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Today's Opinions

  • Counting to 3: Work comp and the smallest businesses

    The workers’ compensation coverage requirement in New Mexico has always been a mess. Finally somebody is paying attention to it.  
    A state Court of Appeals decision last year yanked away the exemption that protected farmers and ranchers for decades from concerning themselves with this convoluted language.  After the decision, the Workers’ Compensation Administration told them they would have to start buying workers’ comp insurance.  The state Supreme Court has temporarily stayed the requirement, pending its review of the case. But now, in case the Supreme Court doesn’t bail them out, they are grappling with it (paragraphs 52-1-6 and 52-1-7 of the statutes).     
    Most businesses with three or more employees are required to buy coverage, and that ends the discussion for them. (Construction is the exception, requiring all employers to have coverage, regardless of the number of employees.)
    But for very small businesses, the question of what constitutes “three” is a serious matter.  (My slogan: There are many ways to count to three.) So is the question of what constitutes an employee. These issues are not simple.
    Farmers and ranchers are looking to change these paragraphs. If you operate a very small business, or are employed by one, any changes will affect you.  

  • Job creation made headway in tough legislative session

    Jobs bills took a backseat to crime and budget wrangling in this legislative session, even though New Mexico has the nation’s worst unemployment. But as the smoke clears, we see some good bills emerging while others wait on the runway for next year.
    Last week, Gov. Susana Martinez signed two bills. One of her priorities was the Rapid Response Workforce Program to quickly train workers – a shortage of trained workers will keep a company from relocating. This is a challenge around the state. Endorsed by the bipartisan legislative Jobs Council, the bill passed both houses unanimously. By some miracle, legislative budgeters found $1.25 million to fund it. Kudos to the governor for championing this bill.
    A second measure signed into law allows small and mid-size communities (up to 35,000) to use local funding through the Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) for retail projects. That might not sound impressive, but in small towns, a new store is economic development, and it’s important in larger towns that lack certain kinds of shopping.
    More good news: The Tourism Department will have $300,000 more for advertising and $300,000 more for event sponsorship grants. And the public-private New Mexico Economic Development Corp. will get about $1.4 million more.

  • Letters to the Editor 3-9-16

    Round and round
    we go?

    Would you consent to costly, painful surgery that might or might not improve your health and could result in increased blockage of one of your major arteries?
    The wheels of transportation progress have turned and we’re now faced with the prospect of having our very own two-lane roundabout (RDB) built on Trinity Drive (NM 502) at Central Avenue, beginning in the Spring of 2017.
    Over the past 20 years or so, roundabout proponents have generated three large proposals. The most recent grand plan, in 2011, proposed reducing Trinity to two lanes and installing nine roundabouts. A $300K transportation study was performed by MIG, Inc., a roundabout engineering firm. After review of the study by several concerned county residents, the County Council obtained a second professional opinion that confirmed the citizens’ review: the proposed scheme would not operate as claimed by MIG, but would create a traffic nightmare. (More historical and technical details are available at wcmead.org.)

  • Incompletely told state history gets an encyclopedia

    Consideration of history in New Mexico usually stops around Socorro and the year 1900, with passing mention of Roswell for aliens, Lincoln and Billy the Kid for murder, and perhaps White Sands for the Trinity atomic bomb test in 1945.
    OK, that’s an overstatement. But a brief survey of my four-volume New Mexico history book collection finds them well short of mentions of Clovis, Hobbs, oil, Silver City and more.
    The history of New Mexico is taught in the public schools, more often than I thought. Seventh-graders get a year. State history appears in elementary school and high school. How well the history is taught could be another story.
    Thinking of our history was spurred by three comments.
    For a Smithsonian magazine article, Richard Grant is in Jones County Mississippi, “to breathe in the historical vapors…” The article is “The Raging Rebellion of Jones County.” Historical vapors are well breathed in New Mexico, too.
    In a newspaper review of a book about Romania, “Trapped by the New Iron Curtain,” Edward Lucas chides the author, Robert Kaplan, for saying, “I liked having the place to myself.” People complain about New Mexico’s growth, which has reversed the past two years, with the same whine.

  • Why is New Mexico complying with a costly plan halted by the Supreme Court?

    BY TERRY JARRETT
    Attorney, Hush & Blackwell LLP

  • Mediation helps businesses resolve conflicts quickly and affordably

    BY STEPHEN S. HAMILTON
    Attorney & Mediator, Montgomer & Andrews. P.A.

    Finance New Mexico

  • Even modest proposals explode in the volatile education atmosphere

    Education has become a tug-of-war – or maybe just a war – and this legislative session was no exception.
    Democrats couldn’t convince their opponents to use the state’s permanent funds to support education, and Republicans didn’t make any headway in ending social promotion. Give them credit for trying hard.
    Beyond those top-tier bills were several layers of lesser issues that did see compromise, and legislators deserve a pat on the back for finding a little more money in the budget for public education, even in a year when other departments saw cuts.
    In 2003, we tapped the permanent fund to support teachers’ salaries, and that amendment to the constitution was controversial. The cities supported it, and the rural areas didn’t. This year that revenue stream was scheduled to drop from 5.5 to 5 percent, and Dems also wanted more money for early childhood education, so there were three proposed amendments.
    Nobody argues the good of early childhood programs. Sponsors honed their proposals to answer criticism that the early childhood spending measure lacked a plan and added a sunset. They failed.

  • Pancho Villa: an occasion well worth remembering

    BY BOB HAGAN
    Special to the Monitor