Non-Local News Releases

This category will feature news releases from out-of-area government agencies and representatives, as well as events that are not taking place in the four-county area of Grant, Catron, Hidalgo or Luna. For those events please visit Local News Releases.

heinrich keynotes wildlife corridor rsPHOTO: U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich speaks at the 2017 Wildlife Corridor and Connectivity Summit in Taos, New Mexico. August 22, 2017.

SANTA FE, N.M. (August 22, 2017) – Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M), member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, was the keynote speaker at the 2017 Wildlife Corridor and Connectivity Summit hosted by the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, Colorado Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited. The summit focused on U.S. Forest Service landscape connectivity projects in the Upper Rio Grande Watershed and the importance of collaboration between local, state, federal, tribal and non-profit agencies and organizations.

SANTA FE, NM - The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) and New Mexico State University (NMSU) announce the mosquito species Aedes aegypti has been found in the City of Socorro in Socorro County. This is the first time a species of mosquito capable of transmitting Zika virus has been found in this county. There have been no identified human cases of Zika virus in Socorro County to date.

"Socorro County is the farthest north Aedes aegypti has been found in the state, and we will be working with NMSU in the coming weeks to see if this mosquito species has made it even further north," said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Lynn Gallagher. "It is important we track the areas at risk for Zika as it allows us to prepare and educate New Mexicans about prevention based on where they live."

NMDOH has been working with NMSU for two years now to track mosquito populations in the state and map out the range and distribution in New Mexico of both Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, mosquito species that are able to transmit Zika virus to people. These species of mosquitoes become infected when they take blood from a person already infected with the virus. Once infected, they can bite other people and infect them with the virus as well.

The addition of Socorro County brings the total number of counties in the state with mosquitos capable of spreading Zika to nine. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes have been trapped and identified in Doña Ana, Eddy, Chaves, Sierra, Lea, Otero, Hidalgo, and Socorro counties and Aedes albopictus in Roosevelt County.

There have been no confirmed cases of Zika virus in New Mexico residents in 2017. There were ten cases of Zika virus disease were reported in New Mexico in 2016. In each case, travelers were infected abroad and diagnosed after they returned home.

Residents traveling out of the country should be concerned about Zika transmission - particularly women who are pregnant or trying to conceive and their sexual partners - as Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a list of countries with active Zika virus transmission on their Zika Virus Travel Information page.

The best way to prevent Zika, West Nile and other mosquito transmitted diseases is to prevent mosquito bites. Certain species of mosquitos, particularly the Aedes aegypti, prefer to bite people, so they tend to live indoors and outdoors near people. They are aggressive daytime biters, but they can also bite at night.

To avoid Zika and other viruses like West Nile Virus, NMDOH recommends the following steps:

  • Look around your home and remove any standing water that may be found in flower pots, bird baths, old tires, bottle caps or other small containers, and then scrub out the containers to remove any mosquito eggs. The small squiggly creatures you may see in the standing water are mosquito larvae that will turn into adult mosquitoes in a few days.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for children and pregnant or breast-feeding women.

For more information about Zika virus, visit https://nmhealth.org/about/erd/ideb/zdp/zika/ and https://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html.

heinrich hosts teacher listening rsPHOTO: U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich hosts a listening session at Taos High School with Taos Municipal School educators. August 21, 2017.

SANTA FE, N.M. (August 22, 2017) – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) hosted a roundtable with Taos Municipal School educators to discuss challenges and opportunities for education in rural New Mexico and what's at stake under President Trump's proposed education budget cuts.

"Every child in every school deserves an opportunity to benefit from a great public education. In New Mexico and across the nation, teachers are on the frontlines making an impact every day in the lives of our students," said Senator Heinrich. "I will continue to work to ensure that educators have the resources, training, and support they need to help students succeed." The conversation, organized by the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico and Taos Federation of United School Employees #1450, focused on protecting Title II funding, STEM Education, Early Literacy needs, and providing quality public education for New Mexico's rural students, districts, and communities while supporting the needs of public education professionals.

