Local News

  • Popular national parks to raise fees to $35, not $70

    By MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Interior Department is increasing fees at the most popular national parks to $35 per vehicle, backing down from an earlier plan that would have forced visitors to pay $70 per vehicle to visit the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and other iconic parks.

    A plan announced Thursday would boost fees at 17 popular parks by $5, up from the current $30 but far below the figure Interior proposed last fall.

    The plan by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke drew widespread opposition from lawmakers and governors of both parties, who said the higher fees could exclude many Americans from enjoying national parks. The agency received more than 109,000 comments on the plan, most of them opposed.

    The $35 fee applies mostly in the West and will affect such popular parks as Yellowstone, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Mount Rainier, Rocky Mountain and Grand Teton parks, among others.

    Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the fee hikes were needed to help maintain the parks and begin to address an $11.6 billion maintenance backlog.

    "Every dollar spent to rebuild our parks will help bolster the gateway communities that rely on park visitation for economic vitality," Zinke said.

  • West Road is open, fire extinguished

    UPDATE: 4:24 p.m.

    Los Alamos County has restored power to customers in the Ski Hill, Fairway and Trinity areas following a wildfire today, according to the county spokeswoman.

    Los Alamos fire crews extinguished a wildfire that broke out at 12:45 p.m. today on West Road, south of the Los Alamos County Ice Rink.

    There was no damage to the ice rink and no injuries reported. The fire was extinguished within an hour. West Road was reopened about 2:30 p.m.

    Some homes near Fairway Drive and Trinity Drive were without power, according to Los Alamos County Spokeswoman Julie Habiger said.

    “The Department of Public Utilities’ electric linemen anticipate that power will be restored by 4 p.m.,” Habiger said.

    The fire was caused by arcing power lines and is moving up the slope behind the ice rink, according to early reports from fire officials.

    ****** Fire crews are battling a wildfire that broke out about 12:45 p.m. south of the Los Alamos County Skating Rink this afternoon.

    West Road is closed to traffic in the area and vehicles are being diverted through Los Alamos National Laboratory property.

    Motorists will be asked to show identification or badges to pass through the property. Gusty winds are adding to the danger level, according to one witness.

  • Drivers urged to watch out for dust in Arizona, New Mexico

    TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Authorities in Arizona and New Mexico are urging drivers to watch out for blowing dust due to strong winds blowing across the region.

    The National Weather Service says visibility is reduced along Interstate 40 between Winslow and the New Mexico border in northern Arizona and that winds are also picking up along Interstate 10 in the Willcox area of southeastern Arizona.

    Meanwhile, the New Mexico Department of Transportation says visibilities may be reduced on highways in Luna and Hidalgo counties in southwestern New Mexico due to blowing dust.

  • New Mexico state and local tax revenues rise

    SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico tax authorities are collecting more local and state government tax dollars amid an oil industry rebound and some signs of an economic expansion, Gov. Susana Martinez announced Wednesday.

    Martinez said in a statement that state and local revenues for the first seven months of the fiscal year have increased by $672 million from the previous year, or 13 percent. Those revenues include some money from local tax increases.

    State general fund revenue increased by $489 million, or nearly 16 percent, during the same July-January period from the previous year, according figures from the Department of Finance and Administration.

    A rebound in the oil and natural gas sectors is providing a windfall after two years of austere state budgeting.

    Martinez and the Democrat-led Legislature recently approved a $260 million increase in general fund spending for the coming fiscal year, with pay increases for teachers, State Police and prosecutors.

    Martinez is highlighting her 2017 veto of a proposed tax increase as a turning point in state finances.

    Economists with the Legislative Finance Committee warned in January that recent increases in state income are linked almost entirely to the oil and natural gas sector, making the state even more dependent on a volatile industry.

  • Sessions takes fight on border enforcement to New Mexico

    By MARY HUDETZ, Associated Press

    LAS CRUCES(AP) — As thousands of National Guard troops deploy to the Mexico border, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions brought his tough stance on immigration enforcement to New Mexico on Wednesday, telling border sheriffs that cracking down on illegal crossings and drug smuggling is necessary to build a lawful immigration system.

    Sessions ticked off stories about smugglers being caught with opioids and cocaine at the U.S.-Mexico border and legal loopholes that have encouraged more immigrants to make the journey.

    "This is not acceptable. It cannot continue," he said. "No one can defend the way the system is working today."

    Outside, dozens of immigrant rights activists protested Sessions' visit, once again rejecting his previous characterization of the border region as "ground zero" in the Trump administration's fight against cartels and human traffickers.

