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TUES: Number Of Suspensions Increase At Albuquerque Public Schools, + More

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Number Of Suspensions Increase At Albuquerque Public Schools -Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A school district in New Mexico has released a report that showed more than 4,000 students were suspended last year compared to the previous year, revealing previous improper documentation.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Monday that there were more than 12,000 student suspensions at Albuquerque Public Schools in 2018-2019, a 51% increase compared to the more than 7,900 students suspended the year before.

The state Public Education Department says the increase can be attributed to the district not previously reporting all of the suspensions to the state as required, up until last year.

District spokeswoman Monica Armenta says the district believed it was reporting everything it needed to.

Storm Causes School Closures, Delayed Openings In New Mexico -Associated Press

A storm dropping snow and forming ice caused hazardous driving conditions across much of New Mexico Tuesday, resulting in school closures in some areas and delays of openings in others. Public schools were closed Tuesday in Santa Fe and in the eastern mountain portion of Albuquerque's public school district.

Other Albuquerque public schools were on two-hour delay, as were non-essential city employees.

The National Weather Service says bands of moderate to locally heavy snowfall, areas of blowing snow and colder temperatures would continue Tuesday in central and southern areas.

Forecasters say snowfall Tuesday evening was expected to focus over east-central and southeastern New Mexico.

Oil From Federal Lands Tops 1B Barrels As Trump Eases Rules -Associated Press

Oil production from federally managed lands and waters topped a record 1 billion barrels last year.

That's up more than 13 percent from 2018 as the Trump administration eases rules on the industry and technological advances push development into new areas.

Critics charge that the gains being made by energy companies come at the expense of the environment, with fewer safeguards to protect the land and wildlife from harm.

Oil production royalties collected by the government totaled $7.5 billion in 2019. That's beneath record revenues in 2013, when crude prices topped $90 a barrel.

Report: Man Impersonated A Deputy To An Undercover Officer -Associated Press

A New Mexico man is facing charges after authorities say he tried to impersonate a sheriff's deputy to an undercover police officer.

A criminal complaint said Daniel Mitchem was arrested Saturday following a high-speed chase in Albuquerque.

According to police, the 46-year-old Mitchem had approached an undercover detective during an auto theft operation and told the officer he was a sheriff's deputy and showed a gun.

The complaint said that when the detective said he was an officer, Mitchem fled in his Chevy Tahoe.

Police say he was eventually arrested and charged with impersonating a peace officer and felon in possession of a firearm.

Trump Campaigns As A 2nd Amendment Warrior -Associated Press

President Donald Trump is fully embracing the mantle of gun rights champion as he makes his pitch for reelection.

In a campaign appearance Monday night in New Hampshire, Trump framed the right to bear arms as being as precious as the rights to privacy, free speech and religious freedom.

It's a stark turn from earlier moments in his presidency when he toyed with pushing Congress to enact stricter gun laws after mass shootings.

Trump's campaign advisers believe the Republican president can draw a sharp contrast on gun rights with the eventual Democratic presidential nominee. 

Trump Pays Tribute To 2 Soldiers Killed In Afghanistan -Associated Press

President Donald Trump traveled Monday night to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to pay respects to two U.S. soldiers killed Saturday in Afghanistan when a soldier dressed in an Afghan army uniform opened fire with a machine gun.

The Defense Department has identified the dead American soldiers as 28-year-old Sgt. Javier Jaguar Gutierrez and 28-year-old Sgt. Antonio Rey Rodriguez.

Trump saluted and Vice President Mike Pence placed his hand over his heart as transfer cases containing the remains were carried out of a plane and transferred to a transport vehicle.

Lawmakers Advance Package Of Criminal Justice Initiatives - Associated Press

The New Mexico state House has endorsed a bill that combines penalty enhancements for felonies involving firearms with helping emergency first-responders cope with job stress and funding local law enforcement to pursue community policing strategies.

The bipartisan proposal was co-sponsored by Albuquerque-based legislators including Republican Rep. Bill Rehm and Democratic Reps. Dayan Hochman-Vigil and Marian Matthews. It now moves to the Senate for consideration.

New Mexico had the nation's second-highest violent crime rate and its highest property crime rate in 2018, according to federal crime statistics released last year.

Hochman-Vigil wrote the provision that would provide up to $7,500 toward bonuses and training for local law enforcement officers to engage in community-oriented policing to help prevent crime.

Rehm said the proposed sentence enhancements respond to demands that legislators take action against violent crime. The bill would strengthen penalties for the use or possession of a firearm in the commission of certain felonies.

New Mexico Triples Spending On Census Participation- Associated Press

New Mexico lawmakers have ramped up state spending aimed at encouraging participation in the 2020 Census across remote rural landscapes where gaps in internet access pose a challenge to the federal population count.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation Monday that devotes an additional $8 million to promote census participation.