"We are thankful for Senator Heinrich's continued commitment to New Mexico's students and our public educators. From day one of his tenure in Congress, Senator Heinrich has worked to ensure New Mexico students are protected, and has prioritized the needs of public education professionals at all levels. Additionally, the Senator has ensured the voices of working professionals – especially union voices – have been heard and valued," said Stephanie Ly, President of American Federation of Teachers New Mexico.

"This visit by Senator Heinrich was important for the members of TFUSE Local #1450. The Senator led a robust conversation about the future of public education under the current administration, amid proposed budgetary cuts. His commitment to New Mexico is without question, and importantly, he genuinely listened to our concerns as education professionals serving in a rural community with needs that would be disproportionately impacted should such proposed cuts be enacted," said Francis Hahn, President of Taos Federation of United School Employees #1450.

Senator Heinrich has been leading in the Senate to level the playing field for New Mexico children and families. He is fighting President Trump's proposed cuts to afterschool programs and programs that help schools that serve students in rural communities, such as the Rural Low-Income School Program. Senator Heinrich also introduced the bipartisan Two Generation Economic Empowerment Act that focuses on building a strong foundation in early learning for children, and workforce development and college attainment for parents to help families grow together and get on a more prosperous path

dairy education training consortium rsRobert Hagevoort, New Mexico State University Extension Dairy Specialist (left) and Jim Abacherli of South Slope Dairy in Clovis, New Mexico, talk to students at the 2016 U.S. Dairy Education & Training Consortium.
(Photo by Andrés Leighton)
WRITER: Kristie Garcia, 575-646-4211, kmgarcia@nmsu.edu
CONTACT: Robert Hagevoort, 575-985-2292, dairydoc@nmsu.edu

It's been over 20 years since New Mexico State University students have had the option of minoring in dairy science. But after 10 years of rebuilding the dairy program in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, students may now choose the subject as their minor.

Robert Hagevoort, associate professor and Extension dairy specialist at NMSU's Agricultural Science Center at Clovis in Eastern New Mexico, has been instrumental in re-establishing the dairy program.

"Over 20 years ago, it was difficult for the campus dairy to be profitable, due to economic reasons," Hagevoort said. "NMSU dairy manager at the time, Lewis Topliff, did an excellent job of managing the cows, but it's especially difficult maintaining a dairy when it's solely for educational purposes, not commercial."

Hagevoort joined NMSU in 2005 after serving as a consultant to the California dairy industry for 15 years. The College of ACES dean at the time – Lowell Catlett – gave Hagevoort the task of rebuilding the NMSU dairy program without a dairy on campus.

By 2008, Hagevoort, Texas A&M University's Michael Tomaszewski and University of Arizona's Bob Collier had formed the U.S. Dairy Education and Training Consortium, initially named the Southern Great Plains Dairy Consortium.

The consortium offers a six-week class for college students at Clovis Community College during the summer. The three-credit course is listed at NMSU as Animal Science 468 – Advanced Dairy Herd Management. The class began with 18 students in its first year in 2008, while over 50 students from 19 universities attended the 10th annual class this summer. Over 400 students from 48 universities around the world have completed the class since its inception.

During the six-week course, students live in Clovis and participate in classroom instruction and hands-on lessons at various dairies in Eastern New Mexico and West Texas.

Hagevoort said the program is extremely impactful.

"A recent survey of former students now in careers shows some very exciting results," he said. "Four out of five former students are now working in agriculture, two out of three students are employed in the dairy industry, and one out of three is currently actively managing or working on a dairy operation."

Allison Martinez, an NMSU senior majoring in animal science and agricultural business, completed the most recent course in Clovis.

"This program was extremely beneficial to me because I was able to get out in the field and experience real-life work that I couldn't have received in a classroom alone," Martinez said.