    "He was wrong then, and he is wrong now." said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso, just south of Las Cruces.

    As Sessions' motorcade arrived, the group chanted in Spanish and waved signs against the proposed border wall and the deployment of National Guard troops to the region

  • The Latest: Sessions says goal is lawful immigration system

    LAS CRUCES (AP) — The Latest on U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' trip to the border in New Mexico (all times local):

    2:30 p.m.

    U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the U.S.-Mexico border must be secured if the nation is going to have a lawful immigration system.

    In a speech Wednesday in New Mexico, Sessions ticked off stories about drugs being smuggled across the border and illegal crossings that have taxed law enforcement, prosecutors and the court system.

    The attorney general spoke in Las Cruces to a group of sheriffs whose departments patrol areas north of the U.S.-Mexico border in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

    Sessions once again called the situation on the border a crisis that has been allowed to fester for decades and suggested those who oppose border security and immigration enforcement are radicals.

    1:40 p.m.

    The Arizona National Guard plans to offer support at the U.S.-Mexico border for maintenance, repairs and surveillance but not law enforcement.

    Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire says some of the 338 guardsmen and women being deployed will be armed for self-defense.

  • University of New Mexico considers eliminating sports

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The University of New Mexico has authorized its athletic director to eliminate programs in the cash-strapped department.

    University President Garnett S. Stokes addressed the regents Finance and Facilities Committee on Tuesday, saying athletic director Eddie Nunez has been instructed to propose sport eliminations by this summer.

    Stokes says student athletes should be given notice a year before their sport is eliminated.

    Nunez says no decision has been made yet on which sports will be cut. The university sponsors 22 varsity sports programs.

    The action comes as the athletics department entered this year with $4.7 million in accumulated deficits. The department is expecting to overspend this fiscal year's budget by a $2.1 million and is projecting another $2.3 million deficit for the next year.

  • Republican attorney defends Democratic political gadfly

    SANTA FE (AP) — A Republican candidate for New Mexico secretary of state has volunteered to act as defense attorney for a former congressional intern accused of disorderly conduct at a recent Democratic political convention.

    Court documents filed on Tuesday indicate that political candidate and attorney JoHanna Cox is representing Riley del Rey without pay in Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court.

    Del Rey is confronting allegations that she became violent as officers removed her from the March convention in Albuquerque, where police say she shouted and sounded an air horn to disrupt a speech by gubernatorial candidate and

    Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham.

    Del Rey contends she was discriminated against because of her transgender identity and fired in 2015 from an internship in Lujan Grisham's Washington office. Del Rey recently launched a Facebook-based campaign against Lujan Grisham's bid for governor.

  • Harassment complaints increase at New Mexico Legislature

    By MORGAN LEE, Associated Press
    SANTA FE (AP) — The New Mexico Legislature has received more complaints of sexual misconduct or harassment this year than it did over the past decade, after shoring up procedures for investigations.

    Public records requests by The Associated Press show New Mexico's Legislature received four complaints about misconduct or harassment during this year's legislative session — two against lawmakers and two against their staff.

    That's up from just one complaint over the previous decade.

    The AP filed similar records requests in every state, seeking information on sexual misconduct or harassment complaints against lawmakers, as well as any financial settlements.

    Though the process unearthed a total of about 70 complaints and nearly $3 million in settlements nationwide, the actual figures are almost certainly higher.

    That's because a majority of states released no records, with some saying they had no complaints, did not keep a tally or they aren't legally bound to disclose the information.

    Few details of the alleged harassment in New Mexico were available because the Legislature does not disclose information about complaints where there is no finding of probable cause.

  • Legislatures being pressed to produce reports of misconduct

    By MORGAN LEE and DAVID A. LIEB, Associated Press
    SANTA FE (AP) — Documenting sexual harassment complaints against state lawmakers and publicly releasing the outcomes can provide encouragement for people who might otherwise be hesitant to report allegations of inappropriate behavior.

    Experts and many female lawmakers say that's true even if the complaints are ultimately dismissed, because it shows legislative chambers take the matter seriously.

    "If there's no accountability, if we don't know what the outcomes are ... it makes it really hard for them to come forward, it makes it hard for them to trust the system," said Debbie Dougherty, a communications professor at the University of Missouri who researches sexual harassment policies.

    In New Mexico, lobbyist Julianna Koob said she was harassed three years ago while working on behalf of a coalition of sexual assault programs but never reported it for fear that doing so would affect her livelihood.

    "I had no idea that there was a policy for sexual harassment, and the behavior was so in the dark that I didn't think that it should have been reported" at the time, Koob said.