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Opinion

  • I checked my New Mexico Constitution the other day, and the provision is right there where I left it: Article IV, Section 16, “Subject of bill in title; appropriation bills.”
    “The subject of every bill shall be clearly expressed in its title, and no bill embracing more than one subject shall be passed except general appropriation bills and bills for the codification or revision of the laws; but if any subject is embraced in any act which is not expressed in its title, only so much of the act as is not so expressed shall be void....”
    This is called the single-subject provision. I wrote about it a couple of years ago, pointing out how nasty it is when Congress violates this principle and what a relief it is that New Mexico, along with 41 other states, has a single-subject requirement.
    Congress regularly sticks multiple unrelated subjects into the same bill, so members have to vote for the part they disagree with in order to support the part they agree with. How many bills have come out of the U.S. House of Representatives that include something about undoing the Affordable Care Act, for example?  
    The House of Representatives was barely able to pass a bill funding the Homeland Security Department for more than a week because some members insisted on holding the funding hostage to extraneous provisions.

  • Family vacations produce memories for a lifetime, but they can also teach kids great money lessons they’ll need as adults.
    Involving kids in planning family vacations not only helps them appreciate the overall benefits of travel, but offers an opportunity for even the youngest kids to learn lessons about budgeting, saving and essential money management they will encounter every day.
    If you have trouble tearing your kids away from their smartphones, you might be in luck. The technology kids use can be very effective in budgeting, pricing and planning travel. Surfing travel destinations can teach kids a great deal about what travel really costs.
    The first step in planning the family vacation should be creating a budget for the trip. Set a realistic dollar limit for the trip and bΩe prepared to discuss why that limit exists. For example, if there is a home renovation project scheduled that particular year, explain how that affects the overall family budget and the resources for the trip. It’s an important lesson in balancing fun and family priorities.

  • New Mexico is a culturally rich and diverse state with 22 American Indian Tribes, Pueblos and Nations that exercise sovereignty over their land and people.
    Our tribes have exercised these rights since time immemorial and prior to the Spanish, Mexican and United States governments.
    Tribes have the inherent right to govern and protect the health and welfare of their citizens, and oral health care should be no different.
    There is an oral health care crisis in our New Mexico tribal communities that must be addressed. Many tribes are located in rural areas, and most are in dental provider shortage areas.
    Even those living in urban areas have little to no access to dental care.
    Dental decay and disease are highly prevalent in the American Indian population. In one New Mexico Pueblo, 70 percent of adults suffer from untreated dental decay, and 58 percent of the children live with untreated dental decay.
    These children are missing school and suffering needlessly. Adults miss work, and elders cannot eat nutritious foods.
    This is needless suffering when a proven solution is readily available. By utilizing the dental therapist model all tribal, rural and underserved people throughout the state of New Mexico could benefit from much needed oral health care.

  • Sometimes We the People don’t elect the most upstanding candidates.
    Or we elect upstanding candidates, but they appoint people who aren’t cast from the same material.
    Or the power and temptation that come with the position alter them in ways that would surprise their grandmothers.
    Stuff happens. Most of the time, the first to know are subordinates or co-workers. Unless they’re willing to come forward, the bad seed grows and, undetected and unchecked, spreads aggressively.
    I have a lot of respect for whistleblowers and have worked with a number of them over the years. I know there are soreheads and disgruntled employees and even office romances gone wrong. They’re outnumbered by bona fide informants.
    Let me introduce you to them.
    They rarely see themselves as heroes. They’re ordinary people who really, really, really didn’t want to complicate their lives or step into the limelight.
    But they’re witnesses to something they could no longer stomach. The way they see it, they have no choice.
    Whistleblowers risk everything, everything — job, health, reputation, marriage — by going public.

  • I can’t help but compare the discussion involving the merits of the CIP project for the proposed North Community Regional Park and Community Links with what I do for a living: provide apartment housing for people living in Los Alamos.
    I own and manage a number of buildings in town that are almost the same age as is the golf course and believe it or not, there are more similarities than you might think.
    By the time our current projects are completed this summer, we will have invested well over $1,500,000 in upgrades and innovations in recent years. We do this because we have to meet or exceed the needs and desires of our customers.
    As a result, we have stayed competitive in the market and have a successful business.
    The same cannot be said for the golf course in Los Alamos.
    There is little disagreement that the course needs a new irrigation system. The current system is nearing 30 years of age, was not properly installed in the first place and is a component that typically requires replacement every 20-25 years.
    What is being debated is the proposed renovation of the course, which would include completely new turf and the re-design of several holes for safety concerns.

