- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO BUSINESS
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments as it weighs whether the state must compensate businesses for losses from temporary closures or other public health emergency restrictions. Oral arguments were scheduled for Wednesday before the five-member court. A coalition of businesses says pandemic restrictions have effectively seized private property from businesses that might otherwise have taken their own precautions against the spread of COVID-19. Their lawsuit characterizes the state's public health emergency orders as regulatory taking that merits compensation to businesses. New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's administration says property rights come with limitations concerning the safety of others.
- OIL AND GAS-VIOLATION
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — An oil company operating in northwestern New Mexico has agreed to pay a $25,000 civil penalty as part of a settlement. The Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department said Tuesday that a notice of violation had been issued to San Juan Resources, Inc. for failing to report and perform a proper investigation of a well's potentially defective casing. While there were no associated leaks or damages identified at the well in question, state officials said the case highlighted the importance of well integrity and proper reporting. The state Oil Conservation Division also is requiring permanent fixes at the well site.
- 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. Nearly two dozen inmates at state lockups were among the 893 additional confirmed COVID-19 case reported by the state Tuesday.
- 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.