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Local and State News

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

  • LEGISLATURE-NEW MEXICO

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is expressing optimism that legislators will embrace her proposals for tax cuts with a little over a week left in the annual regular legislative session. Her comments Wednesday were coupled with disbelief that legislators in the Democratic majority are hesitating the back major crime-fighting initiatives. The governor also said she is determined to expand voting access through legislation, and is confident that New Mexico will offer some incentives to spur local hydrogen fuel development. Republican legislators say their Democratic colleagues are straying from core obligations to public safety. Lujan Grisham is running for reelection in November.

  • BC-NM-OBIT-FORMER SANTA FE MAYOR JAVIER GONZALES

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Javier Gonzales, who served one term as the mayor of Santa Fe, has died after a battle with cancer at age 56. Gonzales' death was announced Wednesday by Christus St. Vincent where he had worked as vice president and chief development officer of the hospital's foundation after leaving politics. In an interview with the Santa Fe New Mexican in October 2020, Gonzales said he was diagnosed with cancer after he'd struggled with hip pain and a loss of energy. He told the newspaper that doctors found a tumor near one of his kidneys. Gonzales was elected in 2014 and was Santa Fe's first openly gay mayor. He decided against running for a second term in 2018, citing a desire to spend more time with his two daughters.

  • BC-NM-STATE REGULATORS-ROLLING BLACKOUTS

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Regulators in New Mexico are trying to work with utilities to deal with supply chain problems that could threaten adequate power availability during peak consumer demand this summer. The five-member Public Regulation Commission held an open public meeting Wednesday as they consider emergency measures to mitigate the looming crisis of rolling blackouts. Public Service Company of New Mexico has said it may not have enough generating capacity for customers in the hottest months of July and August when electricity demand climbs to its highest levels. Pandemic-induced supply-chain issues also have delayed the construction of four new solar facilities that were supposed to replace power from the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station when that plant shuts down in June.  

  • WILDFIRE THREAT-WINTER

AZTEC, N.M. (AP) — A fire official in northwestern New Mexico says there's an active wildfire threat in the region despite it still being winter. Capt. Tony Herrera, the wildland coordinator for San Juan County Fire and Rescue, said fire dangers generally diminish during winter but there has been heightened fire activity due to dry conditions. Herrera said recent snowfall provided much-needed moisture but it hasn't been enough to provide enough relief as the state moves toward warmer weather. Herrera said his agency and the Bloomfield Fire Department on Monday night both had to deal with brushfire sand that people need to be cautious.

  • HYDROGEN INCENTIVES-NEW MEXICO

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A panel of state legislators have rejected a bill that would have provided new financial incentives for hydrogen fuel derived from natural gas under certain conditions. A Senate panel suspended consideration of the bill on a 7-2 vote Tuesday amid lengthy and impassioned public comments. The initiative is sponsored by Democratic Sen. George Muñoz of Gallup and would treat some hydrogen and hydrogen-fueled generating stations for electricity much like renewable energy sources that get favored treatment in the procurement process. The preferences would only apply to hydrogen made from "responsibly sourced" natural gas where pollution from hydrogen production is captured and stored underground.

  • PREDATORY LENDING-NEW MEXICO

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico House legislators have approved legislation aimed at discouraging predatory lending by lowering the state cap on annual interest rates on storefront loans. Democratic state Rep. Susan Herrera of Embudo is sponsoring the bill that would lower the maximum interest rate on storefront loans to 36%. The bill won House approval on a 51-18 vote Monday nigh and now moves to the Senate for consideration. Advocates for the new cap on interest rates say it would ensure borrowers don't fall into vicious cycles of debt that contribute to poverty in New Mexico. Opponents warn that small installment loans may dry up for consumers with no alternatives.

  • BC-NM-LOS ALAMOS-RADIOACTIVE LEAK

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The National Nuclear Security Agency has formed an accident investigation board to look into last month's reported leak that contaminated several workers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that a breached plutonium glove box at Los Alamos on Jan. 7 released airborne radioactive material that was more than double the yearly limit for a work area. The newspaper says the leak occurred in a sealed compartment which has attached gloves so workers can handle radioactive material. According to a report by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, a Los Alamos employee noticed the breach after working with a container of legacy waste in the glove box. Alarms then sounded, prompting the six-person crew to evacuate..

  • BORDER PATROL MORALE

WASHINGTON (AP) — A strained Border Patrol is getting increased attention from the Biden administration. Tense meetings have taken place between senior officials and the rank-and-file as the agency deals with the largest influx of migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border in decades. The Department of Homeland Security plans a series of measures aimed at addressing the workload and morale of agents in the agency it oversees. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is pledging to more forcefully pursue criminal prosecutions of people accused of assaulting Border Patrol agents. Chris Magnus, the new commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, says, "That's something that agents in the field want to hear because assaults are on the uptick."