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Today's Opinions

  • New Mexico exporters grab share of global trade

    Exporting brings new money into an economy and helps businesses grow, and that’s why the New Mexico Economic Development Department wants more New Mexico companies to sell their products and services worldwide. Our message has resonated: 2014 revenue from New Mexico exports increased nearly 40 percent over 2013.
    New Mexico companies brought nearly $4 billion in international money to the state in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Foreign Trade Division.
    Top exports were computer and electronic goods, fabricated metal products, nonelectrical machinery, food items and transportation equipment.
    More than 1,300 New Mexico companies created more than 12,000 jobs while exporting products or services in 2012 — a recent figure from the International Trade Administration that’s grown since then.
    With about three-fourths of the world’s purchasing power outside the U.S., the state Office of International Trade, or OIT, and our federal partners want to help businesses find global markets and distribution for New Mexico-made products and services.

  • Civil asset forfeiture bill worth signing

    For those New Mexicans who believe in bipartisan government, reaching across the aisle and the political spectrum — there is good news. The New Mexico legislature has just unanimously passed House Bill 560, without a single dissenting vote in either house. HB 560 revises the procedure involved in the forfeiting of citizens’ assets by government agencies, a practice referred to as “asset forfeiture.”  
    Every year, federal and state law enforcement agents seize billions of dollars during traffic stops, simply by alleging the money is connected to some illegal activity. Under federal and New Mexico’s laws, these agencies are entitled to keep most (and sometimes all) of the money and property, even if the property owner is never convicted and, in some cases, never charged with a crime.
    This practice is so pervasive that the Institute for Justice deems it “policing for profit.” This refers to the fact that some law enforcement agencies pursue assets based on their value to their departments’ budgets as opposed to the property owners’ wrongful conduct.

  • Looking for funds in all the wrong places

    Post-legislative session, the chatter is all about friction and gridlock because it requires looking a little harder to see the whole picture.
    In a year like this, when available money evaporated like a water hole in the desert, when uncertainty and tight budgets exacerbated differences, the debates were bound to be sharp.
    Both parties and both chambers spent a lot of time hunting for money, and because there was none in the usual places, the hunt turned to who had money and how they might be parted from it.
    That led to some well intended but labored bills.
    One was House Bill 474, by Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec.
    It attempted to divert money from the Fire Protection Fund, which supports fire departments, and use it for forest and watershed restoration. Forced to choose between fire prevention and fire fighting, legislators deliberated uncomfortably and chose their fire departments.
    HB 236, by Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, and Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, demanded more hard choices.

  • This year’s legislature session unlike others in the past

    Observers knew in the wake of November’s elections that the 2015 legislative session would be unlike any they’d seen in their lifetimes. For the first time in 62 years, the House of Representatives would be under Republican control.
    Despite this shift to the right, New Mexico’s Senate remained under control of Democrats. This is because the entire Senate is up every four years in presidential election years like 2016. The House, on the other hand, is up for election every two years.
    These are not your run-of-the-mill Democrats. Their Majority Leader, Michael Sanchez, is both a trial lawyer and one of the most partisan legislators in the Senate. There are a handful of moderates sprinkled throughout the body, but they rarely vote as a cohesive group or provide a counter-weight to their powerful leader.

  • The 2014 job totals revised up, February gains 15,900 jobs

    Everything that was reported during 2014 and through March 22, 2015, about job performance in New Mexico was reported correctly.
    As of 10 a.m. EST time March 23, everything previously reported was incorrect. Well, not exactly incorrect, but out of date.
    Confusing? Indeed.
    The explanation is that the 10 a.m. EST time was when the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released the annual change of the rules for reporting the previous year’s job performance.
    This is statistical. The temptation is to chuckle and remember the old cliché about liars and statistics. The change, called “benchmarking,” happens each year.
    In a sense, it doesn’t matter. Just cleaning up the statistics.
    Except it does matter. People, businesses and government make decisions based on what they hear first. For about four years, the people decision, reflected in numbers called (negative) net migration, has been to leave nearly everywhere in New Mexico.
    The benchmarking flipped the two big themes for telling the 2014 job story in New Mexico.

  • Recap of 2015 Legislature session

    As Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “You may delay, but time will not,” and as we learned this legislative session, delaying critical votes has left New Mexico in a state of confusion and panic.
    For three years, I have served on House Appropriations and am proud of the bipartisan work we have accomplished to deliver New Mexicans a balanced and fair budget and comprehensive capital improvement legislation.
    In those three years, I have never once seen a move as destructive as the 11th hour coup by House Republicans on the capital improvement legislation. Without warning, Republicans decided to play politics with some of our most vulnerable populations and strip critical funding for our senior centers and schools throughout the state and divert that money to the Spaceport and one highway in southern New Mexico.
    This move cost New Mexico millions in economic development and capital improvement projects, as well as much-needed jobs.
    While this session ended on a costly note for New Mexicans, there were some great bipartisan actions and bills to protect our environment and fund crucial programs like CYFD and our public schools. I am proud to report that five important bills I helped carry are awaiting the governor’s signature.

  • Moving people from point A to point B

    Although Harold Morgan’s “Fixing Roads Is Better Than Building Bicycling Underpass” in last week’s Los Alamos Monitor seems more political agit-prop than analysis (referring to cyclists as a cult, and to the funding of bike facilities as the spending orgies of liberal Democrats), it’s worth, in its wake, reviewing a few things about bicycle infrastructure.
    Morgan overlooks that transportation is about moving people to where they need to go. To create an efficient system, the tool should fit the need.
    For short distances, bicycles work well as people movers. By contrast, short distance driving is not particular good for the car, the human, or the built environment. Such driving is often referred to as “severe use” as it doesn’t give the vehicle’s lubricating fluids time to heat up and drive out volatiles. For the human, sedentary lifestyles lead to a host of health problems.

  • The games governors play

    By all accounts, Governor Susana Martinez blew a gasket when the recent 60-day legislative session adjourned.
    It’s a Roundhouse tradition at the end of any session for three or four deputized lawmakers to call upon the sitting governor for the purpose of informing him/her that the clock has run out and the Legislature adjourned.
    As custom has it, civilities and handshakes routinely prevail on such occasions, although after a particularly grueling session a bit of chiding and good natured finger-wagging have been known to cap things off.
    This year, however, when the legislative delegation reached the gubernatorial offices atop the 4th Floor of the Roundhouse to pay their respects, they reportedly found Martinez in a fit of rage, hurling accusations of obstructionism and a failure to compromise at Democratic lawmakers hither and yon.
    According to one senator in the delegation, Albuquerque Democrat Gerald Ortiz y Pino, “It really had the feeling of a dictator who had been thwarted.”
    Viewed from afar, it has the feeling of a bad comedy featuring the proverbial pot looking for a kettle to call black.
    To get some perspective on this bizarre contretemps, we should remember that this was Martinez’s fifth go-round with the New Mexico Legislature.