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Local and State News

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

  • VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Multiple business owners in New Mexico have said this October could prove challenging for their businesses since the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, which brings tourists from around the world, was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. California-based commerce data company Womply reported that arts and entertainment businesses in the area bring in a 194% increase in revenue on average during the Balloon Fiesta. A Womply official said the event is comparable to Louisville's Kentucky Derby or Phoenix's Cactus League. Last year, the event generated an estimated economic impact of more than $186 million on the Albuquerque area and $6.5 million in tax revenues for the state.

  • PUBLIC SCHOOLS-TEACHER GRANTS

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — State officials say they're making funds available to mid-level public school teachers to cover the cost of continuing education certifications that can lead to a significant salary increase. The Public Education Department says it will cover the approximately $2,000 cost of pursuing National Board Certified Teacher credentials to become a "Level 3" teacher. Teachers who complete the certification are eligible for a nearly $7,000 pay increase. Teacher salary increases were reined into 1% for the current school year in response to the economic downturn from the coronavirus, as educators pay for unexpected expenses related to the pivot to online learning. 

  • GILA FOREST-FIRE DANGER

SILVER CITY, N.M. (AP) — Federal officials say the national forest that covers much of mountainous southwestern New Mexico again faces a high fire danger. The Gila National Forest headquartered in Silver City said Thursday that's due to warm temperatures and limited precipitation from what turned out to be a below-average monsoon season. Officials said a "high" fire danger rating means that all fine dead fuels ignite readily and that fires start easily from most causes. Also, unattended brush and camp fires are likely to spread. Forest officials urged hunters, campers, woodcutters and other forest users to be vigilant and to avoid using anything with an open flame or spark.

  • VIRUS OUTBREAK-SPORTS CANCELLED

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — High school students will not be able to compete in any sports this fall or winter after state officials clarified Thursday that they won't amend a state health order. Coaches of sports like volleyball and cross-country were so upbeat about returning to competition that a season's worth of matches was already scheduled. Some superintendents were making contingency plans for in-person fans. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says the ban on club sports remains in effect. High school athletes are still allowed to practice non-contact sports such as volleyball and golf. High school coaches fear their athletes are losing an incentive to get good grades, which are required to participate in school sports. 

  • ELECTION 2020-HOUSE-NEW MEXICO

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The two major party candidates competing to become the first woman to represent a Democrat-dominated New Mexico district have squared off in their first televised debate. They touched on solutions to poverty, environmental degradation and improving health care. Democratic attorney Teresa Leger Fernandez is competing against Republican engineer Alexis Johnson to succeed U.S. Rep Ben Ray Luján in Congress. Lujàn is running in an open U.S. Senate race as Sen. Tom Udall retires. Democrats have monopolized the northern 3rd Congressional District since its creation in 1983 with the exception of one special election. The winner in November will become the first woman to hold the seat.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.