Lawmakers Push For Broadband Expansion, ABQ Transit Project Slowing Traffic

Oct 19, 2016

Lawmakers To Look At Expanding Broadband In New MexicoAssociated Press

Some New Mexico lawmakers are turning their focus to expanding broadband access in the state and increasing the speed of existing connections as a means to boosting competitiveness.

Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla says more broadband will mean improvements in both education and the state's position in the national fight for high-wage jobs.

The Albuquerque Democrat will chair a meeting of the legislative Science, Technology and telecommunications Committee on Thursday and Friday in Santa Fe.

Padilla says members of the business community, representatives from Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories and education professionals will be part of the discussion.

He pointed to Facebook breaking ground on a new data center near Los Lunas. He says New Mexico needs to improve broadband infrastructure to attract more companies like Facebook.

Albuquerque Rapid Transit Construction Slows TrafficThe Associated Press

Just one day into construction for the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project, drivers are already frustrated with traffic it is creating.

During evening rush hour Tuesday traffic on Central Avenue near the University of New Mexico was backed up and crawling along.

A city spokesman said Tuesday that the back-up is to be expected in the first few weeks of heavy construction.

Pre-construction work began over the summer, but full construction began this week along 9 miles of Central Ave.

Rapid Transit spokeswoman Joannie Griffin says the traffic isn't ideal, but that drivers should figure how to avoid the area as construction progresses.

New Mexico Crisis Center Remains Empty, Its Future Uncertain – The Associated Press & The Las Cruces Sun-News

It's been more than three years since construction was completed on a mental health facility in southern New Mexico, but it's still not operational.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that the Dona Ana Board of Commissioners on Tuesday looked into ways to finance the county's vacant $2 million Crisis Triage Center. It was built to house adults with mental health issues as an alternative to the county detention center.

Dona Ana County and the city of Las Cruces have discussed the possibility of using the center as a public mental health hospital, but they have not made any formal decisions.

County Health and Human Services Director Jamie Michael says data from the New Mexico Behavior Health Institute shows that operating such a facility could cost millions each year.

New Mexico's Oil Region Seeing Student Enrollment DropsHobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

School districts in the heart of New Mexico's oil region are reporting student enrollment declines amid an oil and gas downturn.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports Lovington Superintendent LeAnne Gandy says her district is down around 80 students from the figure reported to the state for budget purposes last spring.

And Hobbs Superintendent T.J. Parks says his enrollment is down 50 students from the same period.

Both numbers are based on 40-day enrollment figures.

The drop is student enrollment could cost both districts hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The 40-day enrollment numbers for Jal, Eunice, and Tatum will not be available until next week.

University Of New Mexico Regents Launch Presidential SearchAssociated Press

Regents at the University of New Mexico have formally launched the search for the school's next president.

Regents announced at a meeting Tuesday that the search will be chaired by Board of Regents President Rob Doughty. Regents Marron Lee and Tom Clifford will serve as committee members.

Doughty said in a statement that the effort will include input from the entire campus community.

Regents are issuing a request for proposals for an executive search consultant to identify and recruit qualified candidates. They're hoping to have a new president selected by early spring.

President Robert Frank announced in September that he would not seek a second five-year term and would instead fill a new position as a tenured faculty member at the university's Health Sciences Center beginning next June.

First Influenza Cases Of The Season Reported In New MexicoAssociated Press

Health officials say the first influenza cases of the flu season in New Mexico have been confirmed by laboratory tests.

State Department of Health officials say the first two cases involve a 64-year-old man from Bernalillo County and a 64-year-old woman from Valencia County.

Their names weren't announced Tuesday.

Health officials are recommending a flu vaccine for every state resident six months of age and older.

The viruses change each season and flu vaccines have been updated for the 2016-2017 flu season.

Senator: Loopholes Allow For Trafficking Of Tribal ItemsBy Mary Hudetz, Associated Press

A U.S. lawmaker says loopholes in federal laws have left authorities with little leverage in seeking the return of tribal religious items that are illegal to trade in the United States, but sell for thousands of dollars in foreign markets.

The comments Tuesday by U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat, came during a field hearing in Albuquerque, where tribal leaders and representatives of several federal agencies — including the U.S. State, Interior and Justice departments — delivered testimony.

Heinrich has sponsored legislation in the Senate seeking to broaden the scope of a federal law designed to crack down on looting, trafficking and exporting of federally protected Native American items.

The legislation would prohibit dealers from exporting protected Native Americans items of cultural or historical importance for tribes to international markets.

GOP VP Hopeful Mike Pence Has Albuquerque Rally On ThursdayAssociated Press

Republican vice presidential hopeful Mike Pence is scheduled to make a campaign stop in Albuquerque on Thursday night.

According to the campaign website of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, Pence's rally will be held at 6 p.m. at Embassy Suites Hotel and Spa.

Organizers say doors for the event will open at 4 p.m. and tickets are available online on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The Indiana governor previously held campaign events in Albuquerque and Roswell in August to rally support for Trump.

Trump hasn't been back to New Mexico since a May rally in Albuquerque.

That event drew a large crowd and also sparked a late-night protest that led to multiple arrests.

Snow Helps Wrap Up Below-Average Wildfire Season In US WestAssociated Press

With measureable snowfall already dusting parts of the Rocky Mountains and Northwest, the 2016 wildfire season has wrapped up in much of the West.

Jessica Gardetto of the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, says wildfires are still active only in the Southwest, especially Southern California. She says the West saw a below-average fire season overall, with about 7,500 square miles burned.

Gardetto says wet fall weather has tamped down the blazes.

Snow fell this week in several western states. It covered Old Faithful on Monday in Yellowstone National Park, where wildfires burned this summer. And about a foot of snow fell in western Wyoming at elevations as low as 7,000 feet.

Gardetto says fire officials at the center will soon start looking ahead to next year.

Court Mandates New Recovery Plan For Mexican Gray Wolves - By Susan Montoya Bryan,  Associated Press

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must update its decades-old recovery plan for the endangered Mexican gray wolf under a court order issued by an Arizona judge.

The judge on Tuesday signed off on a settlement that was reached earlier this year between environmental groups and the federal agency.

The agreement set a November 2017 deadline for the agency to come up with a new plan. The agency also has to provide the court and other parties in the case regular updates on the planning process.

Environmentalists have long argued that the agency had a legal obligation to adopt a recovery plan that spells out specific goals and milestones for returning the wolves to their historic range in the Southwest.

There are currently about 100 wolves in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona.