In Brief - New Mexico News - Nov. 8, 2013

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 The Associated Press

Royalties coming in to state office
SANTA FE — The State Land Office says it’s received $1.5 million in royalties because of an audit of oil and natural gas production in southeastern New Mexico.
Land Commissioner Ray Powell said the royalties from Concho Oil and Gas are for production on state trust land in Eddy County since 2010. The company is affiliated with Concho Resources Inc., which is based in Midland, Texas.
Powell said the agency’s audits of energy production have netted more than $3 million royalties this year.
The Land Office collected $494 million in oil and gas royalties in the last fiscal year.
Royalties from energy production and other income from land given to New Mexico by the federal government at statehood help finance schools and other public institutions, including universities and state hospitals.

New campaign launched
ALBUQUERQUE — Former Gov. Gary Johnson, Democratic U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the American Civil Liberties Union and others are launching a new campaign Thursday to protect gay marriage in New Mexico.
Backers say the NM Unites for Marriage Campaign is being formed to build support for the freedom to marry. If necessary, it will also work to defend against any legislative attempts to deny or strip away that freedom.
Eight counties have started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples since late August, and the state Supreme Court is considering a lawsuit that could determine whether gay marriage is legal statewide.

Hospital lays off 36 employees
SANTA FE — A Santa Fe hospital that is the city’s largest private employer is reducing its work force in what it is says is a response to the federal health law.
Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center says it is laying off 36 employees and changing additional employees’ assignments and hours.
Vice President Lillian Montoya says the hospital is realigning some of its services to conform to the health law’s goal of reducing hospitals’ inpatient populations.
Christus St. Vincent still has nearly 1,950 employees.

New poaching cases reported
SANTA FE — Wildlife poaching appears to be on the rise in New Mexico.
Game and Fish officials say they’re investigating 22 cases across the state involving elk, deer and antelope carcasses found headless and left to rot.
Department officers are running road blocks across the state to check for illegal hunting activity and to gather data about harvest success.
They also are deploying artificial elk and deer in the field to catch poachers who try to shoot illegally at night or from the road.
Game and Fish officials say New Mexico has stiffer poaching civil penalties of up to $10,000.
They say poachers can interrupt animal breeding cycles and threaten population numbers of a herd when they kill big game out of season or exceed harvest limits.

One dead after chase, shooting
SANTA FE  — New Mexico State Police say one person is dead in Santa Fe after a chase and a shooting involving a State Police officer.
Details are sketchy but the State Police say the incident started early Thursday morning when a State Police officer tried to pull over a vehicle for erratic driving.
The chase began when the vehicle wouldn’t pull over.
According to the State Police, the shooting was reported about five minutes later.
The female driver of the vehicle being pursued was killed. A male passenger was taken to a hospital for examination of injuries described as minor.

Insurance equality ordered
SANTA FE — Insurance companies in New Mexico must provide same-sex married couples with the same discounts and benefits offered to opposite-sex married couples, the state insurance regulator announced Wednesday.
Insurance Superintendent John Franchini said couples with valid marriage licenses — regardless of their sexual orientation or gender — must be treated equally and without discrimination by insurers.
“This is an important step forward for New Mexico,” Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement. “Superintendent Franchini’s guidance appears to be the first official statement that the marriages of same-sex couples will be respected by a New Mexico state agency in carrying out its enforcement duties.”
Eight counties have started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples since late August, and the state Supreme Court is considering a lawsuit that could determine whether gay marriage is legal statewide.
State statutes do not explicitly authorize or prohibit gay and lesbian couples from being married.
In his directive to insurers, Franchini cited an equal rights provision in the New Mexico Constitution and a recent Supreme Court ruling that a commercial photography business owned by opponents of same-sex marriage violated a state anti-discrimination law by refusing to take pictures of a gay couple’s commitment ceremony.