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Columns

  • Eleven of 34 proposed Constitutional amendments target education

    Amending the New Mexico Constitution ought to be more difficult, says Sen. John Ryan, Albuquerque Republican. Ryan has proposed a constitutional amendment to that effect.
    Ryan’s Senate Joint Resolution 17 is but one of 34 amendments introduced for consideration during the current legislative session. Bill introductions ended Feb. 5. Senators introduced 330 bills, House members, 357.
    SJR 17, while hardly momentous, might be a good idea. Ryan proposes requiring that two-thirds of legislators approve an amendment instead of the current majority. However it would not really address and certainly not solve the salient characteristic of the Constitution, which is that it is often amended. Once blessed by the Legislature, proposed amendments are voted upon at the next general election.
    After a quick slog through the 2014 proposed amendments, four ideas stand out — one good, three marginal — and a theme emerges.
    The marginal ideas are proposals to regulate moral behavior that I think do not fit in a constitution, which is supposed to outline the fundamental framework of government.

  • Should you buy pet insurance?

    One topic I’ve learned to avoid with new acquaintances until I know them better (along with politics and religion) is where they stand on the treatment of pets. Some people, when their dog gets sick or badly injured, say, “It’s an animal — that’s just part of the circle of life.” Others consider Rover a close family member and would take out a second mortgage to save his life.
    Pet owners from both camps probably see the barrage of ads for pet insurance and wonder whether it’s worth the expense, which might be several thousand dollars over the life of your pet. I did some research and the best answer I can come up with is, it depends.
    First, ask yourself: Do you regard pet insurance as a financial investment, where you expect to get back more in benefits than you paid out in premiums over the pet’s life? Or, is it more like auto or homeowner’s insurance, where you hope nothing ever goes seriously wrong, but you want coverage in case there’s a catastrophe?
    Either way, here are some basic facts about pet insurance that may help you decide whether it’s right for you:
    Pet insurance shares many features with human health insurance: Policies typically have annual deductibles, copayments and exclusions, and some limit which veterinarians, clinics and hospitals you can use.

  • Election could be determined by what else in on the ballot

    The 2014 election is officially underway, with the filing of qualifying petitions last week. Five Democrats have lined up to challenge Gov. Susana Martinez. All five met the goal, submitting petitions with more than 3,000 signatures. Though there’s little media attention so far, the race is already energetic.
    Martinez doesn’t have re-election locked in. She’s believed to be the heavy favorite today against an unnamed Democrat, but she could be vulnerable on a number of counts. So far, she’s managed to keep her public image separate from the most serious controversies of her administration. But we don’t know yet what voters are thinking.
    The Democratic nominee could make hay of Martinez’s many out-of-state trips pursuing her own or her party’s political interests. Her well-publicized jaunt to New Jersey in November, campaigning for the re-election of Gov. Chris Christie, could turn out to be a liability — maybe because his reputation is now in question, or maybe just because she was gadding about the country instead of doing her job in New Mexico.

  • Rural dental care stumbles in Senate

    If you live in a rural area and you have a toothache, chances are you’ll have to drive for several hours to get help.
    A bill to remedy that, now stuck in a Senate committee, shows us both the strengths of our legislative system and the weaknesses. The strengths are the power of bipartisan cooperation, in this case, between Sen. Benny Shendo Jr., D-Jemez Springs, and Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Texico. The weakness is the power of one person to mess things up.
    You probably know by now that New Mexico doesn’t have enough dentists. We rank 39th in the United States, according to Health Action New Mexico, a consumer advocacy group. More than a third of rural school kids have tooth decay.
    Senate Bill 76 would create a new kind of dental provider, the dental therapist-hygienist, who would occupy a niche between a dentist and a hygienist. With supervision from a dentist, the therapist-hygienist could provide many services, including extractions.
    The model is a program that has served Alaska Native villages. People in the village choose an individual, who receives training and then returns to provide dental care for his or her village.
    “The Alaska model is a Native solution to a Native problem,” Shendo told me. “It would work here.”

  • Give credit where credit is due on education reform

    Last year, high school graduation rates in New Mexico improved 10 percent over recent historic rates, from the low 60 percent range up to 70 percent.
    For the second year in a row, Hispanic New Mexican students enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) classes have the highest completion and graduation rates of all AP students in the country.
    These are fantastic developments that are justly lauded, and which the current governor is rightly touting — for which she is incorrectly taking credit.
    The fact is, these recent developments are the product of programs the legislature and previous administrations put in place years ago, including:
    • Statewide Pre-K and early childhood development programs.
    • Increased teacher compensation including salaries, cost of living adjustments and tax credits to entice the best people to enter and remain in the field, and aid in teacher recruitment.
    • Increased AP and dual-credit courses, which allow students to earn college credits while still in high school.
    • Teacher-student mentorship and tutoring programs.
    • Programs to lower the truancy rate and encourage parental involvement.

