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Local and State News

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

  • New Mexico charts transition for unemployment benefits

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico has rebuilt its unemployment trust fund to its pre-pandemic level thanks to federal relief money. Enrollment has tapered off in the payment program for people who lost their jobs. The state Workforce Solutions Department that oversees unemployment benefits is briefing a panel of state legislators about the trust fund on Thursday. New Mexico had the nation's highest June unemployment rate and is bracing for the September expiration of federal unemployment payments that boost the amount laid off workers get weekly. State labor agency briefing material shows that the number of residents getting unemployment payments has declined to about 68,000, from a high of 148,000 in June 2020.

  • Republicans want emergency legislative session on crime

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Leading Republican state legislators are calling for immediate reforms to enhance sentences for violent crime and place new limitations on pre-trial release from jail. The push is in response to violent crime in Albuquerque. The lawmakers urged Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to call a special legislative session to send a strong signal that criminals will be held responsible. A letter from House Republicans including minority leader James Townsend calls for reconsideration of 11 GOP-sponsored bills on public safety that were rejected in 2020 and 2021 by the Democrat-led Legislature. Lujan Grisham wants public safety reforms high on the agenda when the Legislature convenes in January 2022.

  • Top US energy official 'all ears' as experts outline needs

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The head of the U.S. Energy Department is hearing from industry officials about what it will take to boost renewable energy development in New Mexico and across the nation. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm took notes during a roundtable discussion Wednesday on her two-day swing through the Western state. Developers and policy experts say that without more transmission infrastructure and a cohesive grid, renewable energy will be stranded, along with opportunities for economic development. They said there are some helpful provisions in the multibillion-dollar infrastructure bill pending in Congress. But they pointed to tax incentives as being a key driver for more development.

  • New Mexico State Fair vaccine mandate spurs concern

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A requirement for everyone attending the upcoming New Mexico State Fair to show proof of vaccination is drawing criticism. The mandate was announced Tuesday by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as part of a new public health order that also requires vaccines for health care workers and others. She also is reinstating a statewide mask mandate for indoor spaces. An official with the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association said the vaccine requirement for the fair comes with short notice and may cost some juniors a year of work if they can't get vaccinated in time and aren't allowed to exhibit and sell their animals.

  • New Mexico school shooting suspect to remain in custody

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A 13-year-old New Mexico boy accused of shooting and killing a classmate will remain in custody pending trial. A Children's Court judge agreed with prosecutors Tuesday and ordered the boy to remain at the Bernalillo County Youth Services Center. He's charged with an open count of murder and unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon on school premises. The shooting happened during the lunch hour Friday at a middle school near downtown Albuquerque. Police have said the victim was trying to protect another boy who was being bullied. The suspect's lawyer raised issues of the boy's competency, saying he needs counseling and treatment for mental health issues.

  • New Mexico governor sets mask mandate, requires vaccination

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is reinstating a mask mandate for all public indoor spaces. She also announced Tuesday that more people will be required to get vaccinated, including hospital employees and those who work at nursing homes and correctional facilities. All workers at schools in New Mexico must also get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing, and proof of vaccination will be required for anyone attending the state fair this year. State health officials also reiterated warnings that vaccinated people can still become infected and spread the virus, making masking and other precautions even more important.

  • New Mexico braces for end of federal unemployment bonuses

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — State labor and workforce training officials are bracing for the end of a $300 weekly federal bonus in unemployment benefits that also bolstered income for the self-employed and gig-economy workers in response to the pandemic. New Mexico officials used an online forum Tuesday to direct people on unemployment toward resources for job postings, career training, mock interviews and even free desk space and phones at Workforce Connection offices. Supplemental unemployment benefits expire Sept. 4 across New Mexico as related federal programs come to a close. Workforce Solutions Secretary Ricky Serna said benefit changes predominantly affect the self-employed, contract workers and other so-called gig workers.

  • US moves to cut backlog of asylum cases at US-Mexico border

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is proposing changing how asylum claims are handled. The aim is to reduce the backlog of cases from the U.S.-Mexico border that's left people waiting years to find out whether they'll be allowed to stay in America. Under the proposal, routine asylum cases no longer would automatically be referred to the overwhelmed immigration court system managed by the Justice Department. Instead, they'd be handled by asylum officers from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,. That's seen as a way to help people with legitimate claims for protection while allowing officials to more quickly deal with people who don't qualify for asylum or are taking advantage of the long delay to stay in the United States.