NM Reduces Lottery Scholarships, NM Casino Cancels Kathy Griffin's Performance

May 31, 2017

New Mexico Reduces Lottery ScholarshipsThe Associated Press

New Mexico is reducing college scholarships linked to state lottery proceeds from 90 percent of tuition to 60 percent for in-state students for the coming school year.

Higher Education Secretary Barbara Damron on Wednesday announced the changes in lottery-based scholarships. Roughly 26,000 students at universities, four-year colleges and two-year community colleges receive the assistance.

Liquor excise tax revenues are being phased out after bolstering scholarship funding in recent years, as the demand for financial aid outpaced revenues from lottery sales.

State lawmakers who oversee funding of the lottery scholarships have been left with few other options for sustaining the scholarships that once paid for 100 percent of in-state tuition.

With the change, tuition assistance for students at New Mexico's three research universities is decreasing by more than $700 to $1,721 in the fall.

New Mexico Casino Cancels Kathy Griffin PerformanceThe Associated Press

A casino in New Mexico has scrapped a scheduled performance by comedian Kathy Griffin after she posted online a bloody image that resembled President Donald Trump.

Route 66 Casino, a casino operated by Laguna Pueblo, announced late Tuesday on social media that July 22 performance by Griffin was canceled.

Griffin, who helped with CNN's New Year's Eve coverage, has apologized, saying that the brief video was "too disturbing" and wasn't funny.

Griffin appears in a video posted online Tuesday holding what looks like President Donald Trump's bloody, severed head.

She described the project as an "artsy fartsy statement" on Instagram and says she does not condone causing harm to others.

New Mexico Launches Summer Meal Program For ChildrenThe Associated Press

Officials say nearly 3 million meals will be served to New Mexico children over the summer as part of an annual program aimed at helping low-income families.

Gov. Susana Martinez and Children, Youth and Families Secretary Monique Jacobson kicked off the summer meal program Wednesday during a visit to a school in Albuquerque.

Martinez says access to good meals ensures children have the fuel their bodies and minds need.

More than 16.5 million meals have been served in New Mexico through the federally-funded program since 2011. The state was ranked No. 1 last year by the Food Research and Action Center for serving meals to low-income children over the summer months.

New Mexico City's Fire Dept. Left Behind In Proposed BudgetThe Associated Press & The Current-Argus

The Carlsbad Fire Department requested it be given nearly $1 million in 2017-18, but it has been allocated zero of those dollars in the city' proposed budget.

The Current-Argus reports the City Council's proposed budget was approved unanimously last week. The fire department wanted money for equipment and building improvements.

The budget also gives the city's police department about half of the $2 million it requested. Approved items for the police department included communication equipment and six of the nine requested police cars.

The city approved about $45 million of the $55 million in departmental general fund requests for next year's budget.

Carlsbad Fire Chief Rick Lopez says he is optimistic the city will give the department the funding it needs in the future.

Study Finds New Mexico, Georgia Had Nation's Highest Jail Rates - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

A criminal justice reform group says two states with some of the nation's largest percentages of minority residents also had the country's highest jail incarceration rates in 2013.

The study by the Massachusetts-based Prison Policy Initiative released Wednesday showed that New Mexico had a jail incarceration rate of 340.8 per 100,000 residents four years ago.

Georgia had the second highest rate that year with 317.3 per 100,000 residents.

The group examined the number of people being held in local jails and found that pre-trial detentions spurred jail growth.

New Mexico has the largest percentage of Hispanic residents in the United States at 48 percent. Around 31 percent of Georgia residents are black — one of the highest percentages in the country.

The study examined New Mexico before its largest county instituted reforms to reduce its jail population.

New Mexico Congresswoman Adds Support To Route 66 Funds BillAssociated Press

A New Mexico congresswoman is adding her support for a bill aimed at saving federal preservation funding for Route 66.

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced this week she decided to join as a co-sponsor after learning that a federal law authorizing the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program is set to expire.

The program is credited with helping bring back to life forgotten landmarks along the route, many in disrepair because of sharply lower Route 66 traffic.

A bipartisan bill in Congress would designate Route 66 as a National Historic Trail and set aside money annually for Route 66 preservation.

A spokesman for the Albuquerque Democrat says the congresswoman was unaware of the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program until The Associated Press wrote last week about the program facing elimination.

Wind Resources Make Up 22 Percent Of Xcel's Power MixAssociated Press

A utility that serves parts of West Texas and eastern New Mexico says wind resources now make up more than one fifth of the sources used to generate electricity for its customers.

Xcel Energy says that percentage is expected to almost double to 43 percent by 2021.

A report released by the utility Tuesday details the growth in renewable energy across its service area in 2016. In the Southwest, renewable energy accounted for 23 percent of the power generated, with nearly all of that being derived from wind sources.

