- WESTERN WATER SCARCITY
CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — As things begin to dry out again in New Mexico, members of the arid state's congressional delegation are looking for ways to combat water scarcity here and across the American West.U.S. Sen. Tom Udall is blaming climate change for growing water scarcity, worrying that New Mexico snowpacks were getting smaller and unable to adequately feed the Rio Grande and the rest of the state's groundwater supplies.He and other lawmakers last week introduced the Western Water Security Act of 2019. They say the goal is to strengthen New Mexico's water infrastructure and focus efforts on conservation and the restoration of water supplies throughout the West.The latest federal drought map shows a big pocket of moderate to severe drought over the Four Corners region, where New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Utah meet.
- ABSENTEE BALLOTS LAWSUIT
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Republican Party officials plan to hold a news conference Monday to discuss their lawsuit against the New Mexico Secretary of State, the Dona Ana County Clerk and the county's Absentee Voter Precinct Board.State GOP officials say the defendants are defying a new law that calls for absentee voters to provide their name, address and year of birth.They also say many voters in Dona Ana County have submitted improper ballots.The party filed its lawsuit Friday, asking the Third Judicial District Court for an injunction to stop the counting of the absentee votes.They also want the court to issue a declaratory judgment to clarify the meaning of the 2019 changes and to set a uniform statewide standard for qualifying and counting absentee votes for this non-partisan election and future ones.
- DEFENSE ATTORNEY-DRUNKEN DRIVING
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A high-profile defense attorney in New Mexico is facing his second drunken driving charge this year.David Serna was arrested Saturday in Albuquerque after police said he crashed his Mini Cooper into another car.According to a criminal complaint, the 66-year-old Serna admitted to having a beer an hour and a half before the accident after telling police he hadn't been drinking. Court documents also say Serna told authorities he had taken nerve pain medication and oxycodone earlier in the day.Police say a breathalyzer test showed Serna had a blood alcohol content of 0.16 — twice the legal limit in New Mexico.Serna was arrested and charged with aggravated drunken driving. Serna did not immediately respond to a phone message.His latest arrest comes months after prosecutors dropped another drunken driving case.
- BISON-GENETIC DIVERSITY
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Evidence is mounting that wild North American bison are gradually shedding their genetic diversity across many of the isolated herds overseen by the U.S. government, weakening future resilience against disease and climate events in the shadow of human encroachment.Advances in genetics are bringing the concern in to sharper focus.Preliminary results of a genetic population analysis commissioned by the National Park Service show three small federal conservation herds would almost certainly die off within 200 years under current wildlife management techniques.Answers to protecting genetic diversity may lie in the transfer of bison between unlike herds or initiatives to create larger herds.North America's bison squeezed through a genetic bottleneck of fewer than 1,000 animals in the late 1800s.
One of the largest coal-fired power plants in the U.S. West is winding down operations.The Navajo Generating Station near the Arizona-Utah border has been producing electricity since the 1970s. One unit already has shut down and the other two are scheduled to go offline by the end of the year.Others in the region are on track to shutter or reduce their output in the next few years.Those shifts are upending the livelihoods of people across the area. That includes hundreds of mostly Native American workers who mined coal from tribal land, loaded it from a roadside silo and helped produce electricity.The Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe now are hard-pressed to replace the losses, including money for student scholarships and coal as a heating source.
- TUCSON-SANCTUARY CITY
Tucson is widely credited as the birthplace of the 1980s Sanctuary Movement, an effort by churches to help refugees from Central America and shield them from deportation.A group of activists is looking to revive the city's history of aggressively resisting immigration authorities. Voters will decide Tuesday whether to designate Tucson as Arizona's only sanctuary city, a direct challenge to President Donald Trump and to the anti-illegal immigration law that put a spotlight on the state nearly a decade ago.Many in Tucson are eager to send Trump a message that disapproves of his immigration policies. But even some on the left worry the measure would merely draw the ire of the president and his allies in the state Legislature without improving conditions for migrants.
- GOVERNMENT WORKFORCE
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Many New Mexico lawmakers say they want to build up the state government workforce, but the vacancy rate in the state's executive branch has clung to about 22% even after pay raises and increased recruitment efforts.The Albuquerque Journal reports that state agencies are competing with strong demand in the private sector for workers, especially in southeastern New Mexico where an oil boom is generating high-paying jobs.Officials say low pay in some state departments and the reputation of state government itself after years of belt-tightening also are factors.State Personnel Director Pamela Coleman says she's optimistic the vacancy rate will fall as the new administration's priorities take hold.Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham took office on Jan. 1, when the vacancy rate in state government was also about 22%.
- JAIL ESCAPE-SENTENCING
CLOVIS, N.M. (AP) — A Clovis man who escaped from jail with a detention officer's help has been sentenced to 30 years in prison.The 9th Judicial District Attorney's Office says 26-year-old Ricky Sena was sentenced Wednesday on convictions for felony escape from jail and other crimes in his 2018 escape with two other inmates from the Curry County Detention Center.Detention Officer Sarina Dodson is serving a nine-year sentence after pleading guilty to assist escape from jail.Sena's sentence will run consecutively to an 11-year term for other convictions.Authorities said the inmates with Dodson's help were able to walk out an unlocked jail door.The escapees were taken into custody after being located four days later hiding in a Clovis residence, and the other two inmates also are now serving prison terms.