A new proposal would remove tuition and fees for local undergraduate and community college students in New Mexico.
The Associated Press reports that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham proposed that the state general fund be used to cover tuition costs for some local students who have not already been covered by federal scholarships and local lottery proceeds. “By making college significantly more accessible to New Mexicans of every income, of every background, of every age, we are putting students first,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement.
If the proposal is accepted, the state would spend an estimated $25 million to $35 million annually to cover tuition and fees at public colleges, universities and trade schools. Free tuition will be made available to in-state students with a high school or equivalency diploma who meet a minimum grade point average. It would also be available at continuing education programs for older students, but not for graduate studies.
Funds for the proposal would be provided by the state's general fund, which is expected to exceed annual spending commitments by about $900 million thanks to an oil production boom. Lujan Grisham says efforts to encourage applicants to seek federal student aid will help mitigate costs.
AG: Form Unit to Fight Domestic Terrorism
The state attorney general is proposing that a unit to battle domestic terrorism and cyber crime be created for New Mexico.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Attorney General Hector Balderas wrote a letter to the Department of Finance and Administration earlier this month, arguing that a special task force trained in identifying domestic terrorist threats is needed amid nationwide concerns over mass shootings. Balderas also pointed out that the state's law enforcement agencies currently have no experts in the field of cyber crime.
The Attorney General's office has requested $534,100 to launch the unit, which would train law enforcement officers to identify potential threats to public officials and at public gathering places. It would also train officers to identify and investigate online threats. The Courts, Corrections and Justice interim committee will consider the proposal by November.
NM Courts Looking For Judges
State district courts are requesting funds to fill a number of vacant staff positions—including five judgeships—as they face a reported overload of work.
According to Santa Fe New Mexican, multiple district courts across the state say they are dealing with a shortage of district judges, district court staff and magistrate court staff. Earlier this month, the courts sent requests for funding to the Legislative Finance Committee and the Department of Finance and Administration.
The Santa Fe-based First District reportedly requested a $389,800 increase to its budget and an extra $330,000 to hire a new judge to “alleviate the caseload of the current judges and allow for more efficient and timely processing of cases.” The Albuquerque-based 2nd District has requested a $1.4 million increase to its budget and $703,200 for two new judges. Courts in the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 12th districts have also asked for more funding to hire staff.