Martinez is one of the first students to select the reinstated dairy science minor.

"I hope the dairy science minor will help me broaden my options for my future career," she said. "By taking on this minor, hopefully I'll end up with a career in the dairy industry."

In addition to the consortium and the course in Clovis, animal science professors at NMSU have incorporated dairy science into their curriculum. Whether it's a ruminant nutrition course or cattle management course, they all include a dairy component.

While the 10-year dairy program rebuilding effort by Hagevoort and others at NMSU has been nothing short of full-force, Hagevoort is quick to give credit to dairy producers.

"Producers are the real heroes, and they should get all the credit for this," Hagevoort said. "They recognize the importance of the industry and hands-on learning on farms. They share stories with the students about their successes and failures, and they really allow us to use their dairies as classrooms."

The Southwest – including Arizona, New Mexico and Texas – is the third-largest milk production area in the nation behind California and Wisconsin.

Jerry Hawkes, department head for Extension animal sciences and natural resources at NMSU, said the new minor reflects the importance of dairy science in New Mexico.

"We believe there is a need for this at NMSU, as dairy plays such an important role in our state," Hawkes said. "The dairy program in New Mexico is a leader both nationally and internationally."

Hawkes, who is also the interim associate dean and director of academic programs in the College of ACES, said the minor will better prepare NMSU students for a future in the dairy industry.

"We want to provide our students with the opportunity to have an insight into dairy science, including the economics involved," he said.

Hawkes will teach the dairy economics course.

The minor is part of the NMSU Department of Animal and Range Sciences, for which Shanna Ivey serves as interim department head and professor. Ivey said the minor will complement several fields of study.

"The new minor will lend itself well to students studying ag biology or ag and Extension education who want to pursue the dairy-intense side of things," she said. "It will really strengthen our academic program, and students will have the dairy science minor verbiage on their transcripts.

"Also, the minor has two required ag economics classes, so it's a nice cooperation between our department and the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business. It not only provides the science of dairy production, but it also gives the business side of it, too, which I think is important."

College of ACES Dean Rolando Flores said it's vital that NMSU offers this minor.

"Years ago it was attractive to come to NMSU from other states for this purpose, so it was critical that we reinstated the dairy science minor," Flores said. "I'm delighted that we have the faculty in animal and range sciences to support this minor. It will create an opportunity for students from New Mexico and other areas, and it will help create job opportunities."

Students who select dairy science as their minor are required to complete 18 credit hours of courses ranging from dairy production to dairy economics. For more information about the dairy science minor, visit the NMSU Department of Animal and Ranges Sciences website at http://aces.nmsu.edu/academics/anrs/.

IRS e-Services account and safeguarding their Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN) from thieves.

National and international criminal syndicates routinely attempt to steal tax professionals' usernames and passwords so they may access IRS e-Services to obtain the EFIN, which allows a criminal to steal clients' sensitive information.

Increasing awareness about protecting e-Services and EFINs is part of a "Don't Take the Bait" campaign, a 10-part series aimed at tax professionals. The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry, working together as the Security Summit, urge practitioners to learn to protect themselves from password thefts. This is part of the ongoing Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself effort.

"For tax professionals working with the IRS, protecting these account numbers is critical," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "Practitioners should maintain, monitor and protect their Electronic Filing Identification Number. Failing to do so can be disastrous for their business and their clients."

Protecting Clients and Their Businesses from e-Services/EFIN thieves

Cybercriminals routinely use spear phishing emails to target tax practitioners. The emails impersonate IRS e-Services, trying to trick practitioners into disclosing their username and password. Once the thieves have these credentials, they access e-Services accounts and steal EFINs to file fraudulent tax returns. Cybercriminals also are savvy enough to know to steal Centralized Authorization File (CAF) numbers, which are unique, nine-digit ID numbers assigned to those who represent others before the IRS. The con artists also know how to file fraudulent powers of attorney documents to access clients' accounts.

