- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's top health official says many residents are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations because they have one or more preexisting medical conditions. The state recently expanded vaccine eligibility to those who are 75 and older and anyone over 16 who's at risk because they have cancer, kidney disease, heart problems or other chronic illnesses. Dr. Tracie Collins, the state health secretary, on Monday urged people to be patient because vaccine supplies are limited. The vaccinations come as the state has seen an uptick in the weekly average of confirmed COVID-19 infections. The rate of spread also remains above the target set by the state.
- 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.
- SPACE COMMAND-NEBRASKA
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska's bid to attract the U.S. Space Command's headquarters to Offutt Air Force Base includes $107 million of public and private money. Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce President David Brown, who is one of the backers of the proposal, said last week that the local money is meant to help offset the roughly $1 billion cost of building the new headquarters. Offutt is one of the six finalists to become the headquarters. Other finalists are Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, Redstone Army Airfield in Alabama and the former Kelly Air Force Base in Texas.
- LEGISLATURE-NEW MEXICO
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.VIRUS OUTBREAK-NAVAJO NATIONNavajo Nation reports 237 new COVID-19 cases, 22 more deathsWINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Navajo Nation health officials are reporting 237 new coronavirus cases and 22 more deaths. The latest figures released Friday evening increased the tribe's totals since the pandemic began to 24,776 cases and 866 known deaths. Reports of some of the new deaths were delayed. The Navajo Nation started a weekend lockdown Friday night that extends until 5 a.m. on Monday. All Navajo Nation residents are required to stay at home unless they are essential workers or have an emergency. The weekend lockdowns extend through Jan. 25.
- CHILD ABUSE CONVICTIONS
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.