Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 p.m. MDT

Jun 4, 2021

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's lottery scholarship program in the next academic year will cover full tuition for eligible in-state students at public and tribal colleges and universities for the first time since 2015. The state Higher Education Department announced Thursday that the scholarship will be funded at $63.5 million in the 2021-2022 fiscal year, a 30% increase, with the additional money coming from several sources. The scholarship paid full tuition for eligible students from 1996 to 2015 before it was reduced to levels as low as 60%. That was due to circumstances that included rising tuition rates.


CLOVIS, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico environmental officials say they're several months into an investigation to determine the extent of contamination at two Air Force bases. Environment Secretary James Kenney said Friday that the work is on track to be completed by summer 2022. The state sued in 2019, saying the federal government has a responsibility to clean up plumes of toxic chemicals left behind by past military firefighting activities. Similar contamination has been found at dozens of military sites across the U.S. New Mexico officials consider the contamination "an immediate and substantial danger" to the surrounding communities of Clovis and Alamogordo.


BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A U.S. judge has rejected the Biden administration's attempt to delay a lawsuit from several states and environmental groups that would end sales for coal mining leases on federal lands. The coal program was temporarily shut down under President Barack Obama because of concerns about climate change. It was revived by the Trump administration, but there have been few sales in the years since because the use of coal has plummeted as utilities turn to cleaner-burning fuels. Environmentalists want to shut down the program permanently. A federal judge issued an order late Thursday denying the Biden administration's attempt to delay the case for another three months.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Retired state Supreme Court Justice Edward L. Chavez will lead a public vetting of proposed New Mexico redistricting maps as chairman of a citizen redistricting committee. Chavez was appointed to the leadership role on Friday by the State Ethics Commission. Districts are redrawn every 10 years after the Census count to adjust for population shifts. New Mexico will draw new maps for three U.S. House districts as well as the state Senate, House and Public Education Commission that regulates charter schools. The  redistricting panel will hold a series of public meetings as it develops proposals. Its recommendations will be presented to the Legislature and are not binding.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham revved up her campaign for reelection in 2022 with an opening rally at an outdoor museum amphitheater that was unsettled by the sound of protests just outside the venue. Chants, sirens and cries of "lock her up" threatened to drown out a series of speakers at the rally on Thursday. Lujan Grisham has been both praised and lambasted over the past year for a response to the pandemic that has included some of the most stringent public health orders in the nation. The last incumbent governor to lose reelection in New Mexico was Democrat Bruce King in 1994.


SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Biden administration has quietly tasked six humanitarian groups with recommending which migrants should be allowed into the United States to pursue asylum as it faces mounting pressure to lift public health rules that have barred people from seeking protection. The groups will determine who is most vulnerable out of those waiting in Mexico to get into the U.S. The criteria they are using hasn't been made public. Large numbers of people are crossing the border, and the government has been rapidly expelling them from the country under a public health order instituted last year during the coronavirus pandemic. Several members of the consortium provided details of the new system to The Associated Press.


WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation has reported 13 additional COVID-19 cases and four more deaths from the virus as of Thursday. Since the pandemic began, more than 30,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,328 deaths from the virus have been reported on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, who accompanied his 13-year-old son as the youth received his second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Thursday, said people should get vaccinated.  Vaccinations are available during drive-thru events or by appointments at health care facilities across the reservation.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument will close this weekend while crews continue efforts to contain a wildfire in the Gila National Forest. The National Park Service said Thursday that the Cliff Dwellings will shut down beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday and until further notice. The lightning-caused blaze, which was first reported May 20, has burned roughly 60 square miles. Firefighters will conduct burn-out operations west of the Cliff Dwellings on the so-called Johnson Fire. The hope is to reinforce fire lines and keep the blaze from getting to the Cliff Dwellings or the community of Gila Hot Springs.