Password thefts are one reason the IRS has moved to Secure Access, a two-factor authentication process, to offer more protection for online tools. Secure Access requires not only a username and password but also a security code that is sent to a mobile phone previously registered with the IRS. The IRS is moving toward multi-factor protections for e-Services as well, and hopes to have this system in the near future.

In addition, the IRS is working with Security Summit partners in the states and the private-sector tax industry to help protect taxpayers and their tax filings against these threats.

Maintain EFINs

Once the EFIN application process is complete and an EFIN has been issued, it is important to keep accounts up-to-date. This includes:

  1. Review the e-file application periodically. The e-file application must be updated within 30 days of any changes, such as individuals involved, addresses or telephone numbers. Failure to do so may result in the inactivation of the EFIN.
  2. Ensure proper individuals are identified on the application and update as necessary. The principal listed on the application is the individual authorized to act for the business in any legal or tax matter. Periodically access the account.
  3. Add any new principals or responsible officials.
  4. Update any business address changes, including adding new locations.
  5. An EFIN is not transferable; if selling a business, the new principals must obtain their own EFIN.
  6. There must be an EFIN application for each office location; if expanding a business, an application is required for each location where e-file transmissions will occur.

Tax Professionals: Monitor EFINs

Help safeguard the EFIN. During the filing season, check on the EFIN's status to ensure that it is not being used by others. The e-Services account will give practitioner's the number of returns the IRS received, which can be matched to practitioner records. The statistics are updated weekly. Contact the IRS e-help Desk at 866-255-0654 if there's a higher volume shown than the number transmitted by the practitioner.

After logging into the e-Services account, follow these steps to verify the number of returns electronically filed with the IRS:

  1. Select practitioner name,
  2. In the left banner, select ‘Application',
  3. In the left banner, select ‘e-File Application',
  4. Select name again,
  5. In the listing, select ‘EFIN Status'. On this screen the number of returns filed based on return type is displayed.

Protect EFINs

Increasingly, identity thieves are targeting tax professionals to gain access to client data or other sensitive information. A common scam involves efforts by criminals to steal the tax professional's e-Service account password and EFIN. Here are some steps to protect the EFIN:

  1. Learn to recognize and avoid phishing scams that claim to be from the IRS or e-Services.
  2. Do not open any link or attachment received in a suspicious email.
  3. Periodically change the e-Service password and use a strong password consisting of letters, numbers and special characters.
  4. Periodically change the password to the email address used to correspond with clients.

Please note: The IRS continuously reviews EFINs and takes the necessary actions to inactivate any EFINs that are found to be compromised by an un-authorized firm or individual. The firm using the invalid EFIN will encounter Business Rule 905 when it e-files returns. The firm must call the e-help Desk at 866-255-0654 to request a new one.

Maintain Contact with the IRS

Authorized IRS e-file providers should maintain contact with the IRS to learn of any e-file updates. E-Service users can subscribe to Quick Alerts. Tax practitioners also can sign up for e-News for Tax Professionals or e-News for Payroll Professionals.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement today regarding the path forward in Afghanistan:

"Since 9/11, we have been at war in Afghanistan and it is now the longest war in our nation's history. Sending additional U.S. troops into Afghanistan is not a substitute for a sound strategy and won't get us anywhere new. It is long past time for the government of Afghanistan to shoulder their own defense. While America must be able to project a counter terrorism presence wherever terrorist groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda seek refuge, we can never and should never be the de-facto security services for Afghanistan, much less the world."

SANTA FE, NM – Today, State Auditor Tim Keller released a multiagency audit of State Agency procurement practices from July 2013 through July 2016. The report reveals that in fiscal year 2016, over $1 billion worth of state spending did not go through the competitive procurement process designed to safeguard public funds from patronage, fraud and corruption. In addition, over $5 billion of healthcare dollars were spent through exemptions to the Procurement Code. The report highlights both the level of reliance on contracts procured with sole source, emergency and other exceptions and exemptions and violations of the Procurement Code.

