Governor signs education bills and $10,000 raise for teachers
SANTA FE — The governor of New Mexico has signed four bills that will increase funding for education, including significant increases in teacher salaries.
Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham held the ceremony March 1 outdoors at a Santa Fe elementary school, after the bills passed the legislature last month.
Flanked by schoolchildren and the national leader of a teachers’ union, she signed a bill that will raise the minimum wage for teachers and counselors by $10,000.
Currently, teachers earn at least $40,000 when they start, $50,000 after additional training and experience, and $60,000 when they pass an intensive master teacher certification.
The increases in teacher pay and benefits come as the state seeks to fill 1,000 teaching positions, with about 5% of classrooms short of a licensed educator. Remedial measures range from having teaching assistants conduct classes to deploying about 80 National Guard troops to serve as back-ups.
Entry-level teachers and counselors earning minimum wage would benefit the most, with a 22% increase.
The teacher raise bill met with no opposition in the Legislature last month, and Lujan Grisham mentioned at least one Republican lawmaker in a long list of thanks.
Many school workers, from nurses to janitors to those who already earn more than the minimum, will not benefit from this measure. But Lujan Grisham is expected to sign another bill which, after deducting minimum wage increases, will guarantee all school workers at least 7% more than the income they currently earn.
The University of New Mexico suffers from a shortage of donated corpses
ALBUQUERQUE — Fewer people in New Mexico are donating their bodies to science when they die, making training more difficult for medical students preparing for their careers.
The University of New Mexico’s anatomy lab said on March 4 that it needs about 75 donated cadavers each year to train future doctors, but currently has only 18.
Amy Rosenbaum, director of the university’s anatomical donation program, says medical students missed working with real cadavers early in the coronavirus pandemic, when all teaching was virtual.
“Seeing it in 3D and in person is the best way to teach,” she said.
The pandemic has also affected donations with morgues overwhelmed to handle deaths and staffing issues, she said. Previously, the university program accepted donations from across the state, but can now only pick up corpses within a 96 kilometer (60 mile) radius due to transportation issues.
Anatomy instructors may soon have to improvise when teaching students, Rosenbaum said.
“We went so far as to say maybe Group A can dissect one side of the body and Group B can dissect the other,” she said.
Republican who supports white nationalism is censored
PHOENIX — The Arizona Senate voted March 1 to censure Republican Wendy Rogers, whose embrace of white nationalism and calls for violence drew bipartisan condemnation in what was believed to be the first official censorship of one of the state’s lawmakers for decades.
Rogers is in his first elected term, but has built a national profile among the far right with inflammatory rhetoric and vocal support for former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. .
Rogers has long faced fierce opposition from Democrats and a handful of Republicans for offensive comments on social media.
Pressure has mounted within the GOP after she said over the weekend that her political opponents would face a “newly constructed set of gallows.” She spoke in a video shown at the America First Political Action Conference, a recent white nationalist rally in Florida.
The censure, a formal condemnation that carries no practical consequences, was approved by a vote of 24 to 3, with all Democrats and most Republicans in favor.
Rogers stood as Senate Majority Leader Rick Gray read the censure aloud. When it was her turn to speak, she refused to apologize and described the censorship as an attack on her constituents and supporters, saying lawmakers were “really censoring” them.
Hours earlier, Rogers said on Twitter that Tuesday “is the day we find out if the GOP communists are throwing sweet grandma under the bus because she’s white.”
Rogers has trumpeted his ties to right-wing militias, and his prolific social media posts have included posts and images with anti-Semitic tropes. More recently, she also tweeted critically about Ukraine and its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, as they battle against a Russian invasion.
Energy company invests in carbon capture effort
FARMINGTON, NM – Navajo Transitional Energy Company has invested in another energy company that aims to develop a large-scale platform for carbon capture services.
The deal puts NTEC on the board of Enchant Energy Corp., the Farmington Daily Times reported.
Enchant Energy is working with the city of Farmington to take over the coal-fired San Juan plant when it is officially abandoned by New Mexico’s Public Service Co. later this year. PNM, the state’s largest electric utility, raised concerns about funding for Enchant and its ability to operate carbon capture technology there.
State regulators earlier said PNM was within its rights to operate a unit at the plant through September in a bid to meet peak summer demands and avoid outages.
This will change Enchant’s timeline for taking over the factory, but will also give the company an additional three months to strike deals with the factory’s many owners.
Enchant first announced in 2019 that it planned to convert the San Juan factory by installing equipment that would capture carbon emissions. This carbon dioxide would then be sent by pipeline to storage sites in New Mexico and Texas where it could be used to help oil production.
The investment was not well received by environmental group Navajo Diné CARE, which argued that such carbon capture projects had not been successful in the United States.
Hard seltzers will be rarer under the new law
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s hard seltzer drinkers will likely see their choice on grocery store shelves cut in half under legislation passed by the Legislature March 3 in the latest update to tough sewer laws. alcohol in the state that is home to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The crackdown targets beverages with commonly used food flavorings that contain traces of ethyl alcohol, making the sale of certain flavors of seltzer technically illegal in Utah grocery stores and convenience stores. The final state senate vote was 19-8.
As many as 39 of the 80 approved types of hard seltzer — including some made by well-known brands like Truly, Coors, and Bud Light — are likely to go, along with hard kombuchas.
The bill still needs to be signed by Republican Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, who said last month he was not considering vetoing it.
Under the new law, seltzers could still be sold at state-owned liquor stores, which are the only legal outlets for wine and spirits in Utah. But limited storage space means some varieties could disappear from the state altogether.
While many US states have complex alcohol regulations, Utah tends to have particularly strict laws, such as the lowest blood alcohol limit in the country.
Most lawmakers are members of the state’s predominant religious faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is widely known as Mormon and teaches abstinence from alcohol. Faith declined to comment on the latest legislation.