- ELECTION 2020-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — President Donald Trump abruptly asked a court Monday to drop a lawsuit that challenged New Mexico's use of drop boxes for absentee ballots in the 2020 general election as well as vote-counting equipment sold by Dominion Voting Systems. The request filed Monday with a federal court in Albuquerque would dismiss the lawsuit from Trump but allow the concerns to be revisited. Similar allegations by the Trump campaign about Dominion vote-counting have been rejected as without evidence by the federal agency overseeing election security. State election regulators want allegations in the case to be dismissed permanently.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — State officials say a wastewater monitoring program has helped to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak at a juvenile justice facility in southern New Mexico. The New Mexico Environment Department launched the monitoring program last month. In late December, officials say the virus was detected in wastewater samples taken from the state-run facility in Las Cruces. After testing more than 100 people, they were able to determine that an asymptomatic positive individual was working in the facility. Sixteen federal, state and local correctional facilities are enrolled in the program. Officials say they plan to expand the effort as funding allows.
- TRIBES-CORONAVIRUS RELIEF FUNDING
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case that centers on who gets a share of $8 billion in federal coronavirus relief allocated for tribes. Lower courts were split on whether Alaska Native corporations should be in the mix. The U.S. Treasury Department, tasked with doling out the money, sought review from the high court after a federal appeals court ruled that corporations aren't eligible. The Supreme Court included the case on its order list Friday. The key question is whether the corporations are considered "tribes" under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
- STATE BUDGET-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The administration of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is recommending a 3.3% increase in state general fund spending in the coming fiscal year to devote more to public education and health and workplace safety programs. The move comes as authorities grapple with the economic hardships and mounting death toll of the pandemic. The Democrat-led Legislature convenes Jan. 19 for a 60-day session as New Mexico faces major uncertainties about economic recovery. Tight restrictions on public gatherings and nonessential business remain in place across most of the state. At the same time, the state has financial reserves of roughly $2.5 billion at its disposal.
- LEAST TERN-RECOVERY
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Federal officials say a bird called the interior least tern is being dropped from the endangered species list. The small, fish-eating bird lives along rivers, lakes and wetlands in the Great Plains and Lower Mississippi Valley. Its numbers plummeted in the late 19th century as its feathers became popular for women's hats. Later, it was harmed by dam construction and other river engineering. Conservation efforts have boosted the interior least tern's numbers in recent decades. Environmental groups support the decision to remove federal protections. Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas are all known to have colonies of the terns.
- EDUCATION FUNDING-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Democrats say they're closer than ever to increasing withdrawals from one of the country's largest endowments to fund education initiatives. Increasing annual payouts from the $20 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund would require voters to approve a constitutional amendment. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says a 1% increase in distributions should be set aside to fund early childhood education. While the withdrawals will decrease future growth of the fund, Democratic legislators argue that the state needs to invest more in education. They say public sentiment is shifting in their favor, and a new crop of progressive legislators can get the needed resolution passed.
- NEW MEXICO DEMOCRATS-LEADERSHIP
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The chair of the New Mexico Democratic Party of New Mexico says she will not run for another term when her current tenure ends in April. Marg Elliston made the announcement Monday. Elliston has served as chair for three years and led the party through two election cycles, including campaigning amid the coronavirus pandemic. In the recent election, Democrats solidified their majority in the state Legislature. They also held on to all but one congressional seat — losing the key southern district to Republican Yvette Herrell. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham praised Elliston for her leadership over the recent years.
- ENERGY DRILLING-PUBLIC LANDS
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — In the closing months of the Trump administration, energy companies stockpiled enough drilling permits for western public lands to keep pumping oil for years. That stands to undercut President-elect Joe Biden's plans to block new drilling on public lands to address climate change. An Associated Press analysis of government data shows the permit stockpiling has centered on oil-rich federal lands in New Mexico and Wyoming and accelerated in September and October as Biden was cementing his lead over President Donald Trump. The industry was aided by speedier permitting approvals since Trump took office.