In March, the company announced plans to add 1,230 additional megawatts of wind energy to the Southwest regional grid over the next few years. Officials have said the cost will be below that of coal-fueled electricity.

New Mexico Legislature Concludes Special SessionAssociated Press

The New Mexico Legislature has concluded a special session after Gov. Susana Martinez signed legislation that resolves a state budget crisis for the coming fiscal year.

The Legislature adjourned on Tuesday as Democratic lawmakers expressed lingering concerns about the health of state finances.

Martinez restored funding Friday to all state colleges and universities that she had vetoed earlier by tapping money from suspended infrastructure projects.

The Republican governor has rejected a string of tax increases proposed by the Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, that were designed to further bolster state finances and protect the state's credit rating.

New Mexico Lawmakers Express Relief At Budget Compromise – The Associated Press

New Mexico lawmakers expressed relief Tuesday that a budget agreement has been reached to restore funding to public colleges and universities and shore up state finances for the upcoming fiscal year that starts on July 1.

Legislators converged on the state Capitol after a three-day recess to complete the special legislative session. Republican Gov. Susana Martinez last Friday vetoed proposed tax increases and agreed instead to use severance tax bonds to shore up the state's finances.

The budget compromise appears likely to quiet a months-long feud between Martinez and the Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, over how to resolve a budget crisis from a significant drop in state revenue linked to the downturn in the oil sector and a weak state economy.

Martinez rejected several tax hikes, while vetoing $745 million in annual general fund spending to state universities, community colleges and specialty schools.

Sisters, Kids Found In Santa Ana Pueblo Died Of HypothermiaAssociated Press

Autopsies released Tuesday show that two sisters and their three children who were found dead on tribal land in January died of hypothermia.

The FBI says it did not find any evidence of foul play in the deaths of Vanessa George and her two children, Zoe and Chloe, and her sister Leticia George and daughter Haleigh.

Authorities discovered the women and children in a rugged area of the Santa Ana Pueblo. Their damaged truck was found at the end of a dirt road.

The case unfolded when family members asked police to check on the two women and their children. Police arrived at the home they were renting in Albuquerque to find no one there. Cellphones and other belongings were left behind, prompting police to issue a flier about the women's disappearance.

2 Suffer Minor Injuries In Train Derailment In New MexicoAssociated Press

A train derailment in southern New Mexico has caused 20 empty rail cars and two locomotives to leave the tracks.

Union Pacific spokesman Jeff DeGraff says two crew members who suffered minor injuries were taken to a hospital as a precaution.

The derailment occurred Tuesday afternoon 30 miles east of Lordsburg.

No other injuries were reported.

DeGraff says the cause of the derailment hasn't yet been determined.

He says the train had left Los Angeles and was headed to Santa Teresa, New Mexico, with empty cargo containers.

No vehicles were involved in the derailment.

New Mexico State Police say the derailment is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Feds: Suspect In Hatch Officer's Death Pleads GuiltyAssociated Press

The suspect in the fatal shooting of a Hatch policeman has struck a plea deal in federal court that will send him to prison for the rest of his life.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says Jesse Denver Hanes of Columbus, Ohio, pleaded guilty to attempted carjacking and four other charges. He still faces a first-degree murder charge in New Mexico state court and an unrelated murder charge in Ohio.

Authorities say Hanes fatally shot Officer Jose Chavez during a traffic stop on August 12. Police say he fled the scene and tried to carjack two people at a rest stop. They say he then carjacked a man after shooting him in the leg.

Hanes is scheduled to go on trial in New Mexico in September. Chavez was a two-year veteran of the Hatch police force.

Pueblo Applies To Rename Mesa 20 Miles West Of BernalilloAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The people of the Santa Ana Pueblo want to rename a mesa about 20 miles west of the town of Bernalillo as part of an effort to reclaim ancestral lands.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the San Felipe Mesa was likely named by Spanish conquerors to honor King Philip II of Spain.

Under the proposal, it would be known by the name used by ancestors.

The pueblo has applied to have the name changed on all federal maps to Kene-ewa.

It's a process that requires approval from the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, though local maps can be changed without such a process.

Nationally, other Native American communities and others have been working to rename locations to fit with their history or overturn cruel or exploitative names.

Sandia Labs Reportedly Creates Mobile App To Test For ZikaAssociated Press

Scientists and researchers at the federal government's largest national laboratory have developed an app and mobile device they say can detect Zika.

The New Mexico-based Sandia National Laboratories says the new app connects to a smartphone-controlled, battery-operated diagnostic device to identify Zika, dengue, and chikungunya within 30 minutes.

Traditional testing for the mosquito-borne viruses often requires a laboratory and long waits. Officials say the cost for that testing can run up to $20,000 and make it out of reach for rural clinics in developing countries where the viruses thrive.

But Sandia scientists say their new device weighs under a pound and costs as little as $100.

The Sandia team describes its rapid-testing prototype in the journal Scientific Reports.