In mid-March, households nationwide will begin receiving mail from the U.S. Census Bureau with instructions for responding online, by phone or mail.

The state's effort includes public access to internet kiosks to fill out census forms. Previous state appropriations of $3.5 million have gone toward a range of public service announcements and canvassing by community groups.

With the legislation, New Mexico moves up on the list of states, including California and New York, that are spending substantially to increase census participation. At the same time, other states, including Texas, have declined to create so-called “complete count committees” to bolster participation.

Lujan Grisham said her administration wants to ensure that the state receives its rightful share of funding for social and infrastructure programs that are underwritten by the federal government, highlighting Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

New Mexico Lawmakers Begin Push For Tuition-Free College - Associated Press

Adults who return to school to pursue professional certificates and two-year degrees are getting top priority under a proposal to provide free tuition to in-state students at public colleges and universities in New Mexico.

A panel of House legislators advanced a bill Monday that fulfills a pledge by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to create an “opportunity scholarship" that eliminates tuition costs for as many as 55,000 students.

The so-called middle-dollar approach to college subsidies would come into play after existing state scholarships, and before federal grants and military-based aid — allowing students to stretch public funding to pay for rent, food and clothing without racking up debt.

Proceeds from the state lottery already cover roughly 70% of tuition for many four-year undergraduate students — but don't help people who seek job training certificates and associated degrees long after high school.

New Mexico House Backs Early Childhood Endowment Fund - Associated Press

A plan to create a $320 million state endowment for early childhood education programs won endorsement Monday by the New Mexico House of Representatives.

The 51-14 House vote follows approval of a similar bill by the state Senate. 

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is a leading proponent of creating the trust fund whose investment earnings would be earmarked for a variety of early education and child well-being services.

Agreement by the House and Senate on a final version of the bills is needed to send the initiative to the governor.

The state is consolidating oversight of early childhood programs under a newly formed agency.

New Mexico is adding classroom time, expanded preschool and home visiting programs in efforts to improve public school education. 

The state ranks has the national's lowest high school graduation rate and has been faulted by a state district judge with failing to provide adequate educational opportunities, especially for poor and minority households.

Albuquerque Councilor's $6K Trip To NYC, DC Raising Eyebrows- KOAT-TV, Associated Press

An Albuquerque city councilor's trip to three East Coast cities is raising questions over her $6,300 bill to taxpayers. 

KOAT-TV reports Albuquerque City Councilor Klarissa Peña recently took a trip to Philadelphia, New York City, and Washington D.C. to attend a conference for city council presidents in Philadelphia.

Records show Peña billed the city $3,290 for train tickets and another $2,082 for hotels. Peña told the station she took a train because she's afraid of planes. She also took her husband and two grandchildren and defended the move since she said the family rarely travels.

Proposal Seeks To Draw Tourists To Historic Hispanic Trail - By Russell Contreras Associated Press

A New Mexico proposal seeks to draw tourists to a historic Hispanic and Native American trail that once linked early Spanish settlers from Mexico City to an area just north of Santa Fe. 

A bill sponsored by state Rep. Andrés Romero would erect landmarks from Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo to southern New Mexico connected to a route that linked the regions for hundreds of years. 

The El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro is part of the U.S. National Park Service's National Trails system. Still, it lacks many markers and infrastructure to make it a tourist attraction in New Mexico. 

Mexico and Texas are investing heavily into their part of El Camino Real, Romero said.

New Mexico GOP Headquarters Hit By Spray-Paint Vandalism - Associated Press

Spray-paint vandalism has hit the headquarters of the New Mexico Republican Party. 

Surveillance video shows a person tagging the Albuquerque headquarters around 2:30 a.m. Saturday before fleeing in an SUV. 

Officials discovered Monday that the vandal had painted the words, "still traitors," in front of the building. 

New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce says the headquarters has been struck a number of times in recent months and the party has installed cameras. 

He says footage of the vandalism has been handed over to the Albuquerque police. No arrests have been made.

WNMU Students To Provide Income Tax Filing Assistance

Western New Mexico University students are set to offer tax help to seniors and low-income families in the southwest corner of the state. 

The school announced the students this week will begin the local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. 

The free service is for people whose household income is $56,000 or less and for those who are 65 years or older.

The volunteers — university business and accounting students by day — are certified by the Internal Revenue Service and are trained to help taxpayers identify tax credits.

"Students get real-life tax preparation filing experience by participating in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program," said Ashley Montenegro, the adjunct university instructor and certified public accountant who sponsors this program. "Students finish their degrees having filed 50 to 100 tax returns already."