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Opinion

  • 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.

  • BY TERRY JARRETT
    Attorney, Hush & Blackwell LLP

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

    Finance New Mexico

  • 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.

  • BY BOB HAGAN
    Special to the Monitor

  • Republican faithful filled the ballroom at Albuquerque’s Crown Plaza hotel for the pre-primary convention. The crowd was around 500 plus staff and security.
    The room’s fullness on a sunny Saturday less than two days after the legislative session ended is worth noting. In some previous years, one veteran observed, the room had not been full.
    As people entered the hall, bunches of buttons and brochures introduced them to Judith Nakamura of Albuquerque, appointed last fall to the New Mexico Supreme Court. Because Nakamura was appointed to fill a vacancy on the court, to keep her new job, she must run in the 2016 general election. The run requirement is in Article VI, Section 35 of the Constitution, one of those long, detailed parts of the Constitution that add length and require amendment to make even small changes.
    Nakamura gave a vigorous speech, something often lacking in judge candidates. The buttons and brochures suggest her campaign is well underway. Judicial campaigns come with restrictions unknown to other campaigns. Basically judge candidates can only say how much the law infuses their soul.

  • BY ZEINA KARARM & DAN PERRY
    Associated Press News Analysis

  • BY REP. NATE GENTRY
    House Dist. 30, House Majority Leader

  • This was the year we were supposed to see real ethics reform in Santa Fe, and it seemed that the stars had lined up.
    Secretary of State Dianna Duran and Sen. Phil Griego delivered scandals that were still fresh in mind. The public was more than ready – a poll for Common Cause New Mexico found that 85 percent of respondents supported creating an independent ethics commission. Another poll found 82 percent of New Mexico business leaders liked the idea.
    A Republican freshman, Rep. Jim Dines of Albuquerque, and a Democrat, Rep. Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces, joined to carry a bipartisan bill.
    House Joint Resolution 5 would have created a nine-member ethics commission whose members would be appointed by the Legislature, judiciary and administration. The commission could initiate or receive complaints and investigate alleged violations by state officials, lobbyists, state employees, contractors, or would-be contractors. It could look into possible breaches of state ethics, campaign finance and procurement laws and hold public hearings to resolve complaints. Those making the complaints could not be anonymous.

  • BY KATHY KEITH
    Los Alamos National Laboratory Community Relations and Partnerships Office

  • BY CHRIS CHANDLER
    Los Alamos

    Guest Columnist

  • Evaluation of bills introduced in the Legislature would have become more thorough if Senate Bill 9 had passed in the just completed 2016 legislative session. Because it often takes several years to pass a bill, this one could return.
    The bill had to do with state budgets and what it calls “evidence-based, research-based and promising sub-programs.”
    It had bipartisan sponsorship, but with a double minority. The Senate sponsor was a Republican, Sander Rue of Albuquerque. In the House it was Gail Chasey, a Democrat from Albuquerque. In their respective chambers, Chasey and Rue are in the minority.
    SB 9 would not apply to all of state government, though that isn’t clear from the bill’s text. Chasey told New Mexico In Depth, a news website, (nmindepth.com) that the bill built on the present application to early childhood education and some adult criminal justice programs of the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative. Working with the Pew Charitable Trusts (pewtrusts.org), starting in 2011, the Legislative Finance Committee did the research and put the program in place.

  • Leading up to the hearing Saturday night of the three-strikes bill, Roundhouse watchers were caught in political crossfire.
    In this legislative session, Republicans unfolded a big crime package and hollered that anybody who didn’t support it was soft on crime and didn’t care about the state’s children. The Democrats hollered back that the crime bills were just a distraction from the state’s dismal economy, wouldn’t work, and would bust an already fragile budget.
    So with this backdrop, coupled with the tiresome nastiness of national politics, the Senate Public Affairs Committee, with its majority of Democrats, took up HB 56, by a retired policeman, Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque.
    An amazing thing happened on Saturday. During a long evening of tears and personal stories, our legislators laid down their rhetoric and spoke from the heart. The Ds and Rs were kind to one another. And they passed the bill.
    HB 56 would enlarge the meaning of “violent felony” to include shooting at or from a vehicle, aggravated assault, kidnapping, child abuse, sexual assault of a minor and aggravated burglary. A third conviction for any of these crimes would bring a life sentence.

  • BY JUSTIN HYDE
    New Mexico Market Manager, Accion

  • BY REP. JIM SMITH
    House Dist. 22, Chair, House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee

  • BY DR. CALEB VERBOIS
    The Center for Visions and Values

  • Corruption, crony capitalism and economic growth had not linked in my mind. An oversight, to be sure. Or just dense.
    The Committee for Economic Development in Washington, D.C., the Thornburg Foundation of Santa Fe and Michael Rocca, University of New Mexico political science professor, have combined to argue the three are quite connected.
    The factors are “a key reason for New Mexico’s lackluster economic growth,” Rocca says.
    The report is “Crony Capitalism, Corruption and the Economy of the State of New Mexico.” Rocca’s team included one undergraduate honors student and two Ph.D. candidates. The project came from discussions at the Thornburg Foundation. The Committee for Economic Development went to Santa Fe at Thornburg’s invitation, says Mike Petro, CED’s executive vice president. Rocca says he was contacted by CED and Thornburg.
    In the introduction, Rocca and his team say, “(Crony capitalism) refers to the unhealthy relationship between some private interests (e.g. business, anti-business interests, professions, and social groups) and government. Deals are struck that reward winners on the basis of political influence rather than merit.”

  • BY PAUL GESSING
    President, New Mexico's Rio Grande Foundation

  • Civil society is a slippery slope.
    It’s a constant tug of war between total individual freedom and rules that enable us to live as a society.
    We have free speech, but we may not yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater to start a panic. If we defame another person, we can be liable for the damage we cause. Your freedom to swing your arm, the saying goes, ends at my nose. We argue vigorously about freedom of the press and what government should be required to disclose.
    Government imposes laws, enforces laws, and has the opportunity to abuse its powers.  Usually it doesn’t. When it does, people sometimes get very badly hurt, but we can correct the abuse.
    Our laws swing back and forth with trends. We go through an era of being “tough on crime,” then the trend reverses as we see, for example, that too many people are in prison.
    Government makes mistakes; sometimes those mistakes lead to tragic results for individuals, but the power is kept in check by opposing forces, including the will of the people and the opportunity to throw officeholders out of office at the next election.

  • BY SANDY NELSON
    Finance New Mexico project