Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 5:20 p.m. MST
- DRY SOUTHWEST
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Cities across the U.S. Southwest recorded their driest monsoon season on record this year. Some locales received only a trace or no rain. The seasonal weather pattern that runs from mid-June through September brings high hopes for rain and a cooldown in the desert region. But like last year, it largely was a dud, leaving the region parched and prolonging the drought. Las Vegas tied a record set in 1944. Phoenix's monsoon season wasn't the driest, but the city had its hottest one on record. Weather forecasters say the upcoming winter likely won't make up for the precipitation deficit.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-SAFE SCHOOLS BILL
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich has introduced legislation aimed at improving air quality in schools. The Keeping Schools Safe Act would provide $1 billion in grant funding for ventilation and air quality monitoring. It also would mandate the creation of coronavirus-specific technical guidance for heating, ventilation and air condition systems. Some existing ventilation systems including many in New Mexico schools are incapable of using filters that eliminate the coronavirus. Albuquerque Public Schools decided to stay online-only through the rest of the year citing ventilation and other issues. Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat, says the measure would help students return to in-person learning.
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Refugee advocates are calling on Congress to halt the Trump administration's plans to lower its limit on refugees allowed into the U.S. to a record low. Faith-based groups, including some that President Donald Trump is courting for re-election support, said Thursday that further tightening of America's doors to refugees is immoral. They spoke a day after the government unveiled plans to reduce by more than 16% the number of refugees admitted to the country for the fiscal year that started Thursday. The 15,000 target is the lowest since Congress passed the 1980 Refugee Act. The president must consult lawmakers but he will ultimately make the decision.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO
ALBUQUERQUE N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says the alarm bells are ringing as the number of COVID-19 cases and the rate of spread are on the rise in the state. She asked people during an online briefing Thursday to recommit to wearing masks, staying home and avoiding large gatherings, noting that she doesn't want another round of lockdowns. She floated the idea of people limiting their daily activities rather than going to multiple places in a single day. Another 227 COVID-19 cases were reported Thursday, bringing the statewide total to more than 29,660 since the pandemic began. Another five deaths also were reported.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-SCHOOL LAWSUIT
SANTA FE, N.M (AP) — School leaders have outlined dire setbacks for New Mexico to meet its obligation under a court order to provide an adequate education for all students. Panelists told members of the Legislative Finance Committee on Thursday that the coronavirus pandemic has set schools back in all areas, including meeting requirements to improve instruction for at-risk students. The education lawsuit covers New Mexico students who are English language learners, Native American and those who have specific mobility or learning impediments.
- JAIL OFFICIAL-RACIAL SLUR
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The deputy chief at a New Mexico jail will retire this week after an investigation found that he used a racial slur to refer to an inmate. Deputy Chief Aaron Vigil of the Metropolitan Detention Center will retire on Friday. A spokeswoman for the detention center, Julia Rivera, says Vigil used a racial slur in a text message referring to a 36-year-old Black man who was heavily involved in the Black Lives Matter movement when he was arrested by local law enforcement. Rivera says Vigil has not worked at the jail since August pending the investigation. Vigil did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Albuquerque Journal.
- NEW MEXICO GAMBLING RULES
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's commercial racetrack and casino venues have crafted a proposal for an expansion that would including internet gaming, 24-hour casino operations and unlimited video slot machines and table games. Officials with Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino are scheduled Thursday afternoon to testify before the Legislative Finance Committee about overhauling the industry in New Mexico. Any changes would likely compromise the state's agreements with Native American tribes that operate casinos. The tracks and casinos say they've been hit hard by the pandemic. Spectators have been kept out of the stands and the casinos have been prohibited from reopening, unlike tribal casinos.
- BUDGET CRUNCH-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico state government income defied expectations amid the pandemic by increasing slightly during the fiscal year that ended June 30, but state economists warned Wednesday of a highly unpredictable future for state finances. In an unusual pronouncement, four state economists said Wednesday they could not pinpoint how much income the state is likely to receive during the current and coming fiscal years to sustain public education, health care, public safety and other crucial services. State government income may range from $6.8 billion to $7.6 billion during the coming fiscal year — on current annual spending obligations of $7.2 billion.