State Pension Reforms Would Increase Contributions, 2 Dead During Ceremony On Navajo Reservation

Nov 6, 2019

2 Dead, 14 Injured During Traditional Ceremony In New Mexico KOAT-TV, Associated Press

Navajo authorities have confirmed two people died and 14 others were injured during a traditional religious ceremony.

KOAT-TV reports Christina Tsosie with the Navajo Police Department says the 14 injured people were treated for smoke inhalation.

Tsosie says the ceremony lasts throughout the night and involves an open fire pit burning inside a hogan, a traditional Navajo structure typically built out of logs and earth.

Tsosie says Alamo first responders performed CPR on the two people, but attempts were unsuccessful. Their causes of death have not been determined.

Police say the ceremony began Saturday in a hogan on the Alamo Navajo Reservation in Socorro County.

Police say a woman reported finding an unresponsive man and woman Sunday on the floor inside the hogan.

New Mexico Voters Approve $14M For 24/7 Homeless Shelter Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A New Mexico mayor has prioritized a new centralized homeless shelter to replace an existing facility after residents voted to approve the project.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Tuesday that Albuquerque voters approved $14 million Tuesday for the project as part of a $128.5 million general obligation bond package.

General obligation bonds are secured by cities able to repay its debt obligation through taxes or revenue.

Bernalillo County officials say the new 300-bed facility is intended to provide temporary shelter to men, women and families and provide resources and services guiding them to permanent housing.

City officials say about 5,600 Albuquerque households experienced homelessness in 2018.

Some homeless service providers oppose the plan advocating instead for multiple smaller, scattered shelters.

A location has not yet been determined.

UNM Senior Administrator Dr. Paul Roth To Retire Next YearAssociated Press

The longest serving senior administrator at the University of New Mexico says he's planning to retire next year.

Dr. Paul Roth announced Wednesday that he's stepping down as dean of the UNM medical school, chancellor of the UNM Health Sciences Center and chief executive officer of the UNM Health System once his replacement is in place.

Roth had been a fixture at UNM for more than four decades.

He came to UNM in 1976 for a family practice residency program and became a professor of emergency medicine in 1993.

For the last 26 years, Roth has been the dean of the medical school and he's been chancellor of health sciences for 14 years.

After his retirement, Roth plans to work part time in the School of Medicine directly with students.

New Mexico Picks First Early Childhood Education SecretaryAssociated Press

New Mexico is tapping an official with the District of Columbia to lead the state's new Early Childhood Education Department in an effort to improve early childhood wellbeing and preparedness for school.

Elizabeth Groginsky is leaving her job in Washington, D.C., as an assistant superintendent of early learning to become New Mexico's first early education Cabinet secretary. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the appointment Wednesday.

The new department will oversee home-visiting programs, prekindergarten schooling and child-care assistance, bringing services currently provided by four different departments under one roof.

Lawmakers who created the new agency worry that children are falling behind in their development before even reaching elementary school, with lifelong consequences.

New Mexico Spruce Begins Journey To Be 2019 Christmas TreeAssociated Press

A 60-foot blue spruce was cut down Wednesday during a ceremony in a forested canyon in northern New Mexico, starting a 2½ -week journey that will take it to the U.S. Capitol to be this year's Christmas tree.

A sawyer used a chain saw to sever the trunk, which one of two cranes then jerked several feet up in the air. Then both cranes swung the tree over to a flatbed trailer at the Carson National Forest site.

The tree will tour New Mexico before leaving on a trip scheduled to conclude Nov. 24 at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington.

According to the project website, stops are scheduled in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia.

Each year a national forest is selected to share a tree with the nation.

New Mexico's Last Dry Counties Vote To Allow Alcohol SalesAssociated Press

Two of New Mexico's last dry counties have voted to allow the sale of alcohol.

Unofficial results show residents in Roosevelt and Curry counties approved measures to allow the sale, service and consumption of alcohol in its unincorporated areas. Only residents in Roosevelt's Portales and Curry's Clovis — two of the region's largest cities — could legally buy alcohol until Tuesday's vote.

Results show 53.5% of Roosevelt residents voted to approve the alcohol measure while Curry voters approved that county's proposal by 63%.

Supporters of the measures said the counties were missing out on sponsorships from alcohol companies.

New Mexico Pension Reforms Would Increase Contributions - Associated Press

Legislators are holding their first open discussion of suggested pension reforms from the governor's office to address a roughly $6 billion unfunded liability at the New Mexico retirement plan for state and local government employees.

The Legislature's pensions-oversight committee meets Wednesday to discuss ways to shore up the fund overseen by the Public Employees Retirement Association.

A pension solvency task force appointed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has suggested a combined 4% increase in pension contributions by the state and most employees. Annual cost of living adjustments on pension payouts would be linked to investment returns on pension assets.

State Senator George Muñoz, chairman of the pension oversight committee, said Tuesday that it will be hard to approve a pension reform bill during next year's rapid-fire, 30-day legislative session.

