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Opinion

  • Choosing hospice care isn’t about giving up. It’s about making every day count.
    Terminally ill people who make the choice receive care for their physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs. They’re no longer seeking a cure, but they do want to live out their last weeks and months as comfortably as possible and with dignity.
    Unfortunately, many people with Medicare aren’t aware of the hospice benefit.
    Hospice programs follow a team approach. The specially trained team typically includes doctors, nurses, counselors and social workers, among others. A doctor and nurse are on call 24-7 to care for you and support your family when you need it.
    The hospice benefit allows you and your family to stay together in the comfort of your home, unless you require hospital care. If your hospice team determines you need inpatient care at some point, it will make the arrangements for your stay.
    Hospice’s main goal is to relieve your pain and manage your symptoms. As long as the care comes from a Medicare-approved hospice, Medicare covers the physician services, nursing care, drugs, medical equipment and supplies, and physical and occupational therapy.

  • The debate over PNM’s proposed long-term plan is raising questions that go beyond the plan itself, if New Mexicans are willing to engage in that discussion.
    Though most of the state is served by electric co-ops, PNM’s economic and environmental influence reaches well beyond its service boundaries.
    The Public Regulation Commission must make a decision with far-reaching consequences. Environmental concerns — including the health of New Mexico children — appear to clash with economic objectives, which also affect New Mexico citizens.
    But maybe the clash of objectives is not real. The argument may be broader.
    Three PRC commissioners recently spent more than two hours at a session devoted entirely to public comment about the PNM plan. Under the plan, two of the coal-fired units at the San Juan Generating Station will be shut down.
    The controversy is over what replaces the power from those units. Will it be a mix of coal, nuclear, renewable and natural gas — a plan already agreed to by federal and other state regulators — or, as some New Mexicans demand, will it be changed to scrap the coal and nuclear and rely much more on solar and wind?

  • For some time now we’ve lived with the scourge of civil asset forfeiture, under which the police can seize a person’s property on the mere suspicion it was used in a crime and without having to charge the owner with an offense. Since the authorities have no burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the burden of proving innocence falls on the hapless citizen who wishes to recover his property.
    Amazingly, people describe as free a society that features this outrage.
    Now it comes to light that the Internal Revenue Service does something similar. The New York Times reports that the IRS seizes bank accounts of people whose only offense is routinely to make deposits of less than $10,000. If you do this enough times, the IRS may suspect you are trying to avoid the requirement that deposits of $10,000 or more be reported by the bank. The IRS keeps the money, but the depositors need not be charged with a crime.
    You read that right. The government demands notification whenever a bank customer deposits $10,000 or more. If you are merely suspected of avoiding that requirement, it can cost you big time.
    Welcome to the land of the free.

  • Slogans are framed with a mock aura of coherence. By their style, slogans leave out more truth than they include.
    As a slogan is heard more, its inconsistencies get easier to spot. For example, a variety of well-known slogans show up at every debate over the best type of regulation — federal, state or local.
    The case of fracking is typical. Suppose we hear a proposal to pass regulations at the federal level. We soon hear an industry slogan decrying the folly of regulations designed with the idea that “one-size-fits-all.”
    Surely, the best regulations are tailored to fit the conditions on the ground in each state, so the story goes. It’s only natural.
    Thus begins the long road to setting different regulations for fracking in different states. The work will be greatly slowed by concerns that business will flee states that first adopt rules or adopt strong rules. Eventually, regulations will spread to nearly all states, but the rules will vary widely, depending on who was in charge when a state’s rules were passed. Rules will vary from very detailed to very simple.

  • In September 1993, President Bill Clinton reassured his radio audience that “if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll be rewarded with a good life for yourself and a better chance for your children.”
    Picking up that theme over 18 years later, President Barack Obama affirmed that “Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that does the same.” The trouble is neither the government nor the financial system backed by the Federal Reserve rewards people like my parents, who have worked hard and played by the rules their entire lives, only to have their savings wither away.

