Shutdown-Related Unemployment Cases Surge, Study Finds LANL Has $3B Impact

Jan 16, 2019

Shutdown-Related Unemployment Cases Surge In New Mexico - Associated Press

More than 1,300 furloughed federal workers in New Mexico have applied for unemployment benefits that would act as a short-term loan.

State Workforce Solutions Department Secretary Bill McCamley on Tuesday said the benefit applicants are among an estimated 7,500 federal workers directly affected in New Mexico by the partial government shutdown. A large portion of those workers are employed by the U.S. Interior, Agriculture and Homeland Security departments.

McCamley says his agency has waived job-search requirements temporarily for federal workers who apply for unemployment benefits. The benefits take about a week to authorize and must be paid back when federal paychecks resume.

Furloughed and unpaid federal workers are confronting deepening anxieties about mortgage payments and utility bills as the shutdown enters its 26th day.

Battles Expected In Many States Over Abortion-Related Bills - By David Crary, Associated Press

State lawmakers and activists on both sides of the abortion debate are emboldened by recent political developments and plan to push aggressively this year for bills high on their wish lists.

Opponents are seeing a surge of optimism that sweeping abortion bans might have a chance of prevailing in the reconfigured U.S. Supreme Court that includes two appointees by President Donald Trump.

Supporters of abortion rights are being buoyed by results of the midterm elections in several states, including New Mexico. They hope lawmakers will pass bills aimed at protecting access to abortion even if the Supreme Court eventually reverses or weakens the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Tuesday will mark the 46th anniversary of that ruling.

Albuquerque Police Investigate Death Of 11-Day-Old BabyAssociated Press

Albuquerque police say they are investigating the death of an 11-day-old infant at a detox treatment center.

Police spokesman Simon Drobik said Wednesday that the Crimes Against Children unit was investigating the baby's death at the Metropolitan Assessment and Treatment center.

He did not provide additional details, saying an investigation is ongoing.

The investigation follows a string of other probes into child fatalities in New Mexico's largest city in recent weeks, including the death of 1-year-old Anastazia Romero.

Police say the girl's body was found in the backyard of an Albuquerque home after a dayslong search. Her parents face charges including child abuse resulting in death.

Police said the girl's father had told a relative in December that she drowned in a bathtub.

Man Sentenced After Escape From New Mexico Jail – Eastern New Mexico News, Associated Press

A man who escaped from a New Mexico jail has been sentenced.

The Eastern New Mexico News reports Judge Drew Tatum on Monday ordered the state's recommendation of 16 years in prison and three years suspended for Victor Apodaca.

Apodaca, through an agreement signed late last year, pleaded guilty to each of his two fourth-degree felony charges stemming from a June 15, 2018, escape from the Curry County jail.

Apodaca, with good time credit, could serve only half of those 16 years in custody, but only after completing a 60-year term he recently started in Texas for a June 29, 2017, conviction of two counts of aggravated assault on a peace officer.

Republican Lawmakers Worried About Spending Plan - Associated Press

New Mexico House Minority Leader James Townsend says he's "scared to death" of the spending proposals pushed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The Republican lawmaker said Tuesday that the massive spending plans around education and film production will prevent the state from putting aside needed money and could have long-term effects.

Townsend says if the proposals are adopted and the state takes money from its permanent land fund, borrowing costs will skyrocket.

House Minority Whip Rod Montoya says the governor wants lawmakers to agree to spending plans that have re-occurring costs and yet the budget surplus won't be there every year.

Republicans also oppose Lujan Grisham's plan to raise the minimum wage from $7.50 to $12 an hour, saying such a large increase will hurt small businesses and result in layoffs.

New Mexico Lawmakers Divided On Fast-Track Bills - Associated Press

Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is urging lawmakers to quickly send her noncontroversial bills to sign that were blocked by her Republican predecessor.

Lujan Grisham on Tuesday encouraged lawmakers to use a so-called rocket docket to speed widely supported bills through the legislative process with fewer committee hearings. Those bills could include measures to provide grants to nonprofits that give legal services to impoverished New Mexico residents or to support mid-wives in rural communities.

