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NM Gets Warnings On Winter Storm, State Universities Seek Tuition Increases

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New Mexico Gets Warnings On Winter Storm, Fire ConditionsThe Associated Press

New Mexico's weather is blowing dangerously hot and cold.

A "red flag" warning has been issued for southwestern New Mexico for much of Friday due to dryness and wind creating critical fire weather conditions.

Meanwhile, a winter storm warning will be in effect from late Friday night to early Sunday for much of northeastern New Mexico, with forecasts calling for heavy and blowing snow.

New Mexico Universities Seek Tuition IncreasesThe Associated Press

Student tuitions are on the rise at one of the nation's most affordable state university systems in response to New Mexico's state budget crisis.

Regents at New Mexico Highlands University were considering Friday a 7.5 percent tuition hike in anticipation of new state funding cuts. Fall tuition increases have been approved at a trio of state universities and a community college in Santa Fe as administrators grapple with major financial uncertainties.

All state spending on institutions of higher education has been vetoed for the coming fiscal year amid an escalating feud between Republican New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and the Democratic-led Legislature over how to resolve a state budget crisis.

The New Mexico Supreme Court is considering whether to overturn that veto with input from state university presidents.

Albuquerque City Councilors Seek Boost in Police Force - The Albuquerque Journal 

Two Albuquerque city councilors want to put about forty percent more officers on the Albuquerque police force.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Republican Councilor Don Harris and Democrat Ken Sanchez announced a proposed charter amendment in a news conference Wednesday. They say it would address the number one concern they hear from residents – that is, they don’t feel safe in their homes.

The Albuquerque Police Department currently has about 840 officers – the amendment would require the city to bump that up to about 1200, based on a new ratio of 25 sworn officers for every 11,500 residents. According to the Albuquerque Journal, APD has had trouble filling the 1,000 positions its currently budgeted for.

The councilors plan to introduce their proposal at Monday’s meeting, but a vote is likely weeks or months away. 

Income Dips From New Mexico State Trust LandsThe Associated Press

New Mexico state trust lands generated $399 million in income during the first nine-months of the fiscal year ending in March — a slight decrease from the previous year.

The New Mexico State Land office said Thursday that income predominantly from oil and natural gas royalties and leases fell from $410 million.

New Mexico State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn says renewed activity in the oil and gas sectors is expected to drive an increase in state income from trust lands by the end of the fiscal year in June. He expects an additional $30 million or more.

The State Land Office oversees 14,000 square miles (36,000 square kilometers) of land and additional underground resources that are used to help fund schools, universities, hospitals and other public institutions.

Students Sue SFUAD For Fraud and Breach of Contract - The Santa Fe New Mexican

Three college students are suing the Santa Fe University of Art & design and its parent company after its decision to close the school next May.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the lawsuit was filed Thursday in District Court in Santa Fe. The students accuse the for-profit school and Laureate Education, Inc., of fraud and breach of contract, and seek compensation for damages including economic and emotional distress.

University leaders announced the closure this month after a deal to sell the school to a Singapore-based education company fell through.

According to school leaders, a quarter of the university’s nearly 700 students could graduate before the closure in May of 2018.

The university is offering a $25-hundred dollar tuition credit to any student seeking to transfer. The lawsuit says that’s not enough to make up for being thrown into academic and financial uncertainty. 

Study Finds Health Care Overhaul Would Burden New Mexico The Associated Press

An analysis commissioned by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty tallies the local financial effects of Republican plans to overhaul Medicaid health care.

Released on Thursday, the study found New Mexico state government would be compelled to pay an additional $3 billion from 2020 to 2026 to maintain current levels of Medicaid coverage and services.

New Mexico is one of the 31 states that expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Under the Republican plan, costs to the state would increase substantially for new expansion patients and those who drop out temporarily.

The analysis from University of New Mexico researcher Kelly O'Donnell says caps on per-capita costs also would burden state finances.

Congressional Republicans hope to vote next week on a revised health care overhaul bill.

Martinez Says She Will Add Tax Reform To A Special Session – The Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says she will add comprehensive tax reform to a yet-to-be-announced special session aimed at solving the state's budget crisis.

The Republican governor made the announcement Thursday at the 14th Annual New Mexico Tax Research Institute Policy Conference.

Martinez is demanding lawmakers support a more ambitious tax-code overhaul designed to improve the state's business climate by eliminating hundreds of tax breaks, including long-standing exemptions for nonprofit organizations.

She says reforms will help avoid adverse impacts of the boom-bust oil and gas industry.

Similar reforms, which stalled in the Democratic-controlled Legislature this year, would lower standard tax rates on sales and services.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth says reforms have to broaden the tax base and lower rates, not redistribute taxes from one group to another.

UNM Asks WisePies To Give Up Naming Rights To Arena – The Associated Press

WisePies Pizza & Salad, a pizza chain the won the coveted naming rights in 2014 for the home for the University of New Mexico's men's and women's basketball teams, is dropping its name from the area, the schools announced Thursday.

In a statement, the university said it recently asked the pizza chain to abandon its naming rights of The Pit pending a new agreement with another company. The name of the new sponsor has yet to be revealed.

School officials say a new agreement will allow for multiple facilities to be named under one umbrella.

WisePies owner Steve Chavez says the company was happy to step aside since it knew how much the move would help the university. He says WisePies enjoyed its partnership with the school, and expects it to continue in a different capacity.

The Pit was renamed WisePies Arena in December 2014, drawing criticism from fans.

American Cyclist Not Expected To Survive Injuries From Crash The Associated Press

American cyclist Chad Young has a severe head injury following a crash at the Tour of the Gila, and his Axeon Hagens Berman team said late Thursday he is not expected to recover.

The 21-year-old Young crashed along with teammate Edward Anderson on a high-speed descent during the final stage Sunday. He was taken by helicopter from New Mexico to a hospital in Arizona, where he was initially listed in stable condition with severe facial lacerations.

On Tuesday, Young's team announced that he was in critical condition.

The last American cyclist to die from injuries sustained in a prominent North American bike race was Nicole Reinhart, who crashed during a race in 2000 in Arlington, Massachusetts. Collegiate rider Randall Fox was killed last year during a race near Seattle.