Eastern NM University To Get New Athletics Director, Higher Minimum Wage Among New Laws On Jan. 1

Dec 28, 2019

Eastern New Mexico University To Get New Athletics Director -Associated Press

Eastern New Mexico University has hired a new athletics director. Matt Billings will start Jan. 20. 

Eastern New Mexico Chancellor Jeff Elwell says Billings was chosen from a strong group of finalists in part because he had experience in multiple areas at major Division I universities. 

He most recently served as deputy athletics director at Portland State University, where he oversaw the compliance office, academic services, financial aid, student housing, sports medicine and numerous other functions. 

He played a key role in a $50 million renovation of a weight room, new sports medicine and academic areas and a 3,300-seat arena.

Higher Minimum Wage Among New Laws In New Mexico On Jan. 1 -Associated Press

New Mexico's minimum wage will increase for the first time in over a decade as several new state laws take effect on New Year's Day. 

Hourly base pay rises to $9 an hour starting in 2020 and eventually to $12 by 2023 under a law signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. 

The state also is increasing oversight of so-called surprise medical billing that occurs when an insured person inadvertently receives care from an out-of-network provider. 

Local governments may raise more money to promote tourism as New Mexico closes a tax loophole for homeowners who rent rooms on a short-term basis through Airbnb-style third-party websites.

Man Pleads Guilty To Robbing Three Albuquerque Businesses -Associated Press

Federal prosecutors say a New Mexico man has pleaded guilty to robbing three Albuquerque businesses at gunpoint over the course of two months. 

Lalonzo Simmons pleaded guilty this week to three counts of interfering with commerce by robbery and violence and to being a felon in possession of a firearm. 

He has yet to be sentenced. 

Authorities say Simmons and another man robbed a fast food restaurant in March 2018 and then robbed two separate marijuana dispensaries in the subsequent weeks. 

Police arrested Simmons at his home hours after the third robbery.

New Mexico Couple In Family Found Dead Was Getting Divorce -Associated Press, Albuquerque Journal 

New Mexico police say a married couple found dead on Christmas Day in their home with their two dead sons in what authorities have called a murder-suicide was in the process of getting a divorce. 

The Albuquerque Journal reports that a search-warrant affidavit filed by police in the Albuquerque suburb of Rio Rancho also says the husband was a recent U.S. Army retiree who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The affidavit says a handgun was found under Carlos Velasquez's body. 

His body was found face down across the legs of his wife. The older son was home on break from Stanford University.

Federal Spending Bill Includes Buffer Around New Mexico Park -Associated Press, Farmington Daily Times

The U.S. Senate has passed a package of bills signed by President Donald Trump that includes enacting a buffer zone around a national park in New Mexico protecting it from oil and gas leasing activities. 

Farmington Daily Times reported Tuesday that the 2020 federal spending package was passed last week and gives the Chaco Culture National Historical Park a 10-mile buffer zone. 

Officials say no federal funds can be used to accept a nomination for oil and gas leasing in the zone until a cultural resources investigation is completed. 

Advocates say the buffer zone protects ancient roads and significant cultural resources pending needed studies and consultation with tribal communities.

New Mexico's El Morro Monument Recognized For Dark Skies -Associated Press

A national monument in western New Mexico that is home to an impressive bit of Southwest history inscribed on a towering sandstone bluff has earned recognition as an International Dark Sky Park. 

Officials at El Morro National Monument made the announcement earlier this month, saying they're planning to host more programs in 2020 that will highlight the area's spectacular night skies. 

The International Dark Sky Places Program was founded in 2001 to encourage communities, parks and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education.

Mitsubishi Flight Crews To Test Jets At New Mexico Airport -Associated Press, Roswell Daily Record

An international aircraft manufacturer has announced plans to test flight some of its aircraft at a New Mexico airport in 2020. 

Roswell Daily Record reported Wednesday that flight crews with the Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation are expected to conduct a range of testing on a regional passenger jet from February to April. 

Company officials say tests on two or three Mitsubishi SpaceJet M90s will be held at the Roswell Air Center as the company seeks certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. 

Agency officials say complete certification of a new type of aircraft can take five to nine years. 

New Mexico Police Plan For Sobriety Patrols In January -Associated Press

New Mexico State Police are planning a series of sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols in January as part of an effort to catch drunk drivers. 

The patrols will happen in counties across the state. 

Authorities say they hope continued attention will help reduce alcohol-related fatalities. 

Statistics compiled by state transportation officials and the University of New Mexico show 369 people died on New Mexico roads between January and November. That's more than last year, but fewer crashes this year have involved alcohol.