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Opinion

  • An algae bloom, also known as an algal bloom, is but one of the ways this old, old life form makes news. An algae bloom can look like a floating green garden, a red tide or a muddy brown oil spill.
    Algae is the collective term for a large and diverse group of aquatic plants that were early ramblers on Earth. Besides a long history, algae also have a rare ability to grow fast. An algae bloom is a rapid growth in the population of algae in a local aquatic system. Depending on the algae, blooms have special colors and can do great harm to an ecosystem. The toxic effects of some algae blooms can kill fish and mammals and threaten urban water supplies. Researchers are finding ways to combat the damage from these sudden overgrowths.
    Meanwhile, other researchers are busy finding ways to get more good from the good algae, of which there are many. The oddities of algae may help fill two of the modern world’s fast growing needs – food and fuels.
    Algae were food fit for guests in ancient China. Similar discoveries were made in Japan, Hawaii and even cropped up in Ireland.
    After World War II, a taste for seaweed, or “nori,” spread to the US with
    Japanese food. As the land gets more crowded, interest grows in the possibilities of algae for food.

  • Nathaniel Sillen

    Practical Money Skills

  • Lawmakers this year took on some major reforms of old issues hovering over the state like turkey vultures waiting for road kill.  
    Interest groups ranging from Common Cause to the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce proclaimed progress. Maybe not as much as we hoped, but progress.
    The big reform bills were ethics, campaign finance, capital outlay, payday lending and taxes. Many were bipartisan.
    Years in the making, the ethics bill began bravely by standing up an independent ethics commission with subpoena power, protected by the Constitution. When it emerged after pummeling in various hearings, it was missing language that required complaints and hearings to be public, and the Legislature, not the law, will determine the commission’s powers and rules.
    Changes reflect legislators’ residual fear that the commission could become a political weapon.
    So voters in November 2018 will decide on a constitutional amendment creating an independent ethics commission.
    Common Cause and business groups cheered. New Mexico Ethics Watch booed, saying lawmakers gutted a strong bill.
    Kudos to Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, who patiently listened to input and welcomed suggestions. The hearings themselves were a marvel. Instead of trying to kill the bill, lawmakers worked with Dines to fine tune the bill.

  • BY REP. JASON HARPER
    R-Rio Rancho, New Mexico House of Representatives

  • “In America, we don’t leave people bleeding in the doorway of the emergency room.”  I wrote that line for a presentation I used to give, some 25 years ago, about medical care in workers’ compensation.
    There had been a time when some American hospitals did exactly that. Even in emergencies, patients had to produce an insurance card before they would be treated. A federal law was enacted in 1986 prohibiting hospitals from turning away patients in emergencies.
    The system has been been battling ever since over who pays. The hospital? The taxpayers? The patient with no money? The Affordable Care Act offers one solution by requiring everybody to be insured and providing subsidies.
    The “individual mandate” is one thing many Americans detest about the ACA. So, among the features of the new proposed healthcare law it took Congressional Republicans only six years to draft, the individual mandate is to be repealed. Young healthy people who think they don’t need insurance won’t have to buy it.
    But young healthy people can get sick or injured. What does the proposed law anticipate when a young healthy uninsured person shows up with broken bones from a motorcycle accident? Who will pay the bill? Or will we go back to letting him bleed? That has to be one of our questions.

  • The tax boys want additional information for your 2016 return, starting with your driver’s license number. If claiming certain credits for children, you must prove the kid lives with you, which, says my tax preparer, “gets really interesting if the kid is between zero and four.”
    Besides treading on our liberty, the requirements raise costs and provide another definition of what is being called “the administrative state.”
    In his March 5 Washington Post column, Robert Samuelson, one of my favorite analysts, quoting historian Steven Hayward from the current issue of the conservative Claremont Review of Books, wrote, “The administrative state represents a new and pervasive form of rule, and a perversion of constitutional self-government.” Samuelson concluded, “Like it or not, we do have an administrative state. It isn’t going away.”
    The simplest compliance with the new IRS rules will require about 20 minutes, estimates my tax preparer. There will be a modest charge for one new form. Otherwise the changes mean less sleep and no new clients this year, which means that the IRS has prevented the business from growing.
    Another favorite source, Megan McArdle of Bloomberg.com, in a Feb. 14 post linked to a long consideration of why everything costs more.

  • By Finance New Mexico

  • BY GREG WHITE
    Los Alamos Resident, Guest Editorial

  • BY BOB HAGAN
    Coffee on a Cold Morning

  • If I were planning to run for the Legislature, my list of priorities would look a little different from those you usually see. Instead of reciting the usual passionate platitudes about education and economic development, I would talk about saving taxpayer money while improving the performance of government agencies by means of methodical administrative reforms.
    Don’t worry, I’m not running, but I have been repeatedly frustrated that I’ve never seen a single campaign promise along these lines. Every now and then when a candidate has knocked on my door, literature in hand, I’ve invited the candidate in and talked about this. It doesn’t do any good. Administrative reform is tedious and unglamorous, is poorly understood by the public, and most of the time it doesn’t produce any bragging rights.
    It should especially be a focus of attention for governors and candidates for governor. Just now, with the state’s desperate need to save money, the governor is trying some things that may or may not produce results.
    Gov. Susana Martinez announced a few weeks ago that she was considering consolidating departments, but the idea disappeared down a black hole pretty quickly. That is probably because of the pummeling her staff must have taken from irate constituents the minute this thought was expressed.

