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


Hispanic Republican legislator retires in New Mexico HouseSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Republican state Rep. Alonzo Baldonado of Los Lunas is retiring from the New Mexico Legislature after a decade of advocacy for a district in central New Mexico and socially conservative causes. A spokesman for House Republicans announced Baldonado's departure Friday in a news release. The statement highlights efforts to fund a regional hospital and highway interchange in Valencia County. As a Hispanic legislator, Baldonado also participated in efforts by the Republican Party to expand racial and ethnic diversity within its ranks. The Valencia County Commission will name a replacement to serve out the remaining year of Baldonado's term.


Higher health insurance surtax among New Mexico's new lawsSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — With the arrival of the new year, new laws are taking effect in New Mexico that aim to bolster access to health insurance and to eliminate many court-imposed fines against juveniles that are viewed as counterproductive. A bill signed by Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham adds a 2.75% surtax on health insurance premiums. Insurance Superintendent Russell Toal says the surtax will provide a crucial subsidy when Medicaid coverage under special federal pandemic provisions expires for an estimated 85,000 residents. New Mexico also is eliminating many financial fees and sanctions in the juvenile justice system, including fines for possession of marijuana by a minor.


New Mexico sees test shortage as coronavirus cases top 2,000SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico is running short of free at-home rapid tests to detect COVID-19 infections as the state struggles with the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The company that runs the state's program said Thursday that the state's supply of tests was overstretched. The announcement came hours after Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wrote that residents could "order a testing kit today." By afternoon "all available tests have been shipped" and Vault Health was offering paid testing instead. The state reported an additional 2,209 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 26 additional deaths.


Navajo council votes to send big checks to tribal membersWINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation's tribal council has voted to send $2,000 checks to each qualified adult and $600 for each child using $557 million in federal coronavirus relief funds. The vote to send the checks to about 350,000 tribal members was approved Thursday by Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez to take effect. Wednesday's 18-2 vote during a special session of the tribe's lawmaking body will tap some of the approximately $2.1 billion the tribe is receiving from President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan Act.


New Mexico governor signs state House redistricting measureSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed legislation to redraw election boundaries for seats in the New Mexico House of Representatives. The Democrat signed the measure Wednesday, calling it a "sound map that is representative and respectful of New Mexico's varied communities of interest." Republicans disagree. They have argued that the maps approved by the Democrat-led Legislature are partisan and far from fair representation. They say the voices of rural residents, conservative Democrats and independents will be marginalized. The House map is expected to give Democrats an edge in about 45 of 70 seats. Democrats currently hold a 45-24 advantage in the chamber.


Behind the wait for a verdict at Maxwell jury deliberationsNEW YORK (AP) — The Ghislaine Maxwell sex trafficking trial was a four-week winding road with sordid testimony by four women accusing the British socialite of grooming their teenage selves for abuse at the hands of financier Jeffrey Epstein. The defense maintained the abuse could have been real, but Maxwell wasn't part of it. It all came to a climax earlier this week with a guilty verdict in federal court in Manhattan, delivered after five days of jury deliberations. The scenes from the courtroom as the trial wound down were sometimes tedious, sometimes tense.


Fact Focus: Misinformation persists after Maxwell trial endsThe sex-trafficking trial of Jeffrey Epstein's former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, ended with guilty verdicts, but that didn't stop the flow of false news that has swirled around the case. Posts emerged on Thursday falsely claiming that trial documents were sealed to protect Epstein, who died by suicide in 2019 while awaiting trial for sex crimes, and his influential friends. At the same time, previously debunked claims reemerged on social media, including that there was no media coverage of the high-profile trial. Maxwell was found guilty on five of six counts in a monthlong trial where she was accused of helping Epstein sexually exploit teenage girls.


What's next for Ghislaine Maxwell after guilty verdict?NEW YORK (AP) — With a guilty verdict in the sex-trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, here's a look at what the once high-flying Jeffrey Epstein confidante was accused of and what's next for her. The 60-year-old Maxwell was convicted of all but one count on Wednesday and faces the possibility of decades in prison. Maxwell's defense contended she was victimized by a need to make someone pay for the alleged crimes of Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself while awaiting trial on his own sex-abuse charges, and her family supports an appeal.