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Opinion

  • 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

  • Tim Solano is one big reason we need tougher DWI laws, says a lawmaker. Solano is a good example of why those laws don’t work, says a DWI expert.
    Solano had five DWIs in 2005 when he killed a woman bicycling in Santa Fe. He served 10 years in prison. In December, after his release, he was arrested again for DWI.
    That was frightening to Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque. Her husband exercised in the same area when they lived in Santa Fe. She’s carrying HB 83 to increase penalties for multiple DWI convictions. It’s one of three DWI bills in the governor’s package that recently passed the House.
    The measures won’t have any effect on the state’s dreadful drunken driving experience, said Linda Atkinson, executive director of the DWI Resource Center. “The victims get told that these laws will prevent future DWI deaths, but it’s a disservice to victims,” she said. “It won’t change anything. It’s very, very sad.”
    Atkinson has been involved in DWI issues since the 1980s and has worked with such DWI crusaders as Nadine Milford and former Gallup Mayor Ed Muñoz. She co-founded the nonprofit DWI Resource Center, which tracks data and provides information to victims.

  • BY REP. NORA ESPINOZA
    Dist. 59, New Mexico State Representative

  • Temporarily stopping the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency from making new regulations except in emergencies would result from a bill filed by Congressman Steve Pearce to appoint a special investigator to find exactly what happened last year with the Gold King Mine spill.
    The proposal is the ‘‘Gold King Mine Spill Accountability Act of 2016.” The move comes, Pearce said via telephone from his Washington, D.C., office, because, “We just feel like the federal government has no concern for their effect on local people.”
    We need to “defend our constituents…(and) hold the EPA responsible,” he said.
    “People come to us when they want someone to stand up,” Pearce said, explaining his pursuit of the matter, as opposed to, say, Congressman Ben Luján, whose district contains the Animas River, which was badly polluted by mine waste. Pearce said he has pursued other problems outside his district.
    A request to Luján’s office for comment produced a 154-word statement that is posted at capitolreportnm.blogspot.com. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, Rep. Luján, and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet have introduced a Gold King bill lacking the special investigator and allowing continued EPA regulation production,

  • BY REP. LARRY LARRANAGA
    Chair, House Appropriations and Finance Committee, Dist. 27

  • BY JOE D'ANNA
    Los Alamos

  • BP’s lengthy oil spill in the Gulf and the Keystone Pipeline are issues long familiar to people of all walks. In sharp contrast, who ever heard of Structural Health Monitoring?  
    I first heard the term just two months ago. I was quickly amazed to see the extent of new techniques available to guard against leaky oil pipes of all kinds. Why does anything so relevant stay hidden from public news?  
    Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) is well explained in Wikipedia. SHM refers to methods of gauging damage in materials and other safety aspects of engineered structures. Devices tied into structures detect changes as materials age. From the changes, computing parts assess safety. Call them “smart tools.”
    The tools can check and report frequently on the well-being of structures such as bridges, airplanes and pipelines. The results, in turn, point to in-situ methods of timely repair. “In-situ” repair means repairing in place without tearing things open.
    SHM is no mere glint on the horizon. It thrives now and keeps improving. The discipline of SHM has an international society of its own with its own technical journal. The 10th International Workshop on SHM was held last fall at Stanford University. Princeton offers a graduate course in SHM. The topic clearly has history and substance.