  • Exporting brings new money into an economy and helps businesses grow, and that’s why the New Mexico Economic Development Department wants more New Mexico companies to sell their products and services worldwide. Our message has resonated: 2014 revenue from New Mexico exports increased nearly 40 percent over 2013.
    New Mexico companies brought nearly $4 billion in international money to the state in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Foreign Trade Division.
    Top exports were computer and electronic goods, fabricated metal products, nonelectrical machinery, food items and transportation equipment.
    More than 1,300 New Mexico companies created more than 12,000 jobs while exporting products or services in 2012 — a recent figure from the International Trade Administration that’s grown since then.
    With about three-fourths of the world’s purchasing power outside the U.S., the state Office of International Trade, or OIT, and our federal partners want to help businesses find global markets and distribution for New Mexico-made products and services.

  • For those New Mexicans who believe in bipartisan government, reaching across the aisle and the political spectrum — there is good news. The New Mexico legislature has just unanimously passed House Bill 560, without a single dissenting vote in either house. HB 560 revises the procedure involved in the forfeiting of citizens’ assets by government agencies, a practice referred to as “asset forfeiture.”  
    Every year, federal and state law enforcement agents seize billions of dollars during traffic stops, simply by alleging the money is connected to some illegal activity. Under federal and New Mexico’s laws, these agencies are entitled to keep most (and sometimes all) of the money and property, even if the property owner is never convicted and, in some cases, never charged with a crime.
    This practice is so pervasive that the Institute for Justice deems it “policing for profit.” This refers to the fact that some law enforcement agencies pursue assets based on their value to their departments’ budgets as opposed to the property owners’ wrongful conduct.

  • Post-legislative session, the chatter is all about friction and gridlock because it requires looking a little harder to see the whole picture.
    In a year like this, when available money evaporated like a water hole in the desert, when uncertainty and tight budgets exacerbated differences, the debates were bound to be sharp.
    Both parties and both chambers spent a lot of time hunting for money, and because there was none in the usual places, the hunt turned to who had money and how they might be parted from it.
    That led to some well intended but labored bills.
    One was House Bill 474, by Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec.
    It attempted to divert money from the Fire Protection Fund, which supports fire departments, and use it for forest and watershed restoration. Forced to choose between fire prevention and fire fighting, legislators deliberated uncomfortably and chose their fire departments.
    HB 236, by Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, and Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, demanded more hard choices.

  • Observers knew in the wake of November’s elections that the 2015 legislative session would be unlike any they’d seen in their lifetimes. For the first time in 62 years, the House of Representatives would be under Republican control.
    Despite this shift to the right, New Mexico’s Senate remained under control of Democrats. This is because the entire Senate is up every four years in presidential election years like 2016. The House, on the other hand, is up for election every two years.
    These are not your run-of-the-mill Democrats. Their Majority Leader, Michael Sanchez, is both a trial lawyer and one of the most partisan legislators in the Senate. There are a handful of moderates sprinkled throughout the body, but they rarely vote as a cohesive group or provide a counter-weight to their powerful leader.

  • Everything that was reported during 2014 and through March 22, 2015, about job performance in New Mexico was reported correctly.
    As of 10 a.m. EST time March 23, everything previously reported was incorrect. Well, not exactly incorrect, but out of date.
    Confusing? Indeed.
    The explanation is that the 10 a.m. EST time was when the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released the annual change of the rules for reporting the previous year’s job performance.
    This is statistical. The temptation is to chuckle and remember the old cliché about liars and statistics. The change, called “benchmarking,” happens each year.
    In a sense, it doesn’t matter. Just cleaning up the statistics.
    Except it does matter. People, businesses and government make decisions based on what they hear first. For about four years, the people decision, reflected in numbers called (negative) net migration, has been to leave nearly everywhere in New Mexico.
    The benchmarking flipped the two big themes for telling the 2014 job story in New Mexico.

