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Local and State News

Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 p.m. MDT


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel on Friday announced her intention to retire once the current wave of coronavirus infections subsides. Kunkel, an attorney and former pediatric social worker, cited the physical and mental demands of her work at the forefront on the state's efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who once led the Department of Health, announced a nationwide search for a successor. Kunkel was appointed in January 2019. The state also is recruiting a new state epidemiologist after the recent departure of Michael Landen.


RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — About 150 preachers, rabbis and imams are promising to invoke Black abolitionist Frederick Douglass on July 4th as they call for the U.S. to tackle racism and poverty. The religious leaders are scheduled this weekend to frame sermons around "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July" on the 168th anniversary of that speech by Douglass. The initiative is led by the Poor People's Campaign, a coalition of religious leaders seeking to push the U.S. to address issues of poverty modeled after Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last crusade. Douglass gave his speech at a celebration on July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York. 


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A political group that helped a slate of progressive-minded legislative candidates prevail in New Mexico's Democratic primary has registered as a political party. The New Mexico Working Families Party on Thursday announced its certification by state election regulators as a minor political party. Leaders said they hope to establish fusion voting in which more than one political party can support a common candidate on the general election ballot. Working Families also wants minor party members to be able to vote in major party primaries. The state currently operates a closed primary election system.


WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Tribal police and the New Mexico National Guard plan to enforce a weekend curfew on the Navajo Nation. The sprawling reservation has been trying to contain a coronavirus outbreak. Tribal President Jonathan Nez says the curfew that starts at 8 p.m. Friday and expires at 5 a.m. Monday is the first of three consecutive weekend lockdowns. He warned that enforcement on the reservation that spans parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah will be strict. The tribe reported 56 new cases on Thursday and two additional deaths, bringing the total to 371 deaths and nearly 7,700 confirmed cases.


LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — The CEO of New Mexico's commercial spacecraft launch facility has been placed on administrative leave, but state officials aren't saying why. The Las Cruces Sun-News reports Dan Hicks was recently placed on leave after confirming it with New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keyes. She chairs the New Mexico Spaceport Authority's board of directors. However, Keyes did not provide any details. Among Hicks' responsibilities was strengthening a business model to sustain the spaceport, which was initially constructed in Sierra County between 2006 and 2012 with $220 million in public funding.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A state lawmaker has yet to respond to a request to reimburse nearly $7,800 to an agency that promotes the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Regional Coalition of LANL Communities executive director Eric Vasquez told The Santa Fe New Mexican that the taxpayer-funded agency sent a letter to state Rep. Andrea Romero in May. But so far, the group has not received a replay. The request is linked to "impermissible expenses" during Romero's previous role as executive director. Romero previously reimbursed the agency $2,200, but that was before the state auditor's office released a report in August 2018 that identified 18 negative findings. 


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Taxes are being levied on home-delivered groceries that are tax free when purchased at stores in New Mexico, undercutting incentives to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic. A panel of government income experts noted the problem Thursday as they delved into the financial consequences of COVID-19 and New Mexico's stay-at-home order to avoid infections. New Mexico lawmakers removed the gross receipts tax from sales of most food items in 2004, but the exemption covers only on-site sales. Gross receipt taxes on sales and services range from about 5.5% in some rural areas to more than 9% in Espanola.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Several groups are asking state and federal officials to hold semi-annual public meetings as Los Alamos National Laboratory prepares to resume and ramp up production of key components for the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile. The groups outlined their request in a recent letter to the U.S. Energy Department and the New Mexico Environment Department. Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico is in line for more federal funding to manufacture plutonium triggers for the U.S. nuclear arsenal. State environmental officials are considering a draft air emissions permit that would regulate emissions from the lab's manufacturing facilities.