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Local and State News

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


ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) — City officials have announced the Roswell Civic & Convention Center will temporarily close in April due to a lack of funding from low hotel occupancy caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The Roswell Daily Record reported that City Manager Joe Neeb said Thursday during a city council meeting that the city will not budget for operations at the center in its next fiscal year, which begins in July. Neeb said Spectra, the company contracted to manage and staff the center, was informed on Jan. 20 about terminating the agreement as of April 20. The closure of the facility is based mainly on hotel occupancy figures, currently about 35% capacity. 


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Democratic legislators in the state House have voted in favor of a proposed constitutional amendment that could funnel more than a billion dollars toward early childhood education over the next six years in New Mexico. The Democratic-dominated House on Friday endorsed the initiative that would tap an additional 1% share each year from the state's $20 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund and expand beneficiaries to include prekindergarten. A competing Senate proposal would increase trust distributions to K-12 education. Approval of the House plan would set the stage for compromise negotiations.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court has rejected a Republican challenge to emergency procedures in the state House of Representatives that have moved hearings and deliberations almost entirely online as a precaution against COVID-19. The high court declined to hear the lawsuit from leading Republican House legislators on Friday in a shortly worded order. Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf says that emergency legislative procedures that rely heavily on videoconferencing are necessary in light of the pandemic. He says more people are participating in online legislative hearings than could possibly fit physically into committee rooms under normal circumstances.


WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Navajo Nation officials on Friday reported 66 new COVID-19 cases and six more deaths. The most recent numbers on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah bring the total number of cases to 29,167 an deaths to 1,103 since the pandemic began. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez issued a statement reminding people that a mask mandate is in place on the reservation and he encouraged the wearing of two masks after a U.S. government study this week found that wearing two masks can be better than one in protecting against coronavirus spread. 


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."


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.