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

Jan 8, 2021

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's top-ranked state senator says Democrats will push for direct financial relief to low-income, front-line workers who have borne the brunt of the pandemic during the upcoming legislative session. The idea already is popular among minority Republican legislators. Democratic Senate majority leader Peter Wirth said Friday that pandemic relief efforts are likely to take center stage at the outset of the 60-day session that begins Jan. 19. Wirth also is outlining new details of a push to channel more money each year toward public education. A political shift among Senate Democrats also may lead to more progressive tax rates.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court has overturned the child abuse convictions of an Albuquerque man in the 2015 death of an infant who had multiple bruises on his head and body. A divided court ruled there wasn't enough evidence to support Christopher Garcia's convictions, saying prosecutors failed to prove that the 14-month-old boy would not have died absent the defendant's failure to seek medical care. The ruling raised immediate concerns for New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas. He said New Mexico is already one of the most dangerous states in the U.S. for children, and the ruling will make it more difficult to hold child abusers accountable.


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.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico health officials are moving ahead with vaccination distribution by expanding the list of those who are eligible for shots. On Friday, people 75 and older joined the list along with people who have underlying medical conditions that place them at greater risk. The list also includes front-line essential employees who can't work remotely and vulnerable groups such as the homeless and those in correctional facilities. State officials say New Mexico is among the leading states when it comes to vaccination rates. They estimate that between 62,000 to 68,500 vaccines had been administered in New Mexico, from a supply of more than 106,000 doses.


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."


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.


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.


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.