"Our audit reveals billions of dollars of state purchasing passing through loopholes," stated State Auditor Tim Keller. "We found examples of agencies using emergency exemptions when there is no real urgency, sole source exemptions that did not comply with state law, and a significant gap in campaign contributions disclosures. The spirit of procurement is to safeguard tax dollar funded contracting from fraud, waste and abuse. Strong directive executive leadership and a reworking of the law to make bidding more effective and efficient would have a game-changing impact on creating local jobs, cutting red tape, and providing essential services to New Mexicans at the best value."

The State Auditor initiated the audit to address various concerns related to the competitive bidding process. The State Auditor selected multiple agencies for the special audit due to their roles in procurement oversight: the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA), the General Services Department (GSD) and the Department of Information Technology (DoIT).

Key findings from the audit include:

  • Sole source procurements: The sole source exemption was used in over $56 million worth of purchases in FY 2016. The top agencies by sole source expenditures in FY 2016 were: Corrections Department, Public Education Department, Department of Health, and Taxation and Revenue Department. The audit also found instances of agencies using the sole source exemption inappropriately and in some cases, a lack of adequate scrutiny of sole source justifications.
  • Emergency procurements: The emergency exemption was used in $105 million worth of purchases in FY 2016. The top agencies by emergency expenditures in FY 2016 were: Corrections Department, Energy Minerals and Natural Resources Department, Department of Transportation, and General Services Department. The audit reveals that some state agencies are using the emergency exemption in circumstances that are not permitted, due to agencies' desire for convenience and misperceptions about the regular procurement process.
  • Widespread exemptions: The Procurement Code contains exemptions for certain agencies and transactions. The largest share of exempt purchasing is between a state agency and another state agency or local public body. Other exemptions are used for private vendors, the top recipients of which in FY 2016 were United Behavioral Health, Talweg Creative Inc., Merck Sharpe & Dohme, Pfizer Inc., and Glaxosmithkline.
  • Length of time: The average time for various agencies to approve a contract is over six months, including time for RFP publication, bidder responses, response evaluation, and required approvals. When laws and regulations are too complex and time-consuming, agencies are more likely to push the boundaries of available short-cuts.
  • Campaign Contribution Disclosure: Procuring agencies are not complying with Procurement Code requirements to obtain Campaign Contribution Disclosure Forms to prevent the improper influence of procurement decisions through campaign contributions.

To address these findings, the OSA developed best practices including: moving towards a centralized oversight procurement office, as the Legislative Finance Committee has long recommended; enhanced training and a culture of support for state personnel involved in procurement; implementing a "when in doubt, bid it out" practice; and reducing opportunities for data entry errors.

The State Auditor also recommends that the Legislature consider a comprehensive review of the Procurement Code, including revisiting exceptions and exemptions, imposing dollar limitations on exceptions and exemptions, addressing loopholes and expanding campaign contribution disclosure laws.

The special audit is part of a series of work from the OSA to shine a light on procurement concerns in New Mexico. On Thursday, the OSA will release another comprehensive report on out-of-state contracting and conduct training sessions for procurement professionals and local businesses on ways to support in-state businesses: https://www.saonm.org/media/news_pdf/8-24-17_OSA_to_release_procurement_report.pdf
The Special Audit is available here: https://www.saonm.org/audit_reports/detail/11070

Albuquerque, NM – Today, Attorney General Hector Balderas issued a Scam Alert regarding callers posing as officers of a "Consumer Protection Agency," who have been telling New Mexicans they've won hundreds of thousands of dollars in a sweepstakes allegedly conducted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The supposed winners are told they must first pay money to cover taxes, insurance and/or courier fees in order to claim their "prize." The scammers are asking New Mexicans to send or wire upwards of $3,500 in order to claim their fictitious "prize."

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