Nov. 21 First News: Teacher Unions Lead Rallies Against State Evaluation System. (Listen)

  Teachers unions in New Mexico on Wednesday encouraged teachers to wear black and participate in rallies across the state to protest against a teacher evaluation system. One rally drew a crowd of about 100 people gathered in Santa Fe outside of the Jerry Apodaca Building where the Public Education Department is housed. Educational union officials contend that a heavy reliance on student testing is hurting educators rather than helping students. Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera defended the evaluation system Wednesday in testifying to a legislative panel but said she was open to improving it.

The State Public Regulation Commission on Wednesday changed its renewable energy rule to cut by one-half the amount of solar energy that New Mexico utilities are required to produce also and reduced the amount of renewable energy they are required to add in the future. Camilla Feibelman (Figh-bel-min) is director of the Sierra Club’s Rio Grande Chapter. *****Nov. 21-SCrx :11***** A divided PRC approved the change on 3-2 vote.

The City of Santa Fe has announced that 12 companies have been selected to participate in the spring 2014 business accelerator program. The Velocity Project is an entrepreneurial accelerator designed to provide a vigorous and focused "boot camp" environment to assist ambitious entrepreneurs. This is the second year of the city-sponsored effort and based on the success of its initial pilot project, the Velocity Project was funded to scale up and accept more applicants for 2014.

Three Rio Rancho legislators are holding a public forum tonight to answer questions about the upcoming New Mexico legislative session and the issues they plan to address. The meeting at Rio Rancho City Hall will feature two state representatives as well as Senator Craig Brandt. Brandt says the lawmakers are seeking local input. *****Nov. 21 Brandt-1  :15***** Brandt will be joined by GOP Representatives Tim Lewis and Jason Harper at tonight’s forum.

A report from a private consultant says it will cost close to 11-million dollars to pay New Mexico State Police officers enough to make their salaries competitive with other law enforcement agencies. The study came before the Legislative Finance Committee Wednesday. Public Safety Secretary Gordon Eden says recruiting and retention of officers is difficult because of pay differences between the State Police and other law enforcement agencies.

The Congressional Gold Medal, Congress’ highest civilian honor, is being bestowed on Native Americans who used their native language to outwit enemies and protect American battlefield secrets during World Wars I and II. Members of Congress and others gathered in the nation’s capital Wednesday to honor 33 tribes for the wartime contributions of code talkers. Wednesday's ceremony was for more than two dozen tribes not included in an initial Congressional honor five years ago.

Another Democrat has joined the race for Governor—Lawrence Rael—who’s held many top government posts, including Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Albuquerque—made his formal campaign announcement Wednesday on the steps of the State Capitol. Rael becomes the fifth Democrat seeking the party’s nomination to take-on incumbent Governor Susana Martinez. 

A federal judge's ruling that personal injury lawsuits against tribal casinos regarding the serving of alcohol must be filed in tribal courts, not New Mexico state courts is being appealed. The case involves a lawsuit against the firm that operates the Santa Ana Pueblo casino, stemming from a fatal 2006 car crash. The Albuquerque Journal reports that the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in state District Court under provisions of the tribe's gambling compact with the state.

 The state Department of Transportation is informing the public that its crews are prepared for the state’s first wave of winter weather. The D-O-T says snowplows and trucks that apply salt and cinder to icy roads are loaded and ready. Crews will work around the clock to clear roads and assist where needed. The agency also says staff is updating the 5-1-1 road conditions hotline and the NM-Roads-Dot-Com website.

Santa Fe Weather: National Weather Service Meteorologist Brian Guyer says winter weather is heading our way: *****Nov. 21 Guyer-1  :25**** The forecast calls for a 30 percent chance of showers, mostly cloudy, with a high near 49. Tonight: Snow and sleet likely, becoming all snow after midnight. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 28, The chance of precipitation is 60-percent. New snow and sleet accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.