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


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A third employee of Santa Fe's local bus system has died of COVID-19 as state workplace safety regulators investigate virus cases involving Transit District workers. City spokesman Dave Herndon said the last worker who died recently from the virus was a supervisor who died Monday. Stephanie Stringer, deputy cabinet secretary of operations for the state Environment Department, said the Occupational Health and Safety Bureau was gathering information on COVID-19 cases involving transit workers.  Herndon said the city has stringently followed state guidelines, provided all workers with personal protective equipment and regularly cleans and sanitizes buildings and equipment.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — More than a dozen New Mexico lawmakers are petitioning state regulators to study the potential costs and benefits of publicly owned electrical power for the state. The petition was made public Tuesday. The lawmakers want to make their case before the Public Regulation Commission during a meeting next month. The request comes after the commission recently issued two major rejections involving the state's largest electric provider. One involved the proposed exit of Public Service Co. of New Mexico from a coal-fired power plant and the other was a proposed multibillion-dollar acquisition of the utility by global energy giant Iberdrola.


Prosecutors in Albuquerque say they tracked down a suspect in a decades-old rape case by using open-source genealogy data. Second Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez announced an arrest Tuesday in the case from 1997. The Albuquerque Journal reports that it's the second time the office has fileed charges using online genetic profiles. Torrez says his office hired a contractor in the latest case who matched DNA collected from a fork the suspect discarded to online data. Torrez says the suspect's DNA has been linked to several other rapes. 


WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation is reporting 10 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the vast reservation but no additional deaths. The figures released Tuesday pushed the total number of cases to 40,856 since the pandemic began. The death toll remained at 1,576. Tribal President Jonathan Nez urged residents to get vaccinated and a booster shot to build a defense against variants, including omicron. Vaccines do not prevent people from getting coronavirus, but health officials say the shots are effective in reducing the risk of severe illness and death. 


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's governor has signed a nearly $500 milling spending bill that draws on federal pandemic relief funds. The funds will help the state expand high-speed internet access, bolster roads, upgrade state parks, expand nurse training programs and help teachers pay off their student debts amid a shortage of educators. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Tuesday approved all proposed spending measures in the bill and vetoed a requirement that local governments contribute to related affordable housing projects. A bill-signing ceremony in Belen marks a truce in a lengthy standoff between the governor and a handful of state senators over which branch of government can allocate $1.7 billion in federal pandemic aid.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque police are launching a crackdown on off-road vehicles being driven on streets and highways. Police officials announced Monday that officers are being instructed to cite and tow all off-road vehicles being driven illegally, with no exceptions. Police noted that a 7-year-old boy was killed when struck by an off-road vehicle on a city street earlier this month as his family used a crosswalk. An arrest warrant has been issued for a 27-year-old man in that case. Deputy Chief Mike Smathers said police have noticed an increase in off-highway vehicles being driven on city streets over the past year. 


BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. officials have approved two solar projects in California and are opening public lands in other Western states to potential solar development. The moves are part of the Biden administration's effort to counter climate change by shifting from fossil fuels. The company proposing the projects east of Los Angeles say combined they would generate enough power for about 132,000 homes. Also Tuesday, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management published a call to nominate land for development within "solar energy zones" in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. Democratic President Joe Biden's promotion of renewable wind and solar power marks a shift from Republican President Donald Trump's emphasis on coal, oil and gas.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The University of New Mexico is adding coronavirus vaccination rules to a mask requirement for fans entering the Pit arena in Albuquerque starting after the Christmas weekend. In a statement on Monday, officials cited surging COVID-19 numbers and the emerging threat of the omicron variant. The directive starts with women's and men's basketball games Dec. 28. Everyone 12 and older entering the 15,000-seat arena will need to show proof they're fully vaccinated or show a recent negative COVID-19 test. New Mexico becomes the sixth school in the 11-member Mountain West Conference to set a vaccine rule for home arenas.