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Last updated 8:50PM ET
September 22, 2018
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First News: The question of execution for a convicted murderer is now in the hands of a jury in Santa Fe. (listen)
(KSFR) - It's now up to a Santa Fe jury whether convicted murderer Michael Astorga gets life in prison or the death penalty. Closing arguments wrapped up yesterday and the jury has begun deliberating the sentence. Since the crime Astorga was convicted of took place before the state's death penalty was repealed, he's eligible for execution.

Officials of the state agency responsible for regulating oil and gas drilling are hearing arguments this week about New Mexico's "pit" rule. Industry advocates are arguing that the rule should be loosened to remove economic barriers to drilling. During the Richardson administration, environmentalists had succeeded in getting regulators to require strict containment methods to hold the waste water and mud that comes out of wells

Tomorrow's the day 19 new state laws take effect. Among them is one setting up a fund to cover the costs of New Mexico's medical marijuana program. It would require suppliers to pay state fees of as much as $30,000 a year. There are more than 4,000 patients licensed to use medical marijuana. Another new law would require elected officials convicted of public corruption to repay their salaries and pension benefits.

Albuquerque's Sunport is developing plans to make more use of electricity generated by solar panels. Officials there tell KOB-TV that the FAA is provding a grant that will pay 85 percent of the $6 million program. The effort will expand the number of solar panels on airport rooftops to power elevators, escalators, lights and offices inside the building.

Scandal-rocked border community Sunland park has seen some of its financial operations placed under state management. That comes after a troubling audit by State Auditor Hector Balderas finding numerous constitutional and regulatory violations of the town's financial affairs. The audit also cites criminal violations related to the fraudulent misappropriation of public money. Sunland Park's finance director has been suspended along with purchasing agents. Further investigation will focus on possible malfeasance by city councilors. The winner of the March 6th mayoral race, along with the city manager, have been sidelined as a result of earlier felony corruption charges.

A new report says that the state's unemployment trust fund has dropped due to a decrease in the rates employers pay into it. The report from the New Mexico Fiscal Policy Project under the purview of family advocacy group New Mexico Voices For Children says benefit payouts began to decline in 2011 as hiring picked up but also because some benefits for parents and students were cut. At the same time, the rates that employers were paying into the fund were also cut. The report also notes that the majority of New Mexico's UI beneficiaries have been young Hispanic males.

Citing dangerous fire conditions brought by drought, the City of Santa Fe Fire Department is redlining strict emergency measures banning all open burning including camp fires and the use of charcoal barbecue grills in public parks and recreation areas. Smoking is prohibited in public parks, recreation areas and all public trails. Also banned is the use of ATVs and motorcycles on city-owned open spaces. Penalties for violation carry fines up to $500 and 90 days in jail.

Weather for Santa Fe - sunny, dry and seasonably warm for the remainder of the week. Highs throughout the period in the mid-to-upper 70s. Overnight lows in the upper 40s.
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