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Today's Opinions

  • Debt and the deceased: How should spouses, heirs proceed?

    If your loved one died leaving significant debt behind, would you know what to do?
    It’s a worrisome question for everyone. Young or old, based on particular debt circumstances or geographic location, death with debt can provide significant problems for surviving family members.
    Depending on state law and the specific credit relationships involved, they might be shocked to learn that they could be legally liable for a deceased relative’s outstanding debt — anything from unpaid mortgage balances and medical debt to unpaid credit card balances.
    Spouses who may share any kind of debt jointly, particularly credit cards in dual name, could face greater challenges. It also may spell problems for co-signers of any kind of loan.
    As with all financial planning, the best time to act is before an issue arises. Watching any family deal with extensive debt problems after a spouse or relative passes on illustrates the need for financial transparency while all parties are alive. No matter how difficult a family member’s credit circumstances are, spouses and adult children should face those circumstances while options are available to deal with any problems.

  • The eyes have it, the teeth don’t

    How are legislators supposed to decide on the relative competencies of healthcare practitioners?
    In these matters, we are asking lawmakers to make a tough decision on topics outside their expertise. In some cases, it’s not the public that’s asking, but the practitioners of healthcare professions.
    The dental therapist bill came back this year, but did not have enough — pardon the pun — teeth.
    The bill was widely publicized and debated in 2014. It attempted to create a new mid-level category of dental practitioner to provide care in underserved rural communities, based on a model that has been successful in other states. Last year, the bill stopped in a Senate committee. This year, the House version of the bill (HB 349, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan), passed the House and went no further.
    Its companion Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Benny Shendo Jr., D-Jemez Pueblo, stalled in committee.
    Though the details are technical, the argument is simple. Small rural communities need dental services, which the state’s dentists are not providing, but dentists are concerned about competency and training.
    As a dentist told me, you never know when a simple procedure like an extraction is going to be complicated until you do it and see what’s underneath.

  • Fixing roads is better plan than bicyclists' underpass

    The expanse of New Mexico means it is miles and miles from here to there.
    From Farmington to Hobbs, it is 497 miles. Make the ends of the trip be Shiprock and Jal means adding 67 miles. The trek takes some time.
    Bike-walk cultists aside, traveling is done using cars and trucks. A very few fly in private planes or on the heavily subsidized local service airlines. One or two ride horses.
    Much traveling is done just to cross the state. The east-west interstates — 10 and 40 — aren’t owned by trucks. It only seems that way.
    The cars, trucks and their occupants travel on roads. A modestly-encouraging happening of the recent legislative session is that our roads’ terrible and long-ignored financial condition has emerged in public discussion.
    This is the first step to eventually doing something.
    We begin with a digression and reminder: The term “road money” means much more than roads for vehicles.
    At a recent neighborhood association meeting, my representative on the Bernalillo County Commission, Maggie Hart Stebbins, lamented a place where bicyclists must cross a four-lane street by actually crossing on the street rather than having something specially built.
    The situation is dangerous, Hart Stebbins said.

  • Be thankful Legislature is not Congress

    It’s appropriate that our state capitol is round because during the legislative session, it’s a pressure cooker.
    News from Santa Fe about the session’s end is about the blow-ups between the House and Senate, the Senate and the governor, House Republicans and House Democrats. True, unfortunately.
    But consider that on the night before the final day, House Speaker Don Tripp kept his members at their oars from early evening until 2:45 a.m.
    The House went into session the next day at 8 a.m., got an incendiary capital outlay bill at 8:30 a.m. and launched into debate.
    Mind you, this is after days of late nights and marathon committee hearings and floor sessions. You could hear it in their tired, raspy voices and see it in memory lapses and punchy responses — like college students who’d pulled too many all-nighters.
    Only they don’t have the stamina of college students. Some of our elderly legislators simply didn’t attend night meetings and missed even day meetings.
    Is this any way to make laws? Or sausage?
    Next, consider the sea change in the House with its first Republican majority.

  • Anti-smokers can’t handle the truth about e-cigs

    Just because e-cigarettes have a name in common with tobacco cigarettes, smoking one is not the same as smoking another.  
    Everyone knows this, but could some one break the news to anti-smokers?
    There is now and always has been a major disconnection between anti-smokers and the real world. The passive smoke that made their ranting famous is forgotten when it comes to e-cigarettes.  Early studies on the smoke by both tobacco companies and other researchers show the lack of toxic danger off the charts, but anti-smokers still want them banned. Why?
    It is all about de-normalizing smoking and smokers.  Fine.  Back in 1992, when anti-smoking first started gaining traction on public policy for smoking bans, if they would have said what they say now “We are trying to make smoking an anti-social behavior” they would have been dismissed as the control freaks that they really are.
    Instead they invented a health scare.  The dangers of passive smoke.
    Here are some of the facts:
    1. There has never been medical evidence of a real death ever documented to the stated passive smoke danger.  Tens of thousands every year are claimed.

  • SB 474 makes health care prices clear

    Health care pricing has been likened to shopping blindfolded in a department store, and then months later receiving an indecipherable statement with a framed box at the bottom that says: pay this amount.
    Indeed, here in New Mexico it is easier to find information about the price and quality of a toaster than of a common medical procedure. Because information about price and quality is essential to almost every market transaction, this lack of transparency means that health care is more expensive than it would otherwise be.
    The high cost of health care has devastating consequences. More than 62 percent of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. are attributable to illness and health care debt, up from 8 percent in 1981. Many of these medical debtors are middle-class homeowners, and more than three-quarters of them have health insurance.
    Health care costs are also a heavy burden on state taxpayers, with more than 27 percent of New Mexico’s annual budget going to health care. As health care spending outpaces the growth of the rest of the economy, it threatens to crowd out spending on other priorities like education.

  • We’re free to follow our passion thanks to farmers, ranchers

    In what categories can you count yourself among “the two percent?”
    I’ll waste this sentence so you can really ponder that question.
    Did agriculture spring to mind? If not, you’ll find this statistic surprising: Less than two percent of Americans are directly involved in production agriculture. In other words, 98 percent of us are disconnected from the farm and ranch in terms of time, physical distance, or both.
    Because we are disconnected from farms and ranches, we are dependent upon them for the things that only they can provide: food, fiber and more. If ever there’s a time to be aware of and appreciate that fact, it is now during National Agriculture Week.
    A century ago, most people produced their own food either entirely or in part — and that was because they had to. But leaps in technology opened upon new ways of tending to farm and ranch work, new ways of sharing knowledge about farming and ranching, new ways to market what they produced. What hasn’t changed is the passion that farmers, ranchers, and others in production agriculture bring to their work.

  • Pet Talk: Household toxicities

    Although we may be extra cautious when using household cleaners, automotive products, or pest control products in our homes and gardens, it may come as a surprise that the tasty morsel we just dropped while preparing dinner could endanger our best friend.
    Chocolate can be found lying around the majority of households, especially during the holidays. Depending on the size and type of chocolate, it can be very dangerous to your pet’s health if consumed.
    Make sure that your children are aware of this, as they might think they’re treating Fido by sneaking him a piece of chocolate cake under the dinner table. If your dog does get a hold of some, chocolate is absorbed within about an hour, so you should call your veterinarian immediately.
    “Additionally, grapes and raisins can cause renal failure in dogs if eaten,” said Dr. James Barr, assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
    “The exact cause of this is unknown, and the amount that needs to be consumed in order to be poisonous is unknown as well.”