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Local News

  • Budget rebound may restore locally grown school food

    SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico lawmakers are taking steps to revive funding for public schools to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables from local farms.

    Republican Rep. Jimmie Hall of Albuquerque said Thursday that $400,000 is likely to be included in this year's House appropriations bill for the farm-to-school program. Spending was cut off last year as New Mexico struggled to fill a budget gap amid a downturn in the oil sector.

    Public school districts across the state, from Taos to Deming, have relied for nearly a decade on earmarked state funding to purchase produce directly from local farmers.

    Republican Rep. and livestock rancher Candy Spence Ezzell of Roswell wants the state to add locally raised meat and dairy products to the effort. She walked out on a committee vote Thursday that recommended refunding.

  • 2018 State Legislature: Sen. bill pushes for auto voter registration

    BY ANDREW OXFORD
    The New Mexican

    By the time the 2016 presidential election rolled around, New Mexico had one of the lowest rates of voting-age citizens registered to vote. Only two-thirds of the state’s eligible voters had signed up to cast a ballot, compared to at least 80 percent in Maine and the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, New Mexico also had one of the lowest rates of election turnout among its voting-age population.

    One state lawmaker wants to make it easier for people to vote through an amendment to the New Mexico Constitution that would require the state to ensure every citizen who is eligible to vote is at least registered.

    Senate Joint Resolution 5 would ask New Mexicans to put the state among a growing number with what is known as automatic voter registration. Such laws are popular among progressives, who argue that such a system makes it easier for the public to participate in elections. But others warn the laws could lead to voter fraud and might be ill-suited for a state like New Mexico, with closed primary elections. Even some Democrats are likely to oppose the idea.

  • 2018 State Legislature: Does everyone need a lobbyist?

    BY ANDREW OXFORD
    The New Mexican

    Only 328 people live in Red River, but even they have a lobbyist.

    The mountain town known as a vacation destination pays $2,000 each month plus tax for the services of Gabriel Cisneros, who represents a short list of local governments at the state Capitol.

    He is just one in a small army of lobbyists at work in Santa Fe during this year’s 30-day legislative session representing towns, counties, villages, school districts, colleges and even charter schools – mostly if not entirely on the taxpayers’ dime.

    They may seem like a waste of money given that these communities are already represented by legislators and an alphabet soup of advocacy groups from the New Mexico Association of Counties to the New Mexico Municipal League and the Council of University Presidents.

    Government officials counter that lobbyists are worth the price to keep up with a legislative process that can affect local budgets and institutions, from the county jail to the water treatment plant.

  • LA Science Fair has its day

    Dark stars, robots, catapults and plant growth were some of the many exhibitions on display at this year’s Los Alamos County Science Fair. Judging and an awards ceremony for the district-wide competition was Saturday.

    The science fair had 284 exhibits from high school, elementary school middle school and home schooled students. It took place at the Los Alamos Middle School’s media center and gym. Sixty-two students from the district’s five elementary schools, the middle school and the high school will move on to the regional competition, which is in Las Vegas, New Mexico, March 10.

    Judging started early Saturday and went until noon. The awards ceremony was also held at the middle school gym.
    Some of the students stuck around after judging to explain their projects.

    Eighth-grader Ruben Goettee wanted to gauge the predictability and accuracy of ping-pong balls launched by a hand-held catapult.

    “I found that as a catapult, it should make a normal distribution and it does to point, until it gets further out. Then, it starts to get crazy,” Goettee said.

  • New Mexico adopts national arts standards for K-12 education

    SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico's top education official said the state plans to emphasize a need to teach and support the arts by adopting new statewide K-12 education standards on the arts.

    State Public Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski announced Tuesday that the state has adopted the National Core Arts Standards, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

    The new standards, which will take effect in July, will give public school students the chance to study at least one of the following disciplines: dance, music, theater, visual arts and media. The change also allows teachers to weave elements of the arts into other core classes like math, reading and social studies, Ruszkowski said.

    The state's adoption of the guidelines comes after discussions with arts educators from across New Mexico, Ruszkowski said

    "Everything that we are doing is based upon what we are hearing in the field," Ruszkowski said during an event at New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe.