  • The basic problem with America’s educational system is not that college is too expensive. Nor is the basic problem that public school teachers are underpaid or that educators are poorly trained. The basic problem with America’s educational system today is that far too many children are given the implicit message at home that education is not a priority. “Perhaps the nerds and the geeks need these educational skills, but in our home, they just are not that important.”
    Our schools face a huge challenge today, because the educational message that teachers are trying to inculcate into their students is far too often dismissed at home. If you live in a subculture where education is not valued, it is unlikely you will come to value your own educational opportunities. We cannot expect our schools to inculcate values of learning when there is little to no reinforcement at home.
    The reality of life is that education and learning is not always fun. I was, and still am, an eager learner; nevertheless, some topics were uninteresting and seemed pointless when I first learned them.

  • I’m proud that the House of Representatives recently passed a budget that will not only keep New Mexico on solid financial ground, but also chart a better course for the future of our state.
    With this budget, we underscore our commitment to fiscal responsibility while also putting our families first. We did this by dedicating a large chunk of new revenue toward education reforms aimed at helping struggling students learn. On top of that, we secured funding to diversify our economy and protect our children.
    I am proud to say that these legislative priorities are not partisan policies, which is why both Democrats and Republicans backed the final budget. Together, we understand that what matters most is making New Mexico a better place for you and your family.
    It starts with education. Our budget invests an additional $44.7 million into K-12 education, with more dollars going directly into the classroom than ever before.
    With this money, we will be able to expand tutoring and interventions for a total of $61.7 million.
    The money goes toward important programs like Pre-K and K-3 Plus, a program that provides additional instruction to struggling students.
    The funding also calls for raising the starting teacher salary from $32,000 to $34,000 a year.

  • On Jan. 1, 2005, food bought at New Mexico’s grocery stores was excluded from the gross receipts tax (GRT). In exchange for the break, the GRT was hiked on all other purchases.
    A decade later, it’s clear that the tax shift was a mistake.
    With several proposals before the legislature to reinstate the GRT on food, it’s time for an honest examination of how and why the well-meaning exemption failed.
    While it’s all but forgotten now, many of the state’s liberal activists and organizations opposed ending the food tax. In 2003, New Mexico Voices for Children argued that the “very poorest people will not receive the benefits,” because most “use food stamps, which are not subject to gross receipts taxes.”
    Currently, a qualifying New Mexico family of four receives $514.32 per month, tax free, in food stamps. A staggering 21.5 percent of our citizens participate in the federal program.
    In addition, many household essentials such as soap, paper products and toothpaste remained taxable. Utility and motor-fuels taxes were not touched, either.

  • We’ve reached saturation with gaming.
    Because tribes and racinos scramble for every new dollar, it makes for some strange politics.
    Last Saturday, the legislative Committee on Compacts heard from tribes and examined every pore of the compact produced by intense negotiating between the Governor’s Office and five tribes — the Navajo Nation, the Jicarilla Apache Nation, the Mescalero Apache Tribe, and Acoma and Jemez pueblos.
    For a change, party affiliation didn’t matter. Republican committee members wanted to move the compact for Gov. Susana Martinez, but that didn’t stop them from pointing out its flaws and trying to amend them despite time constraints.
    Democrats dug in for their Native American constituents, but they too didn’t hesitate to flush out problems and demand renegotiation.
    Most interesting was Sen. John Arthur Smith, a Democrat who defended his constituents, the Fort Sill Apaches, perched on 30 acres near his city of Deming, and their right to have a casino. Smith also worried that we’ve exceeded market saturation.

  • If you’re worried about paying for your child’s college education, keep this statistic in mind: during the 2011-12 school year, the U.S. Department of Education reported that 85 percent of all full-time, four-year college students were receiving some form of financial aid.
    Consider planning way ahead of time to develop a college savings strategy that fits with your finances. If you need more resources to cover additional costs, get to know the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as FAFSA (fafsa.ed.gov).
    FAFSA is the universal application for current and prospective U.S. college students to receive college financial aid. It is the gateway to grants, student loans and work-study programs on the federal and state level.
    If you have a kid headed for college, it’s a good idea to learn about the FAFSA as early as possible. The universal form is the first step for any current or prospective student who needs help paying for higher education. For the 2014-15 academic year, the College Board reported that annual tuition, room and board (trends.collegeboard.org) averaged $18,943 at in-state public universities, $32,762 for out-of-state students and $42,419 at private, nonprofit schools.

