Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 5:20 p.m. MST

Feb 10, 2020

New Mexico lawmakers begin push for tuition-free collegeSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Adults who return to school to pursue professional certificates and two-year degrees are getting top priority under a proposal to provide free tuition to in-state students at New Mexico public colleges and universities. A panel House legislators advanced a bill Monday that fulfills a pledge by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The approach would begin after existing state scholarships are used up, and before federal grants and military aid kick in. That should allow students to stretch public funding to pay for rent, food and clothing.


New Mexico House backs early childhood endowment fundSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A plan to create a $320 million state endowment for early childhood education programs won endorsement Monday by the New Mexico House of Representatives. The 51-14 House vote follows approval of a similar bill by the state Senate. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is a leading proponent of creating the trust fund whose investment earnings would be earmarked for a variety of early education and child well-being services. The state has the national's lowest high school graduation rate and has been faulted by a state district judge with failing to provide adequate educational opportunities, especially for poor and minority students.


New Mexico triples spending on census participationSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico lawmakers have ramped up state spending aimed at encouraging participation in the 2020 Census across a remote rural landscapes where gaps in internet access pose a challenge to the federal population count. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation Monday that devotes an additional $8 million to promote census participation. With the legislation, New Mexico moves up on the list of states. including California and New York. that are spending substantially to increase census participation. Lujan Grisham said her administration wants to ensure that the state receives its rightful share of funding for social programs and infrastructure that are underwritten by the federal government.


New Mexicans mourn Las Cruces soldier killed in AfghanistanALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico soldier killed in eastern Afghanistan is being remembered for his bravery. The U.S. Department of Defense on Sunday identified 28-year-old Sgt. Antonio Rey Rodriguez of Las Cruces as one of two servicemen who died during a combat operation. Rodriguez and 28-year-old Sgt. Javier Jaguar Gutierrez, of San Antonio, Texas, were fatally wounded in Nangarhar Province on Saturday. Both men were assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Six others were wounded in what the U.S. military said was an insider attack. An Afghan dressed in an Afghan army uniform opened fire on the group. 


GOP House hopeful in New Mexico to launch 6-figure TV blitzALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A Republican candidate for a crucial U.S. House seat in New Mexico is launching a television advertisement blitz. Oil executive Claire Chase is scheduled Tuesday to release her first ad aimed at positioning herself as a political outsider and an avid anti-abortion activist. Another ad will highlight Chase's stance on border issues. Chase is seeking the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small for a seat that represents southern New Mexico. Torres won the Republican-leaning seat in 2018 by less than 3,000 votes. Chase's six-figure ad buy comes less than a month before the New Mexico Republican Convention. 


New Mexico GOP headquarters hit by spray-painting vandalALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A spray-painting vandal has hit the headquarter of the New Mexico Republican Party. Surveillance video shows a man tagging the Albuquerque headquarter around 2:30 a.m. Saturday before fleeing in an SUV. Officials discovered Monday that the vandal had painted the words, "still traitors," in front of the building. New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce says the headquarters has been struck a number of times in recent months and the party has installed cameras. He says footage of the vandalism has been handed over the Albuquerque police. No arrests have been made. 


Albuquerque councilor's $6K trip to NYC, DC raising eyebrowsALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An Albuquerque city councilor's trip to three East Coast cities cost is raising questions over her $6,300 bill to taxpayers. KOAT-TV reports Albuquerque City Councilor Klarissa Pena recently took a trip to Philadelphia, New York City, and Washington to attend a conference for city council presidents in Philadelphia. Records show Pena billed the city $3,290 for train tickets and another $2,082 for hotels. Pena told the station she took a train because she's afraid of planes. She also took her husband and two grandchildren and defended the move since she said the family rarely travels. Paul Gessing, president of the taxpayer watch group the Rio Grande Foundation, called the expenses "brazen." 


Rain, snow expected early this week over New Mexico, ArizonaALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Winter weather is returning to parts of New Mexico and Arizona early this week. National Weather Service meteorologists say cold temperatures and snow are coming to New Mexico on Monday and Tuesday. Authorities say driving will be difficult in eastern and northern New Mexico because of high winds, cold temperatures and moderate to heavy snow. Weather Service officials say Arizona could see moderate to heavy rain Monday and Tuesday. The snow level will drop to around 6,000 feet on Tuesday in northern Arizona and a few inches of snow is expected to fall along portions of the Mogollon Rim. The storm system should leave Arizona by Wednesday morning.