Associated Press

The federal government reports that New Mexico's graduation rate for the 2009-2010 was 67.3 percent. That's below the national average of 78.2 percent. Only the rates in Nevada and Mississippi were lower. 

The so-called "average freshman graduation rates" indicate the percentage of 9th graders who go on to graduate within four years.

The rates are being reported by the National Center for Education Statistics, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The University of New Mexico has hired a new company to lobby on its behalf in Washington, D.C. — at nearly double the cost the school has paid in recent years.

The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/VaTYgJ) that UNM will pay Madison Associates, based in the nation's capital, $237,000 this year for its lobbying services under a one-year contract that could be renewed for three years.

President Bob Frank says the firm will have to earn "every cent we pay them."

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A new computer system is skewing the data on unemployment claims in New Mexico.

The state's "fully integrated tax and claims system" launched Jan. 6. But because the switchover was done Jan. 1 to Jan. 6, those collecting unemployment were unable to re-certify or file new claims for unemployment from New Mexico during that time.

Because of the shutdown, the number of claims being reported to the federal government is way down.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Lawmakers are proposing a tax credit to encourage businesses to hire students receiving graduate degrees in science and technology from a New Mexico college.

The measure is to help stop the so-called brain drain of highly educated professionals leaving New Mexico for jobs in other states after earning a master's or doctorate degree in mathematics, engineering, technology, the sciences or a health-related field.

Employers could receive a tax credit of $5,000 for each qualified graduate that's hired for a full-time job with benefits.

povertyOMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Federal Reserve says U.S. farm income could decline in 2013, but it depends upon whether the drought continues.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Mo., said Thursday that if drought conditions persist, prices of corn and other crops would remain volatile because of tight supply. But if normal weather conditions return, crop prices would decline and lead to lower farm incomes.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A new report released by a nonprofit organization gives New Mexico a top ranking for providing breakfasts to low-income students at schools.

The report by the Food Research and Action Center says 70 percent of low-income students in New Mexico who receive lunch also got breakfasts during the 2011-2012 school year.

That's up from about 64 percent the year before.

The Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/Uvkv4q ) says the report's rankings are the first since a new state law took effect.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An economist says one reason why New Mexico's unemployment rate is only 6.2 percent could be because some people leave the state to find work elsewhere.

University of New Mexico economist Lee Reynis says natural population growth and migration into the state increased the state's overall population in the 12 months ended last July.

But Reynis says that 7,500 more people moved out of the state than moved in during the same period.

The state Senate has elected Democrat Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces as its top-ranking leader, making her the first woman in more than 70 years to serve as president pro tem.

Papen won Tuesday with the unanimous support of majority Democrats, who rallied behind her rather than pushing ahead with a potentially divisive contest between Papen and Democrat Pete Campos.

She was elected shortly after the Legislature convened.

A New Mexico children's advocacy group is hoping the latest statistics on child poverty rates, teen birth rates and math and reading proficiency will spur action by the state Legislature.

Officials with New Mexico Voices for Children and others gathered at the state capitol Tuesday to release the annual New Mexico Kids Count report.

It shows 42 percent of New Mexico children now live in single-parent households and the state ranks last when it comes to the reading proficiency of fourth graders.

Overall, New Mexico is ranked 49th in child well-being.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg says she expects to resume the controversial practice of presenting police shooting cases to "investigative grand juries."

The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/WxAjBM) that Brandenburg sent a letter this week to Second Judicial District Court judges saying she will begin scheduling the first of 12 pending police shooting cases for grand jury presentations.

BELEN, N.M. (AP) — Voters in a small community in Valencia County will find out if they are one step closer to creating a new town.

KRQE-TV reports  that the votes will be canvassed Friday to determine if Rio Communities can incorporate.

In a special election Tuesday, residents in Rio Communities, just east of Belen, voted to incorporate into a new municipality with its own mayor and town council.

Residents in this 4600 square acre area say they want a new town so they could have their own police department.

About 5,200 people live in Rio Communities.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — If a Bernalillo County commissioner gets his way, the minimum wage in unincorporated areas of the county would increase to match the minimum wage now in effect in Albuquerque.

Commissioner Art De La Cruz says he plans later this month to propose raising the minimum wage in unincorporated areas to $8.50 an hour later.

That's the rate now in effect in Albuquerque as a result of a voter-approved ordinance that raised the rate from $7.50 an hour.

Bill Ebbesen

New Mexico State Police says they'll no longer monitor shipments of nuclear waste traveling to a plant in Carlsbad.

Deputy Chief Pete Kassetas says the decision means a dispatcher will no longer monitor the shipments from a computer in Santa Fe.

KOAT -TV (http://bit.ly/13dzUu4 ) reports that the monitoring began about 15 years ago because there were worries about the security and safety of the shipments.

Kassetas said the state police would hear immediately from the federal Department of Energy if there's a problem.

If a Bernalillo County commissioner gets his way, the minimum wage in unincorporated areas of the county would increase to match the minimum wage now in effect in Albuquerque.

Commissioner Art De La Cruz says he plans later this month to propose raising the minimum wage in unincorporated areas to $8.50 an hour later.

That's the rate now in effect in Albuquerque as a result of a voter-approved ordinance that raised the rate from $7.50 an hour.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A former South Carolina sheriff's lieutenant is suspected of robbing a Santa Fe, N.M., pharmacy at gunpoint and trying to rob a second pharmacy of the potent narcotic Oxycodone.

Police in Santa Fe say 43-year-old George William Smith is married to a Santa Fe prosecutor. They say Assistant District Attorney Dorie Biagianti-Smith called authorities and confronted her husband after recognizing him on a television news broadcast about the Monday and Tuesday robberies.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Susana Martinez has ordered flags around the state to fly at half-staff in honor of former House Speaker Ben Lujan.