  • Civilized Murder

    The death penalty recently topped the daily news headlines. A couple weeks ago, it was “D.M.”, who in 1989 kidnapped, raped, sodomized and murdered 22-year-old Joy Stewart (who was 30 weeks pregnant) by slashing her throat.
    The drug which terminated D.M.’s life took more than 15 minutes. This was seen by many people as “cruel and unusual punishment.”
    Yeah, I know. I had the same thought.
    Recently, headlines have been inundated with “D.T.,” the self-proclaimed jihadist who, with his brother, orchestrated the bombing terrorist attack in Boston on April 15, 2013.
    Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi, and Martin Richard were killed by the blasts. Another 264 people were severely injured.
    It is with strong (and usually long) emotion that people debate the death penalty. In fact, I’ve seen people nearly kill each other while arguing it.
    Since the United States Supreme Court’s 1976 decision to allow capital punishment, the United States has executed more than 1300 people. Interestingly, only 12 of them were women.
    With so many male-dominated arenas being invaded by competitive women, it’s nice to know we men are still better at something, eh?
    The arguments for and against capital punishment both have merit. And both are equally without logic at times.

  • Equine care in the Year of the Horse

    With the Chinese New Year Jan. 31, it is time we recognize the New Year’s Chinese Zodiac: the horse, symbolizing character traits such as intelligence, energy and strength.
    While the Chinese Zodiac horse may be strong and full of energy, what happens when yours adopts uncharacteristic behaviors of limited mobility and weakness? Though equine lameness is a problem seen in many horses during their lifetime, there are ways of preventing and treating it to help your horse be as healthy as the Chinese Zodiac horse this year.
    Equine lameness, or limping, has different causes. “Some of the common causes are due to a traumatic event, a performance induced injury — such as a strained tendon, or ligament, or pulled muscle — or a wear-and-tear type injuries causing arthritis or bone spurs in joints termed osteoarthritis,” said Dr. Robin Dabareiner, Associate Professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “There are also some causes of lameness that young horses are born with termed ‘developmental bone disease,’ where the cartilage and bones do not form correctly.”
    Once recognized, it is important to have a lameness evaluated immediately by a veterinarian.

  • Give America a raise?

    President Barack Obama said something especially perplexing when he implored Congress during his State of the Union address — to “Give America a raise.”
    Since when does Congress have the power to do that?
    We live in a nominally private-enterprise economy, so it should strike the ear as odd to hear Obama acknowledge that it’s not a private-enterprise economy at all, much less a free-enterprise economy. What we have is an economy dominated by an alliance of politicians and well-connected, mostly corporate, interests.
    Obama, of course, was calling on Congress to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. But the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that only 4.7 percent of hourly workers made the minimum wage or less in 2012, so those 3.6 million people hardly constitute “America.”
    Can Congress give those workers a raise? No, it can’t.

  • Connecting the DOTs with communities

    In the legislative hopper with more attention-grabbing bills is one that’s a cry for help. Rep. Bobby Gonzales, D-Taos, is carrying a bill that’s the equivalent of a suicide mission. In an election year for House members, Gonzales wants to raise fuel taxes to fund 10 major road projects, knowing well that even if it passes, the governor won’t sign it.
    Why? Because we’re approaching a point of no return. Our roads are falling apart. The state Department of Transportation has been patching, patching, patching, but that only goes so far.
    To some readers, who have nice new roads, this may come as a surprise. But to Gonzales, who sees new deterioration in the road to Taos every time he drives home from Santa Fe, it’s becoming a crisis.
    I’ve listened to three transportation hearings this session and the message is alarming.
    Last week, Transportation Secretary-designate Tom Church told the Senate Transportation and Corporations Committee that the DOT road fund, supported by fuel taxes, is down by $5.9 million since last year. Blame the economy, which isn’t as strong as we’d like, and blame efficient cars, which don’t consume fuel like they used to.

  • Tips to not fall for Valentine's Day scams

    On Valentine’s Day, people’s emotions run all over the map; some are head-over-heels and want to shower their loved one with gifts, while others are despondent because currently they have no one special in their life.
    Whatever your love status, one thing everyone needs to guard against at this time of year is scams.
    Valentine’s Day brings out the best and worst in human behavior. Our impulse is to be generous and search for the ideal gift. Internet thieves know this and coolly set traps for unsuspecting shoppers. And, not surprisingly, dating websites experience greater activity, along with a corresponding increase in relationship scammers.
    Here are some of the more common Valentine’s Day scams to avoid:
    Electronic greeting cards are popular year-round, especially near holidays. Scammers count on you not paying attention when you receive an email with an innocuous subject line like, “Someone you know just sent you an e-card.”
    Unless you’re certain someone sent you an e-card, never click on links or follow instructions to download software to open the message. Chances are you’ll load a virus or malware onto your computer, dooming you to receive endless spam or even endangering your personal and financial information