    The national standards were developed by a coalition of arts educators from across the country and are supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, Americans for the Arts and the National Guild for Community Arts Education. At least 15 states have adopted the guidelines that the group first published in 2014.

  • 2018 State Legislature: Bill would nix lottery scholarship mandate

    BY ROBERT NOTT
    The New Mexican

    State law requires the New Mexico Lottery to allocate 30 percent of its gross revenues for college scholarships, a program that helped defray expenses for some 26,000 students last year.

    So effective was this system that it funneled more than $40 million annually to the scholarship program for nine consecutive years, helping many students obtain a college degree without the crushing debt that can come with loans.

    But lottery revenues dipped in 2017, a fact that figures heavily in another attempt to change the law. A Republican lawmaker has revived an annual bill to eliminate the requirement pledging 30 percent of gross lottery revenues to college scholarships.

    House Bill 147, sponsored by Rep. Jim Smith of Sandia Park, proposes that at least $38 million in net revenues go to the scholarship program. His bill includes a provision that would require the lottery to return to the 30 percent mandate if proceeds dip below the threshold.

    Lottery executives say the change Smith proposes would enable them to sell more tickets and ultimately generate more money for the scholarship fund.

  • New Mexico's jobless rate fell to 6 percent last month

    SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico's unemployment rate fell to 6 percent in December, down from two consecutive months of 6.1 percent.

    The state jobless rate was at 6.7 percent in December 2016.

    It's still higher than the national unemployment of 4.1 percent. But labor officials say New Mexico for the 13th consecutive month recorded aggregate gains in the private sector that resulted in 10,800 jobs, or 1.3 percent growth.

    The latest figures released by the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions show private service industries reported an additional 9,300 jobs while goods-producing industries grew by 2,200 jobs.

    Construction and the leisure and hospitality industries both were up by 3,100 jobs.

    The mining industry saw 700 jobs lost since December 2016. Local, state and federal government jobs also have dropped over the past year.

  • Justice Dept ramps up pressure on so-called sanctuary cities

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department ramped up pressure Wednesday on so-called sanctuary cities seeking public safety grant money, warning state and local officials they could be legally forced to prove they are cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

    Officials sent letters to roughly two dozen jurisdictions threatening to issue subpoenas if they don't willingly relinquish documents showing they aren't withholding information about the citizenship or immigration status of people in custody.

    The department has repeatedly threatened to deny millions of dollars in important grant money from communities that refuse to comply with a federal statute requiring information-sharing with federal authorities, as part of the Trump administration's promised crackdown on cities and states that refuse to help enforce U.S. immigration laws.

    Many cities have been openly defiant in the face of the threats, with lawsuits pending in Chicago, Philadelphia and California over whether the administration has overstepped its authority by seeking to withhold grant money.

  • Does everyone need a lobbyist?

     BY ANDREW OXFORD

    The New Mexican

     Only 328 people live in Red River, but even they have a lobbyist.

    The mountain town known as a vacation destination pays $2,000 each month plus tax for the services of Gabriel Cisneros, who represents a short list of local governments at the state Capitol.

    He is just one in a small army of lobbyists at work in Santa Fe during this year’s 30-day legislative session representing towns, counties, villages, school districts, colleges and even charter schools -- mostly if not entirely on the taxpayers’ dime.

    They may seem like a waste of money given that these communities are already represented by legislators and an alphabet soup of advocacy groups from the New Mexico Association of Counties to the New Mexico Municipal League and the Council of University Presidents.

  • LA women lined up for Santa Fe March

     It wasn’t a big crowd that showed up for the sign making party at the Unitarian Church Saturday, but it was an enthusiastic one. Elena Mesivo, Cecile Hemez and Tina DeYoe spent the morning getting their signs ready for the Santa Fe Women’s March that took place Sunday.

    Mesivo saw the march as just a start for women to finally speak out on such issues as sexual harassment, which has become a hot topic in light of recent, well-publicized scandals in Hollywood.

    “People are finally opening up the door, even from years past to finally speak about it,” Mesivo said. “They are saying  ‘OK. I can go ahead, I’m not alone, I can speak out. For so many years they just kept it behind closed doors because they thought they were alone. Nobody was willing to believe them.” 

    Mesivo predicted that it was probably going to be big turnout Saturday, and she was right.