaker's race, telling SF New Mexican Reporter Steve Terrell he thinks it would be "a good change" if Rep. Joseph Cervantes was elected to the leadership post.

But, Heath Haussamen, New Mexico's publisher, is reporting that pressure from many of Tea Party supporters, like Tina Carson, who attended the outdoor rally, want Republicans to unite behind a conservative candidate rather than vote for "the lesser of two evils." Haussamen writes a division in the GOP could hurt Cervantes' chances to oust Rep. Lujan, who has had the job since 2001.

Several noteable Republican VIP's were spotted in the rally crowd including, Tom Mullins who was last year's GOP candidate for congress in Congressional District 3, and Adam Kokesh, who lost to Mullins in the primary election. Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis, who launched his congressional exploratory committee two weeks ago, and may run against Rep. Martin Heinrich, also braved the chilly weather to attend the rally.

Standing Room only

Every seat in the public gallery of the House chamber is reserved (with yellow stickies) and members of the public who didn't have an invitation and chair, are upset. In fact, they're being forced into a standing room area behind a waist high wall.

One woman from Santa Fe said she noticed them roping off the gallery yesterday and is disappointed that no seat were reserved for the public.

While you might not have a seat in the gallery you can view today's roll call vote and Gov. Susana Martinez' first State of the State online. Several media outlets will be streaming it.


House GOP Caucus communications director Larry Behrens tells us he's not sure why all the gallery seats were reserved. So far, the Santa Fe fire marshal is allowing people to crowd the space behind the wall, but there does not appear to be much room left.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Rep. Lujan says father is optimistic

While Rep. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces scrambles to pick up votes to oust current NM House Speaker Rep. Ben Luján, D-Nambe, at the start of tomorrow’s 2011 Legislative Session, Lujan’s son, U.S. Rep. Ben R. Lujan says he’s optimistic that his father will retain the leadership post.

Following Albuquerque’s Martin Luther King Rally on Civic Plaza on Saturday, Luján Jr. told us he’ll be in the Roundhouse on Tuesday supporting his father.

“He’s been a tireless advocate for our kids, he’s been a tireless advocate for New Mexicans and education,” Luján Jr. said.

While the congressman would not make any predictions he urged legislators to come together especially from a “caucus perspective to do what is right for New Mexico.” He said he has not been rallying votes for his father.

“We’ll see what happens. I certainly hope that the Democrats can stick together. We’ll see ultimately what their decision is.” Luján Jr. said. “ In the end, this is a discussion about the future of the state.”

He hopes “we can have that debate without being disagreeable,” hoping the party comes together before what is expected to be a busy session in Santa Fe.

Luján Jr. says there they Democrats have fundamental disagreements with the Martinez’ administration during “difficult economic times.”

Political journalist Heath Haussamen has been reporting extensively on the two-man contest since November. He reported Andy Nuñez, D-Hatch, has already said he plans to nominate Cervantes, who has been seeking votes from members of both parties.

And adds:
Luján has also been asking Republicans and Democrats alike for support. Sources say the race remains up in the air and within a couple of votes. There will be heavy, behind-the-scenes politicking between now and Tuesday at noon.

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