  • The first school for Seeing Eye Dogs was opened on Jan. 29, 1929 in Nashville, Tennessee.
    Following a short-lived program in Germany after World War I, this guide school trained dogs to assist those in need, and since then has influenced programs all over the world, including the Texas A&M’s Aggie Guide Dogs and Service Dogs (AGS).
    Today, service dogs are exposed to very thorough and extensive training, and their duties can extend much farther than assisting only the blind.
    “When people see a service dog in a vest, they automatically think it’s a guide dog. When in reality, a huge percentage of service dogs assist people with all sorts of other medical, physical and emotional things,” said Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon, faculty advisor for AGS and Clinical Assistant Professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.  
    Some examples include mobile assistance dogs, which help people who have trouble getting around due to cerebral palsy, severe arthritis or other conditions, and hearing dogs, which help the hearing impaired by responding to sound with a certain behavior.
    For instance, when they hear a knock at the front door, they might be taught to go sit in front of the person to alert them.  

  • After initially driving down the price of oil by increasing its production, which gave Americans a welcome drop in prices at the pump, could Saudi Arabia now be pushing them back up?
    Prices at the pump have gone up nearly 40 cents a gallon from the January low. Every year, at this time, refineries shut down to make adjustments from the “winter blend” to the “summer blend.”
    However this year, the increase is exacerbated.
    The unexpected extreme weather in the south has caused some of the refineries in the south to shut and restart, resulting in disruption for a couple of days. There was a California refinery explosion.
    Then we have the expanding steelworker’s strike — the first in 35 years.
    Opinions vary on why the United Steelworks chose now to strike — especially in a time when labor unions, according to the WP, “rarely exercise that right.”
    The paper explains, “There were only 11 strikes involving more than 1,000 workers last year, down from hundreds annually in the 1970s.”
    What if the union workers chose this time to strike because of outside influence — specifically Saudi Arabia? There are many coincidences that seem too obvious to ignore.

  • A legislative tradition is a speech by each member of our congressional delegation to a joint gathering of the two houses.
    The exercise is useful. It puts the people self-selected to live on airplanes flying between New Mexico and Washington, D.C., in front of a bipartisan political audience. A chance exists of something useful or revealing.
    From Albuquerque Rep. Michelle Luján Grisham, a Democrat, on Feb. 17 came the charge, “It’s time you declare a war on poverty in New Mexico.”  The comment was in an Albuquerque Journal story.
    The sentiments are noble. Questions arise, however. (I can hear the liberal knives sharpening. Gasp! Question a principle of pious liberalism?)
    It’s not that Luján Grisham is wrong. It would be nice to eliminate poverty. The trouble is that such words are easy to say and tough, if not impossible, to execute. This would be a state level war, I suppose.
    To talk of solving a social problem such as poverty, Washington Post economics columnist Robert Samuelson once observed, is itself a problem. “‘Solution’ implies a perfect resolution, but many social problems do not admit to that.” Poverty is one of the “conditions with which we have to struggle, for better or worse.”

  • I’m writing to voice my opposition to the idea of a plastic grocery bag ban that’s been going around lately.
    Bag bans have become the latest Eco-Fad for people that don’t have anything better to do than to punish everyone for the actions of a few. They are just a warm fuzzy feel good idea that’s completely ineffective.
    Most of the time I shop at Smith’s I bring my own cloth bags since they are sturdy, carry more, and I get bonus rewards points for doing so.  However, I don’t keep any cloth bags in my truck for various reasons, so if I’m driving my truck I need the plastic or paper bags available at the store. Today I rode with a friend to Smith’s to get some lunch. I don’t carry my cloth bags in my wallet, so used plastic provided by Smith’s.
    I re-use my grocery bags for many things. I’ve actually run out of bags at the house and had to intentionally leave my cloth bags in the car on the next shopping trip just so that I could obtain more.
    Plastic bags are likely the most re-purposed and reused product that people bring into their home! If there is a bag ban, I’ll just have to buy them from Amazon.

  • As these lines are written the bumptious Republican majority that controls the U.S. House seems prepared to shut down the Department of Homeland Security or, perhaps, avoid a shutdown by funding its operations for only three weeks.
    It’s madness. By a large bipartisan margin, the Senate has already sent the House a measure funding the department through September. It is a straight-forward funding bill, no gimmicks, no distractions.
    But wingnuts in the Republican House are demanding a measure that includes language invalidating some of President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration reform. Slipping extraneous stuff like that into a bill is called adding a “poison pill,” something calculated to kill a proposal.
    House speakers who are serious about getting things done, especially where national security is concerned, usually knock heads of supporters who foster such nonsense and tell them to cool it. But the current House Speaker, John Boehner, acquiesced and tried to borrow three weeks to avoid an immediate shutdown.
    Boehner has accomplished little as Speaker, but he plainly likes the title.
    His latest caper began last fall when congressional Republicans joined Democrats in sending the president a measure funding the federal government, pending his signature.