Republican New Mexico House Minority Leader James Townsend said the GOP will oppose the governor's push. He says the "rocket docket" could deny 19 new House members the opportunity to fully evaluate proposals. He also fears tax implications may be glossed over.

GOP Says Gov. Lujan Grisham's Testing Changes Confusing Teachers - Associated Press

Republican House Minority Whip Rod Montoya says New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's changes on student testing are confusing educators.

Montoya said Tuesday that the Democratic governor's move to rid the state of the current statewide standardized testing system with a transition test is hurting efforts to hold schools accountable. He says teachers were getting comfortable with the test developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

Montoya says now the state will have to spend millions to develop a new test since testing is required by federal law.

Lujan Grisham signed an executive order after just days in office that signaled the state would move away from PARCC. She told lawmakers Tuesday the state would move away from "high-stakes testing."

Report Finds Los Alamos Lab Infuses $3B In New Mexico Economy - Associated Press

Researchers have found that Los Alamos National Laboratory has had an average annual economic impact on New Mexico of about $3 billion from 2015 to 2017.

The northern New Mexico lab on Tuesday released preliminary findings from the University of New Mexico's Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

The birthplace of the atomic bomb, Los Alamos lab spent more than $750 million on goods and services last year. More than half of that went to New Mexico businesses.

In the coming year, the lab plans to double to 10 percent the local price preference given to contract bids from businesses based in the counties surrounding the lab. An additional preference will be given to qualifying tribal businesses.

The lab also marked an increase in employment last year, with more than 11,700 workers.

New Mexico's 1st Muslim Lawmaker Takes Office - Associated Press

New Mexico has sworn-in its first Muslim American lawmaker in state history.

Rep. Abbas Akhil, an Albuquerque Democrat, took the oath of office on Tuesday after winning a close race to represent a seat in Albuquerque.

Akhil is an immigrant from India and an active member of the Islamic Center of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He defeated Republican state Rep. Jim Dines.

Akhil says he was honored to take the Albuquerque seat and make New Mexico history.

He brought Imam Fazail Ahmad Shaik of the Islamic Center of New Mexico to witness his historic swearing in ceremony.

Researchers Compile Body Scans For New Database - Associated Press

Researchers are converting thousands of full-body scans done by the state Office of the Medical Investigator as part of an effort to build a searchable database that can help anthropologists, criminal investigators and others.

The project is being funded by a $702,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice.

New Mexico has the only medical examiner's office in the U.S. that routinely makes CT scans of nearly every individual whose death is investigated. Between 2010 and 2017, over 15,000 scans were done, resulting in an unparalleled research resource.

Personal identifiable information is being removed from the scans so officials say privacy and anonymity are preserved.

The high-resolution images could be used for detecting child abuse, survivability of trauma and more accurate detection of forensic factors such as age and sex.

Report Shows New Mexico Remains 48th In Nation In Child Poverty - Associated Press

A child-advocacy group says New Mexico's child poverty rate has decreased but that the state still rates 48th in the nation when compared with other states.

New Mexico Voices for Children released the 2018 New Mexico Kids Count Data Book as the Legislature assembled Tuesday to convene its annual session.

The group says New Mexico's child poverty ranking among the states held steady despite gains in some areas because other states saw larger improvements.

According to New Mexico Voices, New Mexico lags the nation on indicators such has teen pregnancy, high school graduation rates and children who live in high poverty areas.

Policy recommendations in the report include enacting a child tax credit and making other taxation changes to reduce the state's reliance on boom-and-bust oil revenue.

Jonathan Nez Sworn In As Navajo Nation President - Associated Press

Jonathan Nez has been sworn in as president of the Navajo Nation.

Nez delivered a message Tuesday of hope, resilience and change, of breaking old ways of thinking to move the tribe forward.

He and Vice President Myron Lizer took their oaths of office at an indoor sports arena in Fort Defiance, north of the Navajo Nation capital.

The ceremony was a mix of traditional Navajo and Christianity, reflecting the men's beliefs that tribal philosophy and God will help guide their administration.

Nez says change presents an opportunity for tribal leaders and Navajos to work together, and to incorporate the ideas of Navajo youth.

Thousands attended the inauguration, including other tribal leaders in Arizona.

Nez and Lizer easily won November's general election to lead the tribe for the next four years.