May 15 First News: SF city committee approves plastic bag ban. (listen)

A committee at city hall has voted in favor of a measure to eliminate plastic shopping bags in Santa Fe. The 5 to 1 vote by the Business and Quality of Life Committee paves the way for city councilors to begin sending it to various council committees for review.  While plastic bags would be banned, retailers could sell shoppers a paper bag for 10 cents. A number of other cities already ban plastic bags.

Santa Fe County's insurance company is going to pay $750,000 in legal fees to a church group that wants to build a temple in the Arroyo Hondo area.  The fees were incurred in a long legal battle over whether the county would approve the development. At first, it was denied. Then later the county reversed that decision. The New Mexican reports that the UDV church has ties to a religious group from Brazil.  Meanwhile, residents of Arroyo Hondo have asked the courts to stop the project.

Thousands of civilian employees of the Department of Defense here in New Mexico will have furloughs of 11 unpaid days before September 30th of this year. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says notices will be given by the end of the month. Originally, the DOD was looking at 22-day sequestration-cut furloughs that were to have begun last month. Some 2100 civilian workers at Kirtland Air Force Base will be impacted along with others at Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis, Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo and the White Sands Missile Range.

U.S. Senator Tom Udall has introduced a bill seeking to increase the graduation rate in New Mexico and across the nation. Called the Graduation Promise Act, it would offer federal grants to states and other entities for schools to identify best practices for encouraging matriculation. In 2012, New Mexico's graduation rate was just 70%, markedly less than the national average of 80%. Udall's bill is endorsed by the National Education Association of New Mexico among others.

Congressman Ben Ray Luján has joined US House colleagues from other western states in sponsoring legislation to protect state mineral royalty payments from sequester cuts.   The Minerals Leasing Act demands that all states be paid 50 percent of the revenues from the leasing of mineral resources on federal public domain lands.  The Department of Interior has notified state governments that $110 million in mineral royalties, including $25 million for New Mexico, will not be paid over the next six months due to sequestration.  

A state-wide advocacy group says New Mexico has fallen behind in the number of new jobs needed to make up for those lost during the recession. A report by New Mexico Voices for Children argues that New Mexico should have created 58,000 jobs in the last five years. Instead, it lost 43,000. 

In Jemez Springs tomorrow, the historically and culturally significant Jemez State Monument will be designated as a National Historic Landmark. A ceremony is planned for 10AM Thursday.

Weather for Santa Fe – partly sunny today with a high in the mid 70s.  This afternoon will bring a 20% chance for isolated thundershowers, decreasing to just 10% this evening.  Lows in the low 50s.  Mostly sunny and dry tomorrow, highs in the upper 70s.