Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 9:20 p.m. MST
- EDUCATION FUNDING-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham wants to make New Mexico teacher salaries the highest among neighboring states. Tapping into a glut of oil and gas tax revenue, she's proposing raising educator salaries anywhere from 7% to 20%, depending on their role and level of experience. The cost would be around $275 million. Minimum salaries for entry-level teachers would increase from $41,000 to $50,000. In Texas, starting salaries average around $44,500. However, New Mexico legislators worry that Lujan Grisham's proposal won't be enough to stem the state's teacher shortage.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Department of Health has extended COVID-related orders that include a mask mandate for public indoor spaces. The orders also require health care workers and certain other employees to be up to date on their vaccinations. The extension comes as the omicron variant drives up the case count. Many of the recent positive cases from the highly transmissible variant have been mild infections that haven't required hospitalization. Still, New Mexico's hospitals are operating under standards that prioritize immediate medical emergencies. The state also confirmed that New Mexico is following federal guidelines that lessen the isolation and quarantine timeline.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NAVAJO NATION
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation reported 270 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Friday and one death related to the virus. Tribal officials say the number of cases on the reservation now total 42,622 since the pandemic began. The death roll stands at 1,593. The Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President held a special online town hall Friday to update residents on the pandemic as the omicron variant pushes case numbers higher. Frontline workers said during the meeting that they are seeing less severe symptoms in patients who have been vaccinated.
- COLORADO RIVER-DROUGHT
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The city of Phoenix has outlined what it will contribute voluntarily to a regional plan to shore up a reservoir that delivers Colorado River water to three states and Mexico. The river already can't provide seven Western states what they were promised a century ago. Phoenix, the nation's fifth largest city, is among entities that will pitch in to fulfill the so-called 500+ Plan. City officials say they'll leave some water in Lake Mead that straddles the Arizona-Nevada border instead of storing it underground as planned. The plan will be implemented as Arizona, Nevada and Mexico are forced to endure their first-ever mandatory cuts from the river.
- NUCLEAR LAB-CLEANUP
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Officials at one of the nation's top nuclear weapons laboratories are reiterating their promise to focus on cleaning up Cold War-era contamination left by decades of research and bomb-making. But New Mexico environment officials and watchdog groups remain concerned about the pace and the likelihood that the federal government has significantly understated its environmental liability at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The U.S. Department of Energy has said it will be 2036 before cleanup is complete. Federal officials acknowledged during a meeting Thursday night that they are reviewing whether new risks will boost the need for more funding and more time.
- NEW MEXICO KILLINGS-SENTENCING
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A 26-year-old man convicted of killing three family members and another person during a string of shootings in 2017 in northern New Mexico has been sentenced to four consecutive life sentences. State District Judge Jason Lidyard sentenced Damian Herrera on Friday. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the judge also imposed 9 1/2 years of prison time for convictions on related charges of aggravated fleeing from a police officer, possession of a stolen vehicle, assault on a peace officer and other crimes. Surviving family members spoke about the devastation his crimes had wrought. Herrera's attorney said he plans to appeal.
- ENDANGERED WOLF-DEATH
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Federal wildlife officials say an endangered Mexican gray wolf that had been roaming around northern Arizona has been found dead. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed Friday that the male wolf was killed sometime last weekend. Authorities said the incident is under investigation and they declined to release any additional information. Environmentalists were dismayed. The wolf had returned to the Flagstaff area at the end of October. In August, Arizona wildlife officials relocated it about 200 miles to the southeast within the boundaries of the wolf recovery area set by federal officials. The northern boundary is set at Interstate 40.
- VOTING RIGHTS-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's top election regulator and governor wants to designate Election Day as a state holiday to encourage voting and make it easier to request and cast ballots by mail. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a news release Thursday that the proposal responds to "a wave of anti-democratic sentiment nationwide," discriminatory ballot access policies in other states, and a refusal by Republicans to fortify voting rights at the federal level. The two Democrats are seeking reelection this year. Separately, Lujan Grisham signed a new political map for the state Senate.