US House passes northern NM water settlement bills

Two bills that would resolve decades-long water disputes in north-central New Mexico have passed the U.S. House, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan said Thursday.

The Taos Pueblo Indian Water Rights Settlement Act and the Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act are based on years of negotiations between American Indian leaders and local, state and federal officials. The court cases that started them were filed in the 1960s.

The settlements would assure water resources for the Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso, Tesuque and Taos pueblos, while providing for the water needs of non-Indian interests in the region.

The bills would authorize the secretary of the Interior to approve the settlement of water rights claims and to develop water infrastructure in the Rio Grande Basin.

The Aamodt settlement calls for the construction of a regional water system in Santa Fe County that would benefit the pueblos and their neighbors. [Read the full article]

A total of 43 states reported rising jobless rates in December, reversing signs of improvement seen the month before, according to a government report released Friday.

Overall, jobless rates increased in those states and the District of Columbia last month and fell in four states, according to the Labor Department’s monthly report on state unemployment. Three states reported no change.

“This reversal is so surprisingly negative that it causes us to be cautious,” said Craig Thomas, senior economist at PNC. “This report has been unreliable, and it tends to miss turning points.”

The economy and labor market are indeed “at that turning point,” Thomas said, noting improvements including a pickup in retail sales. He thinks the state report will reflect the recovery more accurately come March.

The report said all 50 states had an unemployment rate in December that was higher than a year earlier. Michigan again had the highest rate of unemployment at 14.6%. [Read the full article]

South Carolina’s unemployment rate rose sharply in December to a record 12.6 percent despite a drop in the number of people looking for work.

The Employment Security Commission figures released Friday were up from November’s 12.3 percent rate and well above the 10 percent national rate. In November, South Carolina’s rate was the nation’s fourth highest. Michigan’s 14.6 percent was the nation’s highest, followed by Nevada at 13 percent and Rhode Island’s 12.9 percent.

The commission noted the labor force was at its lowest level since September 2008 as fewer people actively sought work.

“This is a bad signal all around,” College of Charleston economist Frank Hefner said. Usually economists can point to rising unemployment coming out of a recession as a positive sign of more people are looking for work. [Read the full article]

With only a week left before Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s term ends, the Senate lacks the 60 votes to force a confirmation vote.

And the White House and Senate leaders are starting to scramble, as more Democratic senators say they plan to vote against giving Bernanke a second term as Fed chief.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. and Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., both said Friday that they plan to vote against Bernanke. Several other Democratic senators told CNN they’re undecided.

“It is time for a change — it is time for Main Street to have a champion at the Fed,” Boxer said in a statement. “Dr. Bernanke played a lead role in crafting the Bush administration’s economic policies, which led to the current economic crisis. Our next Federal Reserve Chairman must represent a clean break from the failed policies of the past.”

It’s not clear whether Bernanke’s confirmation is in jeopardy, because he is likely to garner some Republican support. [Read the full article]

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