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Governor John Hickenlooper yesterday signed the 2012-2013 Colorado State Budget into law, just 2 days before the end of this year’s legislative session. The $7.5 billion budget, at the next legislature’s discretion, kept public school funding at the current level, avoided anticipated cuts to higher education and local government grants and restored a property tax break for senior citizens who have owned their homes for more than a decade. Better than expected revenues freed up about $200 million that enabled additional funding for schools and other areas that were in danger of another year of cuts. According to Mary Hodge, of Brighton, a Joint Budget Committee member, keeping local government grants funded by severance tax in the budget and by infusing $5 million for economic development will put Coloradoans to work. Hodge also noted that no state jobs were lost in the budget balancing process. Other bills didn’t fare so well yesterday. A bill that would have created a sales-tax holiday during back-to-school season was voted down. And, a bill that aimed to withhold local government grants from communities that adopt policies impeding oil and gas production was amended to a study yesterday.
Colorado authorities are on the lookout for a man who is suspected of kidnapping his 2-year-old daughter in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Sunday and may be heading for the San Luis Valley area. Justin Lampkins, 32, has previously lived in Alamosa and was last seen in Oklahoma driving a green Ford Ranger with a “Creek Nation” license plate. Lampkins is black, is 5-foot-7 and weighs 160 pounds. Lampkins reportedly abducted 2-year-old Venice Lampkins when her mother stopped to pick up a friend on Sunday morning. Lampkins does not have legal custody of the girl. He is also wanted by Alamosa authorities for failure to comply with his sentencing in a 2008 assault case involving another daughter in Alamosa. In that case, Lampkins took his 5-month-old daughter from his then-common-law wife after attacking the woman with a knife. He was arrested in Alamosa that same day and was sentenced to 125 days in jail, but a warrant for his arrest was issued in 2009 after he failed to pay $1,484 in fees and did not comply with his court-ordered substance-abuse treatment.
Gilbert O. Sanchez, 36, of Pueblo, who is accused of driving drunk on Pueblo Boulevard in Pueblo and killing three Alamosa teenagers just over a week ago, will have to wait at least another week to see what charges he’ll be facing. Yesterday, Pueblo District Attorney Bill Theibaut asked for more time to file an official complaint against Sanchez. Public Defender Seth Johnson didn’t object to the request. Sanchez was arrested on April 28th on suspicion of vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and driving under the influence. He ran a red light at the intersection of Northern Avenue and Pueblo Boulevard and smashed into a car driven by Anisa Montoya, 18, killing Montoya and her two passengers, Serina Sena and Selena Mascarenas, both 14. Sanchez did not appear in court yesterday. Thiebaut said that Pueblo Police are continuing to investigate the wreck and that more reports are coming in. He said that due to the complexity of the case, his office needs to review all the reports before making any charging decisions. Sanchez is scheduled to return to court next Monday.
State Water Engineer Dick Wolfe approved the San Luis Valley Subdistrict Number 1 plan to replace stream depletions caused by groundwater pumping in the north-central part of the valley on May 1st. The approval was the final hurdle for the subdistrict, which also aims to restore the unconfined aquifer, or the shallower of the valley’s two major groundwater reserves. While the plan can be revoked or modified by either the engineer or the division water court, the approval applies through the end of April of next year when the subdistrict will have to submit a new replacement plan. The subdistrict will have to replace 4,700 acre feet of water this year on the Rio Grande River, a figure that critics have regarded as too low, a consequence of pumping from the roughly 3,400 wells inside its boundaries.
Gene Martinez, 70, of Costilla County, surrendered to authorities yesterday and was booked into the county jail on charges of felony menacing, harassment and prohibited use of a weapon before posting a $25,000 bond. Martinez allegedly pulled a gun on Charlie Meastas, a neighbor, and a member of the administrative committee of the irrigation ditch near his property following an argument over irrigation water. Martinez was reportedly angry that ditch officials skipped his turn to irrigate without notifying him. Martinez also pulled a rifle on Costilla County Sheriff’s deputies when they arrived on scene, according to his arrest warrant. Martinez evaded capture on April 20th even after authorities surrounded his property.