FRI: State Supreme Court Suspends Consumer Debt Collection, + More

Jun 5, 2020

New Mexico Suspends Consumer Debt Collection During Pandemic - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court is temporarily suspending consumer debt collection — such as garnishing wages or seizing assets — in response to the coronavirus pandemic and related economic downturn.

The court ordered the temporary suspension Friday in a new effort to alleviate economic hardship amid a surge in unemployment and uncertainties. The suspension takes effect Monday and does not pertain to business debts.

As businesses have shed jobs under a stay-at-home order, New Mexico's unemployment rate increased to 11.3% in April, more than double the April 2019 rate.

State Working On Plan To Re-Open SchoolsAssociated Press

Human Services Secretary David Scrase indicated Friday that a plan is being devised for public schools to reopen without waiting an extended period of time for an effective vaccine or other cure to the coronavirus.

The state is in the midst of a gradual economic reopening, allowing restaurants, shopping malls, gyms and hair salons to reopen at limited capacity. Masks are required in public with exceptions for exercise and eating.

Scrase said long-distance learning is likely to be extended as an option for children from households that are especially vulnerable to the virus as well as older teachers.

Public education officials are devising a safety strategy for resuming classes. The state's largest public school district in Albuquerque has set Aug. 12 as a tentative restart date.

State Unveils Online Re-Opening Tool As Cases Reach 8,672Associated Press, KUNM

State Health officials announced 331 new positive COVID-19 tests Friday and four additional deaths.

Two of those deaths were residents from congregate care facilities and one was a state inmate at the Otero County Prison Facility.

There are nearly 500 COVID-19 cases among state and federal inmates at the Otero County center. State health officials have also identified at least one case in residents or staff in 43 congregate care facilities over the last month.

The total number of COVID-19 cases statewide is now 8,672 and 387 people have died.

The state unveiled a new internet dashboard Friday that describes progress toward meeting six-point "gating criteria" to further reopen the economy.

Health officials hope to achieve a decrease in the transmission rate, adequate daily testing, sufficient hospital capacity to treat the extremely ill and an expansive ability to trace confirmed infections quickly to people who may have been exposed.

New Mexico Primary Vote Tally Enters 4th DayAssociated Press

Republican election observers are expressing frustration as Santa Fe County officials spent a fourth day tallying absentee ballots from Tuesday's primary election.

Presiding ballot judge Paul D'Arcy said that seven more people joined the vote-count effort, with several thousand uncounted ballots remaining on Friday.

The majority of New Mexico primary voters shifted to voting by absentee ballot amid concerns about the coronavirus.

State Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce said Friday that the party's poll challengers have been unable to view preliminary reports of vote tallies and were unable to verify procedures that ensure the exclusion of late-arriving ballots.

The GOP congressional contenders are Navajo Nation member Karen Evette Bedonie of Mexican Springs, environmental engineer Alexis Johnson of Santa Fe and former Santa Fe County commissioner Harry Montoya.

Democrats have monopolized the 3rd Congressional District with the exception of one special election, starting with former Gov. Bill Richardson in 1982.

New Mexico Governor To Appoint Racial Justice Czar - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press, KUNM

The Albuquerque Journal reported during a public meeting streamed on Facebook from the Roundhouse, Lujan Grisham said it’s time to address the “ugly truth” of racism that is embedded in our society and institutions.

The governor said she was appalled by the response of the White House to demonstrations over the death of George Floyd and by the militarization of police departments.

She's naming a racial justice czar and a panel to research solutions ahead of the 2021 legislative session, which could range from deescalation training for State Police to a ban on chokeholds and shooting moving vehicles. 

The governor pledged to name a racial justice czar and to let the council set an agenda for legislative reform in the 2021 legislative session. 

An emergency session starting in mid-June will focus squarely on the state's budget fallout from the COVID-19 crisis.

Albuquerque Police Hire In Old Excessive Force Case Promoted - By Russell Contreras Associated Press

The head of Albuquerque police's Real-Time Crime Center, whose hiring in 2018 generated anger because of his role in an excessive force lawsuit in New Jersey decades ago, has been promoted. 

City records show that Leonard Nerbetski was recently promoted from his civilian status to police commander while he oversees a unit that includes dispatchers and crime analysts. 

Albuquerque police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos says the department changed Nerbetski's job to a sworn position because of the combination of managing crime data and field investigation functions. 

Among those duties are heading up a center that responds "to violence related to protests and rallies," Gallegos said.

In 1999, an Associated Press report named Nerbetski as one of two troopers accused of roughing up Laila Maher and Felix Morka, both women of color, during a traffic stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. The lawsuit alleged Nerbetski twisted the arm of Maher, an Egypt-born woman who was in her 20s at the time, and held a gun to her head.

 New Mexico Reports 218 More Coronavirus Cases, 8 More Deaths - Associated Press

Health officials in New Mexico say they have confirmed 218 more coronavirus cases with eight additional deaths. 

That pushes the number of COVID-19 cases in the state to 8,353 with 383 known deaths as of Thursday. 

State health officials say four of the eight deaths were in McKinley County with two in San Juan County and one in Bernalillo County. 

McKinley and San Juan counties have been hit the hardest and account for more than half of New Mexico's infections. 

McKinley County has 2,542 positive COVID-19 cases with San Juan County at 1,842. Bernalillo County, the state's most populous county, has 1,543 cases. 


New Mexico Official Inks Leases For Western Spirit Wind Farm - Associated Press

New Mexico Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard has signed a series of leases with the developer of a proposed wind farm that is expected to generate at least $16 million in revenue for public schools and other trust land beneficiaries. 

The State Land Office announced the approval of the five leases with Pattern Renewables on Thursday. 

The company was the winning bidder in a February public auction for the right to develop nearly 26 square miles in Torrance County and Lincoln counties. 

The wind farm will be able to generate enough to power for more than 15,000 homes annually. The project will connect to the planned Western Spirit transmission line.

Navajo Nation Keeps Closings, Curfews; Weekend Lockdowns End - Associated Press

The Navajo Nation is extending its closure of tribal government facilities and continuing its overnight curfews while pausing weekend lockdowns imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Tribal health officials reported 128 additional cases of COVID-19 and seven additional deaths, increasing the total number of cases to 5,661 with 259 deaths, as of Wednesday. 

Tribal President Jonathan Nez signed an order extending the closure of tribal government offices and entities to July 5.

Officials say a separate health emergency order will be issued to continue the daily curfew that runs from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. and to pause the 57-hour weekend lockdowns. 


New Mexico Officials Issue Warning Ahead Of Near Record Heat - Associated Press

New Mexico health officials are warning residents and visitors of the potential for heat-related illnesses as forecasters predict more near record temperatures. 

The National Weather Service in Albuquerque reports that Friday will be another hot day with a few communities likely to hit triple digits. 

Toasty temperatures are anticipated to last through the weekend. 

Data analysis from the state's public health tracking program has found that even though temperatures in the upper 80s may not seem high, that's the level historically at which half of the cases of people requiring treatment for heat-related illness in New Mexico have sought medical help.

Officials said heat stress is a heat-related illness that can have symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, cramping and weakness.