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Local and State News

Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 5:20 p.m. MST


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico legislators are sprinting amid the pandemic to come up with a framework for regulating and taxing recreational marijuana after voters ousted key opponents of pot legalization in 2020 elections. Four Democrat-backed proposals with a social justice bent are competing for traction at the Legislature, along with a Republican proposal aimed at stamping out the illicit pot market. The Legislature has until March 20 to send a cannabis bill to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, an enthusiastic backer of marijuana as a tool of economic development and fiscal security for the state. The state's Constitution doesn't allow for ballot initiatives, leaving cannabis legalization to the legislative process.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A storm has brought snow across New Mexico, leading to freezing temperatures and icy road conditions. Snowfall has led to more than 150 delays and closures Tuesday morning with residents being urged to stay home. In Albuquerque, the city's non-essential services and offices will open two hours later because of the weather. City officials say 30 sanding and plowing vehicles are working 12-hour shifts to clear snow-packed roadways. The city's buses are also operating on a limited capacity. The weather is delaying the opening of the Bandelier National Monument until noon so workers can clear snow and ice from trails and roads.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Legislators in the New Mexico House of Representatives have endorsed reforms to rein in police immunity from prosecution, voting 39-29 in favor of a bill that allows civil rights lawsuits in state court against a variety of local government agencies. The vote Tuesday moves the bill from Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf and Rep. Georgene Louis to the state Senate for consideration. In response to financial concerns voiced by local governments, sponsors amended the bill to cap liability for damages at $2 million. Liability applies only to government agencies and not individual public employees.


WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Navajo Nation health officials reported 24 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, but no additional deaths. The latest numbers bring the total number of cases on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah to 29,308 since the pandemic began. There have been 1,112 deaths reported related to COVID-19. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement that even those who have been fully vaccinated need to continue taking precautions to avoid spreading the virus. He also commended health care workers for helping to get people vaccinated, especially when compared to the rate in areas surrounding the Navajo Nation.  


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The world's largest powwow has been canceled for a second consecutive year because of the pandemic. The Albuquerque Journal reported Monday that the Gathering of Nations Powwow, typically held in Albuquerque, will be entirely online. Gathering of Nations founder Derek Mathews says they can't hold the live event until the state opens up for large gatherings. He was told that the powwow won't likely be possible until April of 2022. He also says it wouldn't be right to risk people's safety, especially considering how COVID-19 has devastated tribal communities. The virtual powwow will be held April 23-24 with dance performances and competitions livestreamed from various places.


SANTA FE. N.M. (AP) — The state Supreme Court has issued a written opinion that shows new resolve in its support of pandemic-related health restrictions placed on businesses by the governor of New Mexico. At the same time Monday, the Legislature took initial steps that could place new limits on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's authority to declare a health emergency. The Supreme Court opinion provides detailed and updated reasoning for a decision in August that rejected a lawsuit brought by several restaurants and their industry association. A bill from Republican Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca would limit the duration of public health orders to 45 days and require legislative approval to extend an order.


LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico State University Library has decided not to renew its subscriptions to 433 scholarly journals in the wake of budget cuts. The Las Cruces Sun-News reported that the school for several months has been preparing for two years of budget cuts in anticipation of coronavirus-related economic strain. One-third of the subscriptions were titles in a package that the library's interim dean Katherine Terpis said will save the university $800,000 over the next two years. The other cancelations will save about $45,000 more. The journal subscriptions allowed students and professors to access the works for research purposes. 


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Legislators have advanced a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana across New Mexico and lift the state's tight restrictions on production for its medical marijuana program. After more than six hours of testimony and deliberations, a legislative committee on health issues on Monday endorsed one Democrat-backed bill and sidelined a second, in efforts to set up a taxed and regulated marketplace for broad cannabis sales. The two-day hearing pushed to the forefront an initiative that would subsidize medical marijuana for the poor and do away with current limits on the number of plants each licensed producer can grow. The bill moves next to a tax policy committee for vetting before a possible House floor vote and Senate consideration.