Judge Denies New Mexico GOP's Request To Halt Absentee Votes - Associated Press

A state district judge has denied an emergency injunction filed by New Mexico Republicans to halt the counting of absentee ballots in a southern county.

Third Judicial District Judge James Martin ruled Tuesday that the state Republican Party and Las Cruces mayoral candidate Mike Tellez failed to provide evidence the Doña Ana County Clerk was causing harm by the way it was tallying absentee ballots.

GOP officials claimed the state Secretary of State and the Doña Ana County Clerk were ignoring a 2019 law over for absentee voting requirements. Republicans say the law calls for absentee voters to provide names, addresses, and years of birth.

State Republican chairman Steve Pearce says the injunction decision didn't change the validity of a lawsuit seeking to clarify how New Mexico counts absentee ballots.

New Mexico Governor Withholds 2020 Endorsement - Associated Press

New Mexico's Democratic governor is staying out of the political fray as her party decides on a presidential candidate ahead of the 2020 election.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham declined Tuesday to name a favored presidential candidate for the Democratic nomination. She pledged to "robustly" support the party's eventual nominee.

On issues of taxation and health-care finance roiling the presidential primary race, Lujan Grisham says that she supports greater tax parity between the ultra-wealthy and middle class.

The first-year governor and former congresswoman says she is more interested in prescription drug reform to lower consumer costs that a comprehensive health care overhaul. She says single-payer, universal health care is worthy of consideration.

New Mexico holds its presidential primary on June 2. Hillary Clinton won New Mexico's Democratic primary in 2018.

New Program Seeks To Lure Nurses In New Mexico Rural Areas - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Presbyterian Healthcare Services and the University of New Mexico are teaming to lure nurses into some of the state's most rural areas.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the two health care organizations recently collaborated to land a $3.2 million grant to develop a residency program for nurse practitioners in 10 New Mexico cities and towns.

The four-year grant from the National Health Resources and Services Administration will help nurses and midwives relocate and stay in remote areas.

Officials say the program also will focus on mental health.

Presbyterian Director of Clinical Education and Professional Development Johanna Stiesmeyer says New Mexico's rural counties have a wide nurse-to-resident ratio.

The first group of nurses and midwives will be selected in the first half of 2020.

New Mexico Supreme Court Takes Up Fatal Pursuit Cases - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Attorneys in New Mexico have argued whether defendants could face first-degree felony murder charges after causing fatal crashes while fleeing authorities.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that felony murder is a count used when a person is killed during certain felony crimes.

Authorities say the issue Monday was whether aggravated fleeing a law enforcement officer is one of the crimes the state can use as a predicate for felony murder.

The state Supreme Court held in 2016 that the predicate felony must have a felonious purpose independent of the homicide.

District court officials argued avoiding apprehension is not wanting to cause harm.

Other officials argue it is the public endangerment in aggravated fleeing that separates it from its misdemeanor charge.

It's unclear when the Supreme Court would come to a decision.

Air Force-New Mexico Game Postponed After Player's DeathAssociated Press

The football game between Air Force and New Mexico scheduled for this weekend was postponed following the death of a Lobos defensive lineman.

Air Force will travel to New Mexico on Nov. 23 instead, the Mountain West said Wednesday.

New Mexico announced the death of 21-year-old Nahje Flowers on Tuesday. The university didn't provide a cause or other circumstances. Flowers was from Los Angeles, where he played football at Dorsey High School. He had been at New Mexico since 2016.

This season, Flowers had 13 tackles and 1 1/2 sack.

In a release, Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said the focus should be on "the family, friends and teammates who have been affected during this difficult time."

New Mexico Football Team Mourns Death Of 21-year-old Player - Associated Press

A 21-year-old defensive lineman at New Mexico has died, coach Bob Davie said Tuesday.

The university's announcement about Nahje Flowers didn't provide a cause or other circumstances.

Davie said officials learned of Flowers' death on Tuesday morning. "Our entire football team and everyone who knew Nahje are devastated by this loss," the coach said in a statement on Twitter.

Athletic director Eddie Nuñez said grief counselors were being made available to the team and staff.

Flowers was from Los Angeles, where he played football at Dorsey High School. He had been at New Mexico since 2016.

New Mexico canceled football practice and news conference that were scheduled on Tuesday.


Workshops Look To Ignite Employment In Rural Communities - Associated Press

Experts in rural economic development are discussing ways to bolster employment and combat poverty in remote areas of New Mexico.

Workshops organized by the Western Governors' Association on Tuesday delved into strategies for helping people including disabled residents work remotely from home for far-away businesses.

A separate panel is exploring strategies for ensuring access to nutritious food in impoverished communities or people living far from population centers.

About one in three children in New Mexico come from homes where parents struggle to find secure employment. The workshops have brought together experts from academia, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the energy industry, a homebuilders' association and anti-hunger groups.

Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham was scheduled to speak at the conference Tuesday.