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Local and State News

Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. MDT

  • New Mexico building infrastructure for vaccine distribution

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.

  • New Mexico high court rejects GOP suit on absentee ballots

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.

  • University of New Mexico regents choose new school seal

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.

  • Agreement ends dispute over threatened Mexican spotted owl

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.

  • Storm blasts New Mexico; travel hazardous in some places

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A storm dropped snow on New Mexico on Tuesday, making travel hazardous in some areas. National Weather Service forecasters said snow was expected to begin tapering off in western New Mexico on Tuesday and then in the Rio Grande Valley Tuesday night, with last snow falling in the state's eastern plains on Wednesday. Forecasters said freezing rain was possible in southeastern New Mexico. Snowfall was expected to total up to 4 inches in Albuquerque and up to 12 inches in Tucumcari. In Albuquerque, non-essential city services and municipal offices were closed Tuesday due to snowfall and freezing temperatures that affected driving conditions. Albuquerque residents were advised to limit travel.

  • Carlsbad to consider future of its New Mexico State campus

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — The city of Carlsbad has assembled a task force to consider the future of its New Mexico State University campus, including the possibility of operating as an independent university. The Carlsbad Current-Argus reported that Mayor Dale Janway said the university removed the president position in August from its Carlsbad and other branch campuses, leaving one executive with authority over all three. He says there's concern that resources will be diverted from Carlsbad to Las Cruces. Task force chairman Craig Stephens says he hopes the group completes its work before the upcoming legislative session.

  • Republican lawsuit alleges problems with absentee balloting

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The Republican Party is alleging in a lawsuit that its election poll challengers in New Mexico are unfairly being denied oversight of the initial verification process for absentee ballots. In the suit filed Monday to the state Supreme Court, Republican officials accuse the secretary of state of interfering with independent oversight as county clerks verify signatures and partial social security numbers on the outer envelop of any absentee ballots. State election officials say they are complying with a robust oversight process and criticized the lawsuit as a worrisome tactic. The Supreme Court is asking for a response from election regulators.

  • New Mexico officials issue warning about hospital capacity

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Officials with three of the largest health care systems in New Mexico say that if COVID-19 continues to spread like it has in recent weeks, hospitals and health care workers in the state will not be able to keep up. They issued the warning Monday, as New Mexico deals with a surge of infections. Despite having some of the most restrictive public health requirements since the start of the pandemic, New Mexico has seen three record-setting days for daily case totals in just over a week. Hospitalizations also have skyrocketed with nearly 290 people being treated around the state. That marks a four-fold increase over the past month.