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Today's Opinions

  • Letter to the editor 3-18-15

    Superintendent Schmidt
    addresses PARCC concerns

    On March 11, a group of Los Alamos High School students met for half an hour after school in the Los Alamos High School lobby to provide information to the public about their concerns for next week’s state test, called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.
    PARCC, as it is known to students and staff, replaces previous years’ Standards Based Assessment.
    This marks the first year of the PARCC test, which is a part of the New Mexico state graduation requirements. While there are alternatives ways to demonstrate proficiency, high school students must first attempt achieving proficiency on the PARCC test before alternative demonstrations of competency are allowed.
    In addition, the newly introduced PARCC test presents an opportunity for students to demonstrate their understanding of the New Mexico Common Core State Standards, as well as demonstrate readiness for college and careers. Students at the information forum met with their high school peers, staff, school administration and some community members to share concerns about the upcoming PARCC tests.
    Several themes emerged from my one-on-one and small group conversations with students, including:

  • The Richardson papers go to Texas

    Bill Richardson’s decision to donate his accumulated papers to the University of Texas at Austin’s Dolph Briscoe Center for American History has raised eyebrows and ruffled feathers in certain quadrants of New Mexico politics.
    Which only stands to reason. Richardson’s political career began in the early 1980s with his election to the U.S House of Representatives from the state’s 3rd Congressional District and culminated, so to speak, in 2002 when he was elected to the first of his two terms as governor of New Mexico.
    Along the way he rose to a position of leadership in Congress, served as President Bill Clinton’s Ambassador to the United Nations and as U.S. Energy Secretary in the Clinton administration.
    Throughout it all, Richardson gained a national reputation and a measure of celebrity as a gifted diplomatic trouble-shooter and negotiator called upon by Democratic and Republican presidents alike to aid in the release of American hostages in such countries as North Korea, Sudan and Iraq.
    Indeed, such was Richardson’s reputation for diplomatic wizardry that just days after taking his first oath of office as governor, a delegation of North Korean emissaries appeared on his doorstep in Santa Fe seeking his counsel on their dealings in Washington.

  • Get a handle on gross receipts tax if doing business in New Mexico

    Anyone who operates a business in New Mexico is familiar with the gross receipts tax, or GRT — a tax not on sales but on companies and people who do business here.
    Unlike a sales tax, the GRT is imposed on the seller of property or services. It is not a tax the seller collects from the buyer and delivers to the state; it’s due even if the seller doesn’t charge the buyer.
    The tax is imposed on the gross receipts of businesses or people who sell property, perform services, lease or license property or license a franchise in New Mexico. The same goes for those who sell research and development services performed outside New Mexico when the resulting product is initially used here.
    “Gross receipts” are the total amount of money or other consideration received from the activities covered in the tax law. They include sales of property handled on consignment and commissions received.  
    But they exclude GRT billed to the buyer, as that would constitute taxing a tax. Also excluded are cash discounts; taxes imposed by a Native American tribe or pueblo that is exempt from New Mexico GRT; interest or other types of time-price differentials; or amounts received solely on behalf of another in a disclosed-agency capacity — like an in-state florist who fulfills an order placed with an out-of-state company.

  • Pet Talk: Tips for traveling with furry family members

    With spring break upon us, and summer vacations right around the corner, it’s time to start planning your much-needed getaways. Whichever destination you choose, having your pet by your side makes it even more enjoyable. However, there are some important things to consider before letting your furry family member tag along.
    “The first thing you want to do before you go on a big trip with your pet is to go on a short trip with your pet,” said Dr. Mark Stickney, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “Drive around and make sure that they don’t get too nervous or car sick while they’re in the vehicle.”
    If you notice that Fido is an anxious traveler, but still need to bring him along, consult your veterinarian about motion sickness medication or tranquilizers to help make the ride more comfortable.

  • Economic developers need vision, new energy


    Economic development” gets much conversation in the policy realm. Occasions range from chamber of commerce meetings to political campaigns and legislative hearings.
    But what, really, is all that conversation about? The perspective here comes from years of hanging out with economic developers and listening to the economic policy conversations.
    To do economic development is to meddle with an economy, be it a community, a county or region or even a state.
    Those of us tilting against meddling on the grounds that freedom, choice and competition provide better results are correct, but perhaps irrelevant.
    Conservatives meddle.
    The example as I write comes from all but one of the potential Republican presidential candidates swearing fealty to the ethanol industry in Iowa. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz provided the exception.
    When properly and narrowly defined, the idea of economic development is to add organizations to what is called the “basic” economy of the area. The organization can be private or public.
    Only when there appears the possibility of a government organization adding itself to a community is the acceptability of a government organization admitted.

  • Why this Catholic physician supports medical aid in dying

    Inspired by the public advocacy of terminal brain cancer patient Brittany Maynard, lawmaker in Washington, D.C., and at least 16 other states — from California to New York — have introduced bills that would authorize the medical option of aid in dying.
    This legislation would allow mentally competent, terminally ill adults in the final stages of their disease the option to request a doctor’s prescription for aid-in-dying medication that they could choose to take it if their suffering becomes unbearable.
    As a Catholic and a physician, I feel compelled to dispel the myths about these bills perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church, some disability groups, and the American Medical Association (AMA).
    The Oregon law that is the model for this legislation has a stellar 17-year track record, with no scientifically documented cases of abuse or coercion. Dying adults who go through the lengthy process of obtaining the medication in Oregon hold onto it for weeks or months, as Brittany did, before taking it, if they take it at all.

  • Businesses have stake in enhanced credit card security

    Major credit card processors are imposing tougher security measures on credit card issuers in the industry’s ongoing efforts to combat credit card fraud.
    These global standards — called EMV for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, the companies collaborating on the new system — include embedding computer chips into “smart” credit cards that offer greater security for point of sale (POS) transactions than the magnetic strips on traditional credit cards.
    Many chip-embedded cards require a personal identification number (PIN) instead of a signature to complete the POS transaction and close the security loop; these “chip-and-PIN” cards are the norm around the world, though they’ve been slow to catch on in the United States.
    One incentive for the changeover is the soaring cost of fraud. According to the payment industry’s Nilson Report, credit card fraud cost banks and merchants more than $5 billion in the U.S. alone in 2012. By contrast, credit card fraud in face-to-face sales has dropped dramatically in countries around the world that have adopted the new technology.
    Deadline looms

  • How the Supreme Court should decide the same-sex union cases

    The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear four cases involving the issue of same-sex unions. These cases come from the Sixth Circuit where the U.S. Appeals Court had earlier upheld Michigan’s definition of marriage as limited to one man and one woman. That decision (DeBoer v. Snyder) created what is called a “conflict among the Circuits” and forced the Supreme Court to address the issue.
    The court will be likely to issue a decision in June 2015 with arguments in April.
    There are two questions that the court has agreed to take up. Does the 14th Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?
    Secondly, does that same Amendment “require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?”
    How should the Supreme Court decide these cases? Specifically, the justices should reject the recent rash of federal court decisions that have, for the time being, forced same-sex marriage on the citizens of 31 states who had democratically chosen to define marriage as between one man and one woman.