Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 5:20 p.m. MST
- PANDEMIC RELIEF-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that the state Legislature deserves a leading role in spending decisions about more than $1 billion in federal pandemic aid. The high court on Wednesday delivered a rebuke to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and her attempt to forgo the legislative process in deciding how to spend a major round of pandemic relief funding. A bipartisan group of state senators challenged the first-term Democratic governor in the high-stakes constitutional clash. Democratic state Sen. Jacob Candelaria teamed up with Republican Senate minority leader Gregory Baca. They said decisions about $1.7 billion in pandemic spending are too important for only the governor to decide.
- GOVERNOR APPOINTMENTS
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's governor is naming new advisers on water, infrastructure and broadband. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the appointments Wednesday after President Joe Biden signed the $1 trillion infrastructure bill. She's appointing former Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez to work with communities around the state to set priorities for the $3.7 billion in federal infrastructure money that's bound for New Mexico. Lujan Grisham also says the state will have a broadband adviser soon. She also said the head of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, Mike Hamman, will serve as her water adviser starting in January. He will replace John D'Antonio, who will be stepping down.
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The massive infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden signed this week includes billions of dollars to address long-standing issues with water and sanitation on tribal land. The Indian Health Service says it will consult with tribes on how best to use the $3.5 billion. The amount is enough to fulfill the more than 1,560 projects on the agency's list of sanitation deficiencies. Tribes welcomed the infusion of money but say sustained investments are needed to make up for decades of neglect and underfunding. The bill also includes funding for broadband in Indian Country, tribal water rights settlements, roads and climate resilience.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A new lawsuit alleges that Alec Baldwin recklessly fired a gun when it wasn't called for in the script when he shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the New Mexico set of the film "Rust." The lawsuit filed Wednesday, from script supervisor Mamie Mitchell, is the second to stem from the shooting. It says she was standing next to Hutchins and within 4 feet of the actor, and was stunned when he fired the gun that killed Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza. Representatives for the defendants had no immediate comment.
- DRY NEW MEXICO-SPENDING
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — With a high-stakes case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court and more forecasts calling for hot and dry weather, New Mexico's top water official says lawmakers can't afford not to adequately fund the state agencies that oversee water resources. State Engineer John D'Antonio testified Wednesday before a key panel of lawmakers on funding needs for the upcoming budget year. D'Antonio has cited a persistent lack of resources as a reason for his decision to step down next month. He said the Office of the State Engineer is severely short staffed and yet water issues are growing.
- NEW MEXICO-TAXES
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says a statewide cut in gross receipts taxes will be on her agenda when the Legislature meets in January. She made the announcement during an economic development event Wednesday in Albuquerque. The first-term Democratic governor is running for reelection and has been battling criticism over her handling of the pandemic and economic fallout among businesses across the state. The proposal would trim New Mexico's gross receipts tax rate by 0.25%. The governor's office said the proposed reduction would save New Mexicans an estimated $145 million annually. Supporters also say it would help ease pyramiding that results from the state's tax policies.
- JAIL HOMICIDE-NEW MEXICO
LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — Authorities say seven inmates in a northern New Mexico jail are charged with first-degree murder and other crimes in the beating death of a fellow inmate regarded by other prisoners as a dangerous bully. The seven were charged Monday in the Nov. 1 killing of 40-year-old Eric Vigil, who was beaten in a cell in the San Miguel County Detention Center. Arrest affidavits said the staff discovered the gruesomely battered and unresponsive Vigil facedown on the floor after another inmate reported that an inmate had slipped and fallen. The affidavits said Vigil and other inmates had entered a cell where the beating lasted just 62 seconds.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NAVAJO NATION
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation on Monday reported 17 more confirmed cases of COVID-19, but no deaths. The latest numbers pushed the tribe's total to 38,352 cases since the pandemic started. The number of known deaths remains at 1,514. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has urged residents of the vast reservation to be careful when traveling to neighboring cities and states where safety measures aren't always as strict. The tribe has maintained a mask mandate through most of the pandemic. The reservation covers 27,000 square miles (70,000 square kilometers) and extends into parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.