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Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. MDT

  • VIRUS OUTBREAK-FACTORY PLAN

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A manufacturer of plastic packaging used for medical equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic plans to build its next factory in southern New Mexico. Prent Corporation will invest $12.5 million and create 85 jobs. The Borderplex Alliance says the manufacturing plant could operate by the fall of 2021 if construction is approved at a large site in Santa Teresa. Doña Ana County officials are welcoming the announcement as New Mexico's unemployment remains high compared to the national average. The Wisconsin-based Prent Corporation has partnered with medical companies during the pandemic to ship personal protective equipment such as face shields.

  • VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — People who have claimed unemployment benefits in New Mexico during the coronavirus pandemic will soon be required to conduct weekly job searches, a requirement previously waived because of large-scale business closures resulting in a smaller job market. The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions announced Wednesday that it plans to reinstate the requirement on Oct. 25 barring any changes to the state health order from Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham or the state health department. Claimants receiving regular unemployment benefits must now document at least two work search activities each week starting Oct. 18. Verifiable searches must be reported during the weekly certification process starting Oct. 25 and each week after.

  • COLLEGIATE WINE-NEW MEXICO

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico State University is now one of just a handful of schools in the U.S. that have their own signature wines. The school announced its new licensing venture with Lescombes family vineyards on Thursday. It comes as universities across the country search for creative ways to bring in more revenue and boost their brands as the pandemic has forced classes online and upended athletic programs. New Mexico State's offering — Crimson Legacy — follows the successful launch in 2017 of the school's beer — Pistol Pete's 1888 Ale. The new cabernet also pays homage to the state's 400-year history of wine making.

  • ELECTION 2020-HOUSE-NEW MEXICO

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — GOP congressional challenger Yvette Herrell embraced President Donald Trump's border-wall strategy for immigration enforcement and burnished an anti-abortion, pro-petroleum philosophy in a bid to unseat Democratic Rep. Xochitl Torres Small at a network-televised debate. At Wednesday's encounter from an Albuquerque studio on live TV, Torres Small cast herself as a pragmatist who has focused on high-tech drug interdiction at border ports of entry and her opposition to efforts in Congress to ban fracking. Absentee and limited early voting have begun across New Mexico. The 2nd Congressional District race is a rematch from 2018, when Herrell declined to debate and lost by fewer than 4,000 votes.

  • ELECTION 2020-NEW MEXICO

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Officials say Democrats cast nearly half of the ballots across New Mexico during the first day of early and absentee voting, while registered Republicans accounted for about 38% of participation. The secretary of state's office said Wednesday that 10,157 ballots were cast statewide on the opening day of voting. County clerks on Tuesday began distributing absentee ballots and opened their central offices to early voting. Voting convenience centers will open on Oct. 17 at hundreds of locations. Democratic turnout was especially pronounced in Bernalillo County, the most populous metro area that encompasses Albuquerque. Democrats there accounted for 67% of early and absentee ballots.

  • COURT FINES REFORM

SANTA FE, N.M (AP) — New Mexico legislators are considering proposals to reduce court fees and declutter courts in an effort to bring socioeconomic equity to the state's justice system. Criminal justice reform advocates say court fees and fines can be unpayable, leading to a cycle of missed payments, arrests and additional fines. The New Mexico Sentencing Commission is calling for legislation that would let judges offer payment plans to defendants and cap payments for both fines and fees at 2% of net income or a minimum of $10 per month. They also want to streamline financial assessments by courts and reduce the money spent trying to collect payments from the poor. The proposals were made Wednesday to the state legislature's Criminal Justice Reform Subcommittee.

  • ABUSE TRIAL-PRIEST DEATH

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Authorities in New Mexico say a former Roman Catholic priest has died just weeks before he was scheduled to go on trial after he was accused of raping a young girl at an Albuquerque parochial school decades ago. The New Mexico attorney general's office said 82-year-old Sabine Griego died last week. The trial was scheduled to begin Nov. 16. A judge had released Griego on his own recognizance, so he was not in custody while awaiting trial. Albuquerque-based attorney Levi Monagle, who is representing the survivors in the criminal lawsuit, says his death is "deeply disheartening" to survivors.

  • VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — According to a state agency, only about $20 million of a $400 million loan program for New Mexico small businesses hit by the pandemic has been approved to send out since the program began in August. In a presentation to the state legislature Tuesday, the agency tasked with distributing the low-interest loans said legislators might want to make it easier to qualify. Around 85% of those businesses that didn't qualify for the Small Business Recovery Loan Fund failed to meet the requirement of showing a loss of at least 30% of revenue in April and May compared with the same time in 2019. As written, the statute does not allow flexibility in the program for businesses that are less than a year old and therefore can't compare revenues.