Lujan died late Tuesday at age 77 after a long battle with lung cancer. He was one of the most powerful and longest serving state legislators in New Mexico history and the father of U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan.

Under Martinez's order, flags will be lowered from sunrise on Saturday through sundown on Dec. 29.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is calling for a statewide moment of silence for the victims of last week's school shooting in Connecticut.

Martinez issued a proclamation declaring a day of mourning and asking for the moment of silence to be observed at 9:30 a.m. Friday.

The governor's office says she made the proclamations Thursday after a request from Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy to his fellow governors.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico State University researchers have launched a study to examine obesity among NMSU students and employees.

Researchers recently developed an online survey aimed at finding out more on obesity and lifestyle factors of students and employees, especially in southern New Mexico. So far, the survey has found that 47 percent of NMSU and employee respondents self-reported as overweight or obese.

A mentally disabled man who was shot by an Albuquerque police officer has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city.

The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/TqRR3H ) that the lawsuit filed last week by Russell Tenorio alleges excessive force by police and seeks unspecified damages.

It marked second lawsuit against Albuquerque police to come out of the November 2010 shooting.

Police were called to Tenorio's home after getting a call that he had been drinking and was threatening to harm himself with a knife.

Tenorio was shot by Officer Brian Pitzer.

Dori

A nonprofit group in Santa Fe that aims to rehabilitate wild birds of prey that have been injured by flying into barbed wire fences, being shot or by other causes is facing a funding crisis.

The Santa Fe New Mexican quotes Santa Fe Raptor Center co-founder Lori Paras as saying her group is projected to be out of funds by the end of January.

The center is facing the challenge of feeding more birds than usual this year.

It now has about 21 birds, more than double its usual capacity.

One of the school children killed in a mass shooting in Connecticut attended school in Rio Rancho last year before her family moved.

Rio Rancho Public School District officials confirmed that Emilie Parker went to Maggie Cordova Elementary last year.

Her father Robbie Parker was one of the first parents to speak out about the shooting the day after Friday's massacre that left 20 school children and six adults dead at a school. He says he's blessed to be Emilie's dad.

JossDude

Drivers across much of New Mexico are facing tough road conditions as a wintry storm that led to the brief closure of a stretch Interstate 40 leaves the state.

The state Transportation Department closed a stretch of I-40 about 70 miles east of Albuquerque in the Cline's Corner area early Sunday and reopened it at about 5 a.m. Mountain roads across are icy and crews are spreading cinders and plowing snow where needed.

Environmentalists pushing for the release of more Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico say they're worried federal regulators are allowing Arizona to control the process and severely limit releases.

The Phoenix-based director of the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon chapter says the Fish and Wildlife Service has made it clear it wants state wildlife agencies to take the lead. Sandy Bahr tells the Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/SzuFne ) that's led to no releases at all in the past four years.

Wikih101

Heavy snows and icy roads have left parts of New Mexico with forced delays, dangerous driving conditions and at least one person dead.

New Mexico State Police say at least one person was killed Sunday in a weather related car crash near Waldo, forcing the temporarily closure of Interstate 25 just south of Santa Fe.

The winter storm on Sunday, which struck northern and central areas of the state, also forced the temporary closure of Interstate 40 in Clines Corners where two semi-trucks were jack knifed.

The New Mexico Legislature Website

State Senate Democrats have nominated Sen. Pete Campos of Las Vegas, N.M., for the top position in the body.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports (http://bit.ly/UwPY56 ) that the action came Sunday at a closed-door caucus meeting in Belen.

Campos defeated three others in the contest to replace Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, who recently lost his re-election bid.

Campos says he's honored by the nomination and plans to reach out "to every member of the Senate."

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King has ruled that a probe into whether a troubled New Mexico border city violated a state sunshine law in appointing the mayor earlier this year is inconclusive.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports (http://bit.ly/U9Z6eZ) that the office issued its opinion last week about Sunland Park after interviewing five city councilors.

The office said investigators were unable to find witnesses or documentary evidence that councilors tried to reach consensus outside of a public meeting.

Shelka04

The state Corrections Department's new system of bouncing all inmate release documents to a central office for approval often has resulted late releases for parolees.

The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/TM40io) that officials say parolees have been walking out of prison about two weeks past their expected release dates ever since the system changed in early September.

Those delays have prompted as many as 100 calls a day from inmates' upset relatives.

Deming Border Patrol officials say agents saw a jump in arrests of undocumented immigrants along its patrol area of the New Mexico-Mexico border.

The Deming Headlight reports (http://bit.ly/QRJW10) that an official from the Deming Border Patrol station said last week that in the second half of 2012, compared to the same period in 2011, there was a 28 percent increase in arrests of undocumented immigrants in the area. He said 253 more people were arrested from June to December in 2012 than in 2011.

The state Canvassing Board is putting the final touches on New Mexico's general election.

The board meets Monday to certify results of a recount in a race for an Albuquerque-area seat in the state House of Representatives between Republican Paul Pacheco and Democrat Marci Blaze.

The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/VtBKkz) that unofficial returns show Pacheco, a retired Albuquerque policeman, winning by 79 votes — up from a 66-vote margin before the recount. The district covers parts of Sandoval and Bernalillo counties.

A new study has found that New Mexico may have to pay as much as $120 million for an estimated 101 new medical malpractice claims that could be part of a potential class action lawsuit.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that state General Services Department Secretary Ed Burckle says that's in addition to about $45 million in settlements the state has paid to 118 families since 1998.

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