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Local and State News

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


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Negotiations between New Mexico's largest electric utility and the Navajo Transitional Energy Co. could determine whether the tribe acquires a stake in one of the Southwest's few remaining coal-fired power plants. Public Service Co. of New Mexico officials say the negotiations over the Four Corners Power Plant are in their final stages. The New Mexico utility would be able to divest itself from the plant as early as 2024 and the Navajo company would get up to $75 million for exiting early. New Mexico regulators must approve any deal between the tribal company and the utility.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A leadership council that represents Native American pueblos across New Mexico has a new chairman. The All Pueblo Council of Governors announced Tuesday that Wilfred Herrera Jr. of Laguna Pueblo will serve as chairman after J. Michael Chavarria of Santa Clara Pueblo submitted his resignation. Chavarria cited personal reasons for his decision to step down but didn't provide any details. The council is considering whether to hold a special election early next year to fill the remainder of Chavarria's two-year term. During his time on the council, Chavarria has been outspoken about issues ranging from education to the protection of cultural sites. 


FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — The Navajo Nation says it's working to release more paper applications for a tribal hardship assistance program after application shortages caused challenges for chapters and tribal members. The Navajo Nation Office of the Controller made applications available Monday to enrolled members of the tribe who are 65 and older or who have disabilities. The Navajo Nation CARES Fund Hardship Assistance Program applications are open to all other enrolled tribal members starting Nov. 2. However, the department said only 3,000 applications were printed over the weekend and distributed to the Navajo Nation's 110 chapters. Controller Pearline Kirk said 200,000 more applications will be made available to the chapters. 


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Sixty people are charged in a widespread magazine telemarketing scam that authorities say netted $300 million from more than 150,000 elderly and vulnerable people nationwide. Minnesota U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald announced the charges Wednesday. She called it the largest elder fraud scheme in the country. The defendants are from 14 states and two Canadian provinces. Court documents say that over the last 20 years, they used a network of fake magazine sales companies and telemarketing call centers to trick people into making large or repeat payments. Prosecutors say the companies operated in Minnesota, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, California, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Arkansas. 


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — It could be awhile before a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available, but health officials in New Mexico say they have submitted their plans to the federal government for how to distribute it. They said Tuesday that the focus will be on vaccinating health care workers, first responders and then nursing home residents and staff. They acknowledged that supplies will likely be limited early on and immunizations for the general public would come later. Amid a surge in infections in the state and elsewhere in the U.S., health officials outlined their plans for lawmakers, who had questions about everything from the cost to security.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit by the state Republican Party alleging that partisan poll challengers have been unfairly denied oversight of the initial ballot verification process. Three justices including the court's lone Republican denied the petition to intervene in the absentee voting process. The GOP lawsuit alleged that partisan challengers are being shut out of the initial verification process unnecessarily because of privacy provisions and should be allowed to take their own steps to notify voters about rejected ballots. In a separate lawsuit, the GOP accuses local election officials in two counties of failing to properly monitor ballot drop boxes.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Regents at New Mexico's largest university have decided on a new design for the school seal to replace one that had sparked protests over its depiction of a sword-carrying Spanish conquistador and a rifle-toting frontiersman. University of New Mexico officials confirmed that the decision was made during a recent meeting, but it will likely take more than a year for the new seal to be fully rolled out. Students, alumni and others were polled on five options, including one that had a howling Lobo and mountains in the background. Regents instead chose a less complex design they said would better reflect the university on diplomas and graduation apparel.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Environmentalists have reached an agreement with federal land and wildlife managers that will clear the way for forest restoration efforts to resume in the Southwest. A federal court had issued an injunction last year that limited timber activities and restoration projects on national forest lands in New Mexico and Arizona pending the outcome of a battle over the threatened Mexican spotted owl. WildEarth Guardians says the agreement requires federal managers to monitor owl population trends through 2025. Surveys also will be done prior to ground-disturbing activities and known owl habitats will be protected. The agreement applies to all 11 national forests in the two states.