  • BY D. DOUWD MUSKA
    Rio Grande Foundation

  • BY CLAUDIA INFANTE
    New Mexico Manufacturing Extension Partnership

  • Legislators are trying to get their arms around truancy in the state. Discussion about the most promising bill, the bipartisan HB 437, illustrates just how complicated the problem is.
    We have 54,000 kids who are habitually truant, which means they have 10 or more unexcused absences in a school year. That should take your breath away.
    Studies and common sense tell us that these kids are most likely to drop out.
    Four lawmakers whose political coloration ranges from conservative to liberal have teamed up to carry the bill: Reps. Patricio Ruiloba, D-Albuquerque; Jimmie Hall, R-Albuquerque, James Townsend, R-Artesia, and Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales. On Saturday, the most conservative, Townsend, and most liberal, Ruilobo, sat together to sell their bill to the House Education Committee.
    HB 437 calls for earlier and more intensive interventions. It requires schools to have a family resources program, work with agencies and community organizations, and notify parents. It would suspend drivers licenses.
    Legislators used as models successful programs in Carlsbad and Albuquerque’s Atrisco Heritage High School.

  • BY NATHAN SILLIN
    Practical Money Skills

  • House Bill 412 is a big one. The title requires 307 words. It begins, “An act relating to taxation…” The second to the last section – that’s section 155 out of 157– requires 1,028 words to list the sections of existing law that would be repealed.
    The sponsors are Rep. Jason Harper, Rio Rancho Republican, and two venerable Democratic senators, John Arthur Smith of Deming and Carlos Cisneros of Questa. Bipartisanship!
    The bill came from the interim Revenue Stabilization & Tax Policy Committee. Harper was the chair and Cisneros the vice chair. Smith was a member.
    A general and understandable (by you and me) summary of what became HB 412 is found in the minutes of the committee’s final meeting, held Dec. 16. It said: “The elimination of most GRT deductions, exemptions and credits is a key part of the legislation and could vastly expand the tax base with a correspondingly lower sales tax rate…  the state sales tax rate would be around 2.5 percent, with an average total local and state rate of around five percent.”

  • Last week I drove from Palomas, the Mexican town opposite Columbus, all the way west to Agua Prieta, the twin to Douglas in Arizona. The highway first swings south to skirt the Bootheel and then strikes back north to within a few miles of the border, where it claws its way up the northernmost slopes of the formidable Sierra Madre.
    Two narrow lanes squeezed between sheer cliffs and precipitous canyons, the road climbs a half mile in fewer than 10.
    There are neither shoulders nor guard-rails; only the little roadside shrines warn of the perils beyond the next hairpin turn.
    The blacktop is battered daily by the passage of hundreds of heavy trucks, some of them pulling double trailers up the steep grades. Bad as it is, this is one of just two highways over the mountains for hundreds of miles to the south.
    At the top of the pass you cross the Continental Divide at 6,500 feet. From there you can look down and see the black line of the border fence running ruler straight across the plain far below.
    The drive back from Douglas on the American side is a cruise-controlled siesta compared to the crossing from Chihuahua to Sonora. On NM 9 you follow the old railroad bed for mile after mile of gentle curves and long, level straightaways.

  • Sherlock Holmes, the fabled stalker of clues, was a charismatic spur to science in the cause of catching wrongdoers and clearing the innocent.
         His popular intrigues taught methods of close observation and simple physics. See the hidden footprint there. So how could this speck of blood land here? ... Elementary, my dear Watson.
         Sherlock Holmes readers delight in how the master sleuth and his doctor friend used their specialized fields of knowledge to solve dark mysteries. Two of their specialties were exotic poisons and animal behaviors. Any full-blooded Holmes fan can name classic cases of each.  
         Ballistics, fingerprints and handwriting bring other facts to bear that can weigh for or against a crime suspect. Newer tools include DNA evidence and a range of smart cameras and phones.
         All such advances for probing and proving the story are now known as “forensic science.”
         The term “forensic” itself tells a story. Forensic is from the Latin
    forensis, meaning “of or before the forum.” In history, Romans decided
    whether an accused person was guilty or not guilty by speeches made before the forum. 

  • FINANCE NEW MEXICO

  • What’s up with the governor and the state’s judicial system?
    As she directed some of her angrier vetoes to the courts in the last few years, we had to wonder. This year, State Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels said the courts are “on life support.”
    Remember that our founding New Mexico fathers intended the three branches of government – executive, legislative and judicial – to be on an equal footing.
    Let’s look at a timeline.
    Jan. 22, 2011: Daniels told legislators the judiciary had cut to the bone, closing some magistrate courts, reducing expenses, freezing hiring and leaving vacancies unfilled, even as workload increased because of the economic downturn.
    Jan. 25, 2011: Daniels ruled against Gov. Susana Martinez, who tried to keep two environmental regulations from taking effect. “No one is above the law,” Daniels said.
    Also in 2011 District Judge Sarah Singleton in Santa Fe ruled against Martinez’s attempt to have the Motor Vehicle Department verify the residency status of foreign nationals with New Mexico driver’s licenses.
    2012: A judge in the Second Judicial District ordered Martinez to remove the names of most people on the state’s payroll information from the Sunshine Portal. She published the names elsewhere.

  • Finance New Mexico