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

Jan 8, 2021
  • Lawyers: New Mexico trying to comply with education needs

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Lawyers for the state say the New Mexico Public Education Department is working with school districts and internet providers to expand broadband access in rural areas struggling with remote learning. In a response filed in court this week, they also said school funding hasn't been cut since the pandemic started. The filing comes after plaintiffs in a landmark education lawsuit argued that the state's attempts to provide internet access and learning devices were "woefully insufficient." They are seeking to force the state to connect more children to online learning by identifying students who lack laptops or tablets and providing internet vouchers for at-risk households.

  • New Mexico to see added $300 weekly in jobless benefits

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Labor officials in New Mexico have said residents receiving unemployment benefits should expect an extra $300 a week added to their benefits. The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions announced Wednesday that it will begin paying some benefits approved under a federal relief bill passed late 2020. Department spokeswoman Stacy Johnston said the program will provide an extra $300 weekly for 11 weeks to claimants who have not yet exhausted state or federal unemployment benefits. The state is still waiting for guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor regarding renewing a couple programs for claimants who exhausted their benefits before Dec. 26. 

  • State GOP says election tarnished democracy, faces criticism

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce says democracy has been tarnished by unanswered questions about the 2020 vote count, which state officials called a false narrative. His statement Thursday stops just short of repeating President Donald Trump's baseless claims of election fraud. Pearce says the state Republican Party recognizes Congress' certification of the the victory by President-elect Joe Biden. But he says he has unanswered questions about the vote count, voting machines and drop boxes for absentee ballots. A spokesman for the secretary of state's office says New Mexico's election was independently audited and that Pearce and the Republican Party "should be ashamed of themselves for continuing false narratives."

  • New Mexico utilities look ahead to renewable energy mandates

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A solar project meant to provide 10% of Gallup's electricity for the next two decades is falling short of expectations. The issues with the solar farm come as utilities attempted to meet a statewide requirement in 2020 for having 20% of retail electricity sales come from renewable energy sources. Not all of them met the goal. Utilities will be under more pressure going forward as the Energy Transition Act sets a higher bar in 2025 and subsequent years. Executives with Public Service Co. of New Mexico are confident about meeting the mandates and said reliability and affordability will be among the considerations.

  • High court weighs whether state should compensate businesses

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is urging the state Supreme Court to reject demands that businesses be compensated for losses linked to pandemic-related public health orders. Final written arguments were published Thursday as the high court weighs whether financial compensation is due to businesses in response to the state's public health orders that ban mass gatherings and prohibit business activities such as indoor dining. Businesses have scaled back or closed their doors as state health officials struggle to contain the coronavirus amid widespread testing for infection and the rollout in December and January of the first vaccine doses.

  • Storm could bring much needed moisture to New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Forecasters with the National Weather Service say a potent storm headed toward New Mexico could bring some much needed moisture to the drought-stricken state. They issued an advisory Thursday, saying the storm is expected to move across the state beginning Saturday and will reach the eastern plains Sunday. Significant snow accumulations are expected to effect travel and could cause delays through the northern mountains late Saturday. That region could see a few inches to a foot of snow. The plains could see several inches of snow. More than 80% of the state is dealing with the two worst categories of drought.

  • Pandemic forces New Mexico legislative session to go virtual

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's upcoming legislative session will feature many virtual committee hearings and floor debates due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Leading state lawmakers met Wednesday to discuss safety precautions as the Legislature prepares to convene for its first lengthy session since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Roundhouse will be off limits to the public and lobbyists for the entirety of the 60-day session. The House and Senate will have to adopt specific rules once the session gets underway. Top-ranking Democrats say face masks will be required for those present in the state Capitol.

  • New Mexico company announces completion of rural fiber line

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Rural telecommunications company Sacred Wind Communications has announced it has completed the first-ever redundant fiber line connecting Albuquerque and Gallup in New Mexico. Sacred Wind CEO John Badal said in the announcement Wednesday that the new line will connect hospitals, point of sale devices and emergency services. Badal added that the project will allow rural and tribal communities between the two cities to have faster and more reliable internet access. The Albuquerque Journal reports that funding for the fiber line came from a nearly $14 million low-interest loan from the federal Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service.