  • In the last month there have been some very emotionally charged letters to the editor published in various media outlets here in town, by Jody Benson, a member of the Sierra Club, demanding a ban on plastic shopping bags in Los Alamos County.
    Understandably, this topic is going to generate a lot of discussion because it concerns how people choose to shop and live their lives.
    Before we ban plastic bags and allow needleless government intrusion into a private transaction let’s look at some facts regarding plastic shopping bags.
    • Plastic bags are made of No. 2 (high-density polyethelyne, HDPE) or No. 4 (low-density polyethelyne, LDPE), both of which are 100 percent recyclable through the “Bag-2-Bag” program Smith’s participates in.
    • Smith’s also recycles its own cardboard and other waste, thus not impacting the county’s solid waste system.
    • Ninety percent of plastic shopping bags are reused in households. The most common reuse is to line trashcans and to dispose of pet waste.

  • Engineers aim to streamline everything to work better, faster and cheaper.
    Over the years, countless techniques for doing this have been launched and proved valuable. More come every year.
    Almost every process works better, faster and cheaper than it did 10 years ago. A dusky exception is the vital process of regulating.
    Regulating has built up a backlog of inefficiencies that have remedies on hand in other fields.
    This is not surprising for a system like regulating that works, not by design, but as shaped by a long chain of votes cast on a tangle of super politicized issues.
    The system of regulating emissions has four main steps: rule-setting, permitting, inspection and enforcement. Each step affects all the other steps and each affects the efficiency of the regulating system as a whole.
    Yet, the steps are designed separately, with barely a glance at the thriving engineering field of systems analysis.
    Systems analysis comes in forms that range from very complex to common-sense simple. Systems analysis in the 21st century can use information theory and game theory to shape high-level math problems run on computers.

  • Probiotics, or “good bacteria,” can be defined as living microorganisms that, when administered in adequateamounts, can offer multiple health benefits to the host. Though they have been gaining popularity amongst humans in the past decade, the possibility of similar probiotic supplements for your pets’ health is on the rise.
    “Essentially, we are trying to give live bacteria in supplement form that have beneficial properties to ananimal in order to improve their digestive health,” said Dr. Jan Suchodolski, clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “It is imperative that bacteria are alive once they reach the gut and that they are also delivered in high amounts. That’s why a high-quality product is needed.”
    In order to fully understand how probiotics work, it’s important to know that the beneficial effects of probiotics are bacterial strain specific, meaning every bacterial strain has a potentially different effect. Some probiotic strains, for instance, stimulate the immune system, while other strains produce anti-inflammatory biomolecules or antimicrobial molecules to combat pathogens.

  • There has been a great deal of conversation in the community and the media about immunizations against certain communicable diseases.
    In fact, one recent story (lamonitor.com, Feb. 6) noted Los Alamos County was “… second in the state for the number of vaccination exemptions at 3.1 percent for children ages 4 to 18….”
    For Los Alamos, the number of parents who requested vaccination exemptions (immunization waivers) amounted to about 100 students out of the more than 3,500 enrolled in school. The vaccination exemptions requested by parents were primarily based on religious or medical reasons, which are allowed by state law.
    Our community will be pleased to know Los Alamos Public Schools is in compliance with the New Mexico Department of Health rules and New Mexico School Manual regarding immunizations and exemptions.
    Michele Wright RN, LAPS Nursing Team leader stated, “Either students have completed their vaccines, are following a schedule to catch up on missing vaccines, or have valid religious beliefs or medical conditions for not receiving their vaccines.”

  • Earlier this week, millions of people wasted their time watching the Oscars.
    With so many other things happening in the world, you’d think people would demand more variety. It’s the same old thing year after year.
    But on the same day as the Oscars, in Daytona, Florida, Matt “Megatoad” Stonie (world class eating champion) consumed 182 slices of bacon in five minutes (a little more than six pounds). Watching someone gulp down 28,000 milligrams of sodium is true entertainment.
    And they know how to do it right in Guadalajara, Mexico, too. With 2,600 pounds of pork, 2,400 pounds of tortillas and enough hot sauce to kill a Roman Legion, 130 people constructed a 2-mile long chain of tacos! Yes, this is entertainment with a bite!
    Whether its a competition to see who can squirt milk the furthest from their eyeballs, or attempting to break the world record for spit distance (currently at 7 feet), humans know no bounds on the extents of pure sport and merriment.
    It took a while for people to realize that the true value of setting a record is that it offers someone the opportunity to break it.