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

May 2, 2019

Alarmed states work to avoid vast undercount in 2020 census
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Many states are spending millions to make sure their residents fill out next year's census form.
One main reason is that activists and others fear that a question about citizenship that the Trump administration wants to add to the form could scare off Hispanics and other immigrants.
At stake are billions of dollars in federal money for health care, education and other services, as well as a state's representation in Congress.
Perhaps no state has more at risk than California, where no racial or ethnic group constitutes a majority and Hispanics outnumber whites.
California has budgeted about $100 million for education and media campaigns, a figure expected to rise to about $150 million.


Xcel nearly done with grid modernization project in Roswell
ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) — A utility that serves customers across eastern New Mexico is close to completing a multiyear project aimed at improving the reliability and capacity of Roswell's power grid.
Xcel Energy announced Wednesday that the project includes a major upgrade to the Roswell International Air Center, where the city's airport, a university and industrial sites are located.
As the former home of Walker Air Force Base, the area was served by electrical systems that were developed by the military decades ago and did not meet modern demands.
The utility says upgrading the lines to a higher, standard voltage will provide more power for new and expanding businesses and also to nearby residential neighborhoods.
In all, Xcel says it has invested $35 million in the city's power systems over the past several years.


New Mexico forest investigates vandalism at rock art sites
SILVER CITY, N.M. (AP) — Officials with the Gila National Forest are investigating vandalism at prehistoric rock art sites within the boundaries of the southern New Mexico forest.
They pointed Wednesday to damage done at Chloride Creek on the Black Range Ranger District. The damage includes names that have been scrawled onto rocks that are laden with prehistoric petroglyphs and pictographs.
Officials say the forest is home to more than 200 recorded rock art sites and once damaged, such sites can never be repaired to their original condition.
They're asking visitors to be respectful. That includes not touching the rock art as oils from a single handprint can chemically affect the rock's surface.
It's also illegal to collect or disturb archaeological materials on public land without a permit from the appropriate land managing agency.


University of New Mexico faculty to vote on union in fall
(Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com)
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Professors at New Mexico's largest university will head to the polls next fall to vote on whether to form a faculty union.
The Albuquerque Journal reports the scheduled vote comes after an all-faculty meeting on unionization drew more than 100 University of New Mexico professors to Popejoy Hall on Tuesday.
An agreement on union membership positions was reached Monday night between University of New Mexico attorneys and lawyers for the United Academics of the University of New Mexico.
A group of faculty had petitioned the labor board to form a faculty union in February.
University officials have said at least 40 percent of professors will have to cast a vote in the election for it to be valid and the union will form if it passes by a simple majority.


As car-sharing picks up in US, so do legislative battles
PHOENIX (AP) — Car-sharing apps that allow people to rent out their vehicles to strangers are growing in popularity in the United States.
But the people who find cars to rent through apps like Turo and GetAround don't pay the taxes and surcharges that local government and airports tack on to traditional rental cars.
That's made them a target for rental car companies, airport authorities and local governments, which want the upstart apps to pay the same taxes and fees that come with rental cars.
At stake is hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue that cities and airports count on to pay for stadiums and convention centers or to fund police, fire and other general operations. They see it as a matter of fairness.
Turo says established rental car companies are trying to stifle competition.


Groups seek to 'veto' New Mexico laws by referendum
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Self-proclaimed patriot groups have initiated long-shot efforts at overturning progressive-minded state laws by referendum.
Michael Harris of the Eddy County Patriot Group said Tuesday efforts are under way to initiate a 2020 referendum on newly approved laws aimed at protecting wildlife, creating a state university affiliate in Mexico and renaming Columbus Day to honor Native Americans.
His group this week submitted applications with the New Mexico Secretary of State's Office to authorize four signature petitions seeking veto referendums.
Agency spokesman Alex Curtas says petition requests are under review and that the state Constitution sets a high bar for revoking laws by popular vote. If allowed, petitions still need more than 70,000 signatures from eligible voters to succeed.
The Roosevelt County Patriot Group wants referendums on three other bills.


Report dings feds' consultation with tribes on projects
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A group of U.S. lawmakers and tribal leaders are calling attention to a watchdog report that says federal agencies need to improve their process of consulting with tribes on major infrastructure projects.
The Government Accountability Office began its review of federal agencies at lawmakers' request following criticism three years ago over the approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.
A top complaint was that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to properly consult with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe before initially approving a pipeline route that ran beneath a source of drinking water.
The GAO report says numerous tribes told federal officials that they were consulted only during the late stages of a project.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat, said Wednesday he's sponsoring legislation that would establish a mandatory tribal consultation process for federal agencies.


New Mexico woman wanted by FBI, accused of a fatal shooting
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The FBI says a New Mexico woman is being sought on a federal criminal complaint charging her with murder.
Officials in the FBI's Albuquerque division say 28-year-old Trudy Martinez is accused of fatally shooting another adult in Twin Lakes last Friday night.
They say Martinez fled the scene with her three children, ages 5, 9 and 10.
The FBI says Martinez is also accused of using a firearm in a crime of violence and crimes occurring on the Navajo Nation.
Authorities say the 5-foot-3 Martinez should be considered armed and dangerous.