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As Congress and presidential candidates trade accusations over immigration reform, advocates and experts urge caution in spreading misinformation; Alabama takes new action IVF policy following controversial court decision; and central states urge caution with wildfires brewing.

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Congress reaches a deal to avoid a partial government shutdown again. Arizona Republicans want to ensure Trump remains on their state ballot and Senate Democrats reintroduce the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

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Hard times could be ahead for rural school districts that spent federal pandemic money on teacher salaries, a former Oregon lumber community drafts a climate-action plan and West Virginians may soon buy raw milk from squeaky-clean cows.

Northern NM Communities Get Boost in 2022 Wildfire Financial Relief

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Friday, December 30, 2022   

More money is on the way to help New Mexico's communities recover from the largest wildfire in state history.

The 2022 Hermit's Peak-Calf Canyon Fire began April 6 when the U.S. Forest Service lost control of a prescribed burn. It scorched some 534 square miles of national forest, Pecos Wilderness and private land, taking out 900 structures in its path, including several hundred homes.

When Congress passed the appropriations bill this month, said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., nearly $1.5 billion in aid was included to help Northern New Mexicans recover from wildfires and subsequent flooding.

"We're just going to keep working to make sure that all of those communities in places like Mora and Guadalupita and Las Vegas and others can rebuild in a meaningful way, can have clean water, can do the things that they need to do to keep those communities strong," he said.

Some of the money will go toward repair and replacement of the water-treatment facility in the northern New Mexico town of Las Vegas. The financial boost is in addition to the $2.5 billion in aid from the Hermit's Peak/Calf Canyon Fire Assistance Act approved earlier.

Heinrich, serving his second term as a U.S. senator, said he believes the 2021-22 congressional session was one of the most productive in recent history.

"We had one of the biggest veteran's benefit expansions in the history of the VA," he said. "We were able to invest in infrastructure in a way we talked about for decades but were never able to get across the finish line before."

The omnibus spending bill also provides necessary congressional authorization for a constitutional amendment New Mexico voters approved last month to tap into the Land Grant Permanent Fund for early-childhood education funding.


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House Bill passed with an overwhelming vote of 94-6, with three abstentions. Its companion, Senate Bill 159, passed unanimously with a vote of 34-0. (Chad Robertson/Adobe Stock)

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