  • As Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “You may delay, but time will not,” and as we learned this legislative session, delaying critical votes has left New Mexico in a state of confusion and panic.
    For three years, I have served on House Appropriations and am proud of the bipartisan work we have accomplished to deliver New Mexicans a balanced and fair budget and comprehensive capital improvement legislation.
    In those three years, I have never once seen a move as destructive as the 11th hour coup by House Republicans on the capital improvement legislation. Without warning, Republicans decided to play politics with some of our most vulnerable populations and strip critical funding for our senior centers and schools throughout the state and divert that money to the Spaceport and one highway in southern New Mexico.
    This move cost New Mexico millions in economic development and capital improvement projects, as well as much-needed jobs.
    While this session ended on a costly note for New Mexicans, there were some great bipartisan actions and bills to protect our environment and fund crucial programs like CYFD and our public schools. I am proud to report that five important bills I helped carry are awaiting the governor’s signature.

  • Although Harold Morgan’s “Fixing Roads Is Better Than Building Bicycling Underpass” in last week’s Los Alamos Monitor seems more political agit-prop than analysis (referring to cyclists as a cult, and to the funding of bike facilities as the spending orgies of liberal Democrats), it’s worth, in its wake, reviewing a few things about bicycle infrastructure.
    Morgan overlooks that transportation is about moving people to where they need to go. To create an efficient system, the tool should fit the need.
    For short distances, bicycles work well as people movers. By contrast, short distance driving is not particular good for the car, the human, or the built environment. Such driving is often referred to as “severe use” as it doesn’t give the vehicle’s lubricating fluids time to heat up and drive out volatiles. For the human, sedentary lifestyles lead to a host of health problems.

  • By all accounts, Governor Susana Martinez blew a gasket when the recent 60-day legislative session adjourned.
    It’s a Roundhouse tradition at the end of any session for three or four deputized lawmakers to call upon the sitting governor for the purpose of informing him/her that the clock has run out and the Legislature adjourned.
    As custom has it, civilities and handshakes routinely prevail on such occasions, although after a particularly grueling session a bit of chiding and good natured finger-wagging have been known to cap things off.
    This year, however, when the legislative delegation reached the gubernatorial offices atop the 4th Floor of the Roundhouse to pay their respects, they reportedly found Martinez in a fit of rage, hurling accusations of obstructionism and a failure to compromise at Democratic lawmakers hither and yon.
    According to one senator in the delegation, Albuquerque Democrat Gerald Ortiz y Pino, “It really had the feeling of a dictator who had been thwarted.”
    Viewed from afar, it has the feeling of a bad comedy featuring the proverbial pot looking for a kettle to call black.
    To get some perspective on this bizarre contretemps, we should remember that this was Martinez’s fifth go-round with the New Mexico Legislature.

  • As an animal lover, you know just how hard it is to pass up that sweet puppy dogface while walking through your local shelter or rescue group. If adoption isn’t possible for you at the moment, fostering can be an amazing opportunity to provide a homeless pet with a nurturing, temporary home until they are able to find a permanent family.
    “It’s not as hard to find pets to foster as some might think,” said Susan Lobit, a veterinary technician at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and experienced fosterer. “Checking with rescue organizations is a always good place to start.”
    Before deciding to foster a pet, there are important aspects of the job you should be aware of that many people overlook.
    “You need to understand that you are in the middle,” Lobit said. “You help the pet get healthy, rehabilitated with any social or physical problems, and teach them about life in a loving home, but then have to be ready to send them on to a forever home.”
    Lobit explains that while letting go can be difficult to do, knowing that you’ve helped make such a huge difference in an animal’s life makes the separation worthwhile.

  • I hope by now most of you have seen fliers, received registration forms, or heard about the 5th Annual “Run for Her Life” at East Park on April 19.
    There is nothing more therapeutic than going out on a run. Running clears my mind and frees my soul, but it wasn’t always like that for me.
    Not too long ago, even the thought of jogging shorts and running shoes gave me panic attacks with flashbacks of a particular yelling gym teacher, a cramp in my side and frantically searching for my inhaler. I was one of those people who said “If I am running, you better run too because the only reason I would run is if it were away from something.”
    All of that changed four years ago when I moved to Los Alamos with my husband and our three small children. Due to a combination of health issues and poor lifestyle choices, I found myself weighing 240 pounds at 5 feet, 7 inches tall.  I could feel my body dying and I had to do something.
    With a family history of diabetes and cancer, I knew it was only a matter of time for that to be my fate as well.
    But luckily for me we were in Los Alamos and everywhere I looked there were happy, active people living and loving their healthy lifestyle.

