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Local and State News

Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 p.m. MST


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico education officials are asking for permission to waive standardized testing for the second year, citing the difficulties of the pandemic. The New Mexico Public Education Department says it will encourage school districts to voluntarily administer tests that cover reading, math and science comprehension. The department acknowledges that a volunteer-based assessment might not allow for a scientific sample of students. Legislative researchers have called on the department to assess students as soon as possible, saying policymakers need to know how students are doing. In a report last fall, they estimated students had lost three to 12 months of learning over the summer.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Virgin Galactic has put off plans to make another attempt at a rocket-powered flight from New Mexico to the fringe of space. The company said Friday it decided more time was needed for technical checks. While the flight window would have opened Saturday, the space tourism venture plans to look for another opportunity. The delay comes as the promise of commercial flights looms. The company has yet to announce a firm date for its first commercial flight. More than 600 customers from around the world have purchased tickets. The last test flight attempt in December was cut short when computer trouble prevented the spaceship's rocket from firing properly.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Forecasters are warning of potentially hazardous driving conditions as storms bring rain and snow along with frigid temperatures to New Mexico. The National Weather Service said a quick-moving system would bring rain and mountain showers to northwestern and west-central New Mexico into Friday evening, possibly dropping a few inches of new snow. A winter storm watch says an arctic airmass and strong storm system then will bring significant snowfall, strong winds and biter cold temperatures accumulations to northern and central New Mexico Saturday night through Monday morning. According to forecasters, "travel could become difficult and visibilities reduced due to blowing snow."


WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Navajo Nation health officials on Thursday reported 53 new COVID-19 cases and 11 more deaths. The latest figures raised the totals to 29,098 cases and 1,097 known deaths since the pandemic began. Tribal officials said additional federal personnel are beginning to arrive to support vaccination efforts on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The Navajo Department of Health has identified 44 communities with uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 from Jan. 22 to Feb. 4, down from 75 communities in recent weeks. The tribe has extended its stay-at-home order with a revised nightly curfew to limit the virus' spread on the reservation. The Navajo Nation also is lifting weekend lockdowns to allow more vaccination events.


SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Biden administration says an estimated 25,000 people who are seeking asylum and have been forced to wait in Mexico will be allowed into the U.S. while their cases wind through immigration courts. Authorities plan to slowly let people in at three border crossings in Texas and California, starting on Feb. 19. It's a major step toward dismantling one of former President Donald Trump's most consequential policies to deter asylum-seekers from coming to the U.S. About 70,000 have been enrolled in the "Remain in Mexico" program since it was introduced in January 2019. Those being allowed back have active cases.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico House of Representatives has backed a bill that would require the Legislature to publish a list of capital projects approved each year, including details about project costs and sponsorship. Currently, final projects are published, but not how much each legislator has allocated. The Albuquerque Journal reported that the state House voted 65-1 on Thursday. The measure, sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Matthew McQueen and Republican state Rep. Kelly Fajardo, has repeatedly failed to make it through the Senate. But there are now 11 new members this year following the election. If approved, the bill would take effect immediately. 


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A bill to shore up abortion rights in New Mexico by repealing a dormant ban on most abortion procedures has won Senate approval on a 25-17 vote. Female senators took the lead Thursday in presenting the Democratic-sponsored bill that would repeal a 1969 statute. The bill moves to the House of Representatives where it has broad support. Left in place, the abortion ban might go into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion ruling. New Mexico's move to ensure future abortion access provides a counterpoint to 10 states where outright abortion bans have been proposed this year.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico state House has passed unanimously a bill that would reduce liability for landowners who use controlled burns to reduce the risk of wildfires. The bill eliminates double damages and other liability provisions codified in territorial law in 1882. That was 20 years before New Mexico became a state and about 100 years before residents became aware of global warming. The state is on track to face severe fire risk in 2021. This time last year, no part of the state faced "exceptional drought," the highest level on the USDA drought intensity scale. Now over half the state does.