- STATE BUDGET-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Leading New Mexico legislators are proposing a 4% increase in state general fund spending that would devote new resources to health care and public education amid the coronavirus pandemic. The detailed budget proposal was announced Tuesday by Democratic and Republican members of a lead budget-writing committee. Legislators are also proposing cost-of-living pay increases for state workers and public school employees and a bailout of the state's indebted unemployment trust fund to avoid future payroll tax increases. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is suggesting 3.3% increase in spending without blanket pay raises. Economists are predicting a rebound in state government income on top of multibillion-dollar financial reserves.
- 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.
- SAGE GROUSE-ENERGY LEASES
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Trump administration has completed a review of plans to ease protections for a struggling bird species in seven states in the U.S. West, but there's little time to put them into action before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. The ground-dwelling, chicken-sized greater sage grouse has been at the center of a long-running dispute over how much of the American West's expansive public lands should be developed. A federal judge blocked the Trump administration in 2019 from relaxing rules imposed under the Obama administration that restricted mining, drilling and grazing across millions of acres. That court order remains in effect with only eight days left in Trump's term.
- WRONGFUL ARREST-FLAGSTAFF
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — An Arizona man who was wrongfully arrested on suspicion of selling LSD has reached a settlement with the city of Flagstaff that includes a $75,000 payment. The parties filed a document in federal court Monday to dismiss the case. It comes several months after Tremayne Nez, who is Navajo, sued Flagstaff police and accused them of ignoring evidence showing he wasn't a drug dealer. The city has apologized for what it said was a case of mistaken identity with a suspect who is also Native American but maintains its actions were legal. Nez said he and his family are happy they can move on with their lives.
- 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.
- 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.