  • In a country where people extol the virtues of free enterprise, why is the U.S. government involved in the delivery of mail? After all, it would be difficult to find a better example of a violation of the principles of free enterprise than the U.S. Postal Service.
    The Postal Service is a monopoly. That means that the law expressly prohibits anyone in the private sector from competing against the government in the delivery of first-class mail. If some private firm attempts to do so, the Justice Department immediately secures an injunction from a federal judge enjoining the firm from continuing to compete. If the firm persists, the judge jails the head of the firm until he agrees to cease and desist with his competition.
    Why should a country that prides itself on the virtues of free enterprise have a massive monopoly on mail delivery? Why not free enterprise in mail delivery?
     One option would be to simply repeal the postal monopoly. That would put the Postal Service in the same position as everyone else — as a competitor among many private firms that would be seeking people’s business.

  • In its 239-year history, America has been involved in 222 years of fighting. Only a handful of presidents served during times of no war. Talk about boring administrations, eh?
    It seems that most presidents are remembered for their wars. George Washington and the Revolutionary War. James Madison and the War of 1812. James Polk and the Mexican-American War. George W. Bush and the War on Grammar.
    Some years after the Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman is credited with having said, “War is hell.”  About three generations later, after World War II, Harry S Truman remarked “Peace is hell.”
    I’m not an expert in the dichotomy of hell, but I do know that whereas the road to hell is paved with good intentions, it is not traveled by the best of us. By “us,” I mean those among us who are truly the divine gifts to civilization. Dogs.
    Seriously, is anything more beatific than a dog?  Even Pope Francis agrees with Goldcrest Films that all dogs go to heaven.
    Maybe that’s why ol’ Tecumseh never became president. He didn’t own a dog!  Who wants a president who doesn’t have a companion destined for the pearly gates?

  • Recently, the state auditor’s Government Accountability Office (GAO) released some staggering figures with respect to $4.5 billion of tax dollars sitting in more than 700 state accounts.
    As a result, many New Mexicans are rightly asking serious questions about whether this money is being put to work to meet the many needs of our state.
    The report, which is a compilation of the most recently available audited financial statements of state agencies (fiscal year 2014 in most cases) is the first in a series of reports the auditor’s office will be releasing to shine a light on fund balances building up in government.
    Moving forward, the GAO will also report on schools, municipalities and counties.
    This effort is aimed at enhancing transparency and accountability for the use of public monies that have already been allocated by the Legislature in years past for a particular use. As our state’s only independent office responsible directly to the voters for oversight of public dollars, the state auditor plans to share this information to start a public conversation about the most efficient and effective use of our tax dollars.
    In the years to come, these reports are intended to serve as a resource for the public, the governor and policymakers to make informed decisions.

  • The earnings and opportunities gap that separates high school dropouts and graduates is wide, and it’s widening all the time. Yet 40 percent of New Mexico’s public school students quit their formal education before earning a diploma that can improve their options over a lifetime.
    Those dismal statistics motivated David Sidebottom, a branch manager of Century Bank, to introduce the Choices education program to Santa Fe schools six years ago. Using a curriculum designed by the nonprofit Choices Education Group, Sidebottom and other volunteers visit eighth-graders for two hour-long workshops that illustrate in tangible, age-appropriate terms the consequences of quitting school prematurely.  
    They don’t lecture, but rather engage the young teens in role-playing activities.
    In one, a student receives “play” money that represents his wages for a job that doesn’t require a high school diploma. Another classmate pretending to be a high school graduate gets more cash, while the best payout goes to the student playing the college graduate. After students surrender money for rent, food and other essentials, it’s obvious who has money left over for entertainment and recreation.

  • 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.