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Opinion

  • New Mexico House speaker Brian Egolf, upon completion of the 2019 legislative session, said, “We’ve done more in the last 60 days than I’ve seen in the last 10 years put together.” On this point, it is hard to disagree with Egolf. I’d go even further to say that Democrats in New Mexico’s Legislature were disciplined and used their numerical advantage to impose their will on an array of New Mexico public policy issues.

    Of course, governing is not just about passing bills. Egolf and his Democratic allies may be very pleased with their work, but how will the policies adopted during the 2019 session impact New Mexico families?

    I go through a few of the major pieces of legislation dealing with economic issues below.

    * SB 489, the so-called “Energy Transition Act” is a classic case of “logrolling”: placing numerous items in a bill to build support for the legislation. More importantly, the law’s provision that mandates 50 percent renewable electricity by 2030 will have dire impacts on New Mexico electricity prices. A study by Arizona State University estimated that a similar mandate would more than double electricity bills. Those impacts will be fully-recognized over a decade, but the shuttering of San Juan Generating Station will immediately impact the Four Corners.

  • BY MARG ELLISTON

    New Mexico Democratic Party Chairwoman

    Today, women not only make up almost half the House, they also drive much of the agenda. They help each other, often without regard to the D or R next to their names. The House now also counts among its members more people of color than ever before and its first Muslim member.

    This session is truly different from the past. Our new governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, has entered office with perhaps the greatest mandate of any new governor in our state’s history. She and the new, stronger Democratic majorities in the Roundhouse have taken notice and haven’t wasted a second in playing catch-up after eight years of neglect.

  • BY CHRIS BERNSTEIN
    Guest Editorial

     

    Credit for these substantive changes that benefit our students, is collective. I am proud to be a member of the NEA-NM that did so much to foster these positive changes for our students. I invite fellow education employees to join with me to strengthen our ability to work hard for student success – in the classroom and at the Roundhouse. 

  • New Mexico is about to have an early childhood department, taking a major step toward early childhood education for all New Mexico children. Senate Bill 22, which creates the department, has passed and been signed. 

    The new department, called the Early Childhood Education and Care Department or ECECD, has ambitious goals. It is to be the coordinator of all early childhood programs delivered in the state, from home visitation for infants through pre-kindergarten education, providing “a system of seamless transition from prenatal to early childhood programs to kindergarten,” as the legislation states. Its function in part is to prevent duplication and waste of resources while directing resources to places where they are most needed, areas of poverty and especially areas with high Native American populations.

    The department itself will not run most programs. Just as the Public Education Department does not directly run the schools but provides coordination and oversight, this department will coordinate and oversee early childhood programs, including licensure of programs operated by private providers.

  • BY BOB SPIRES
    University of Richmond

    Robert Kraft, the New England Patriots’ billionaire owner, recently made headlines when he was charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution. The women involved were undocumented Chinese immigrants who were human trafficking victims at the Orchids of Asia spa in Jupiter, Florida.

    Raids and sting operations like this one, which ensnared about 100 other far less prominent alleged perpetrators and a few other very rich men, have become commonplace across the U.S. and the world. They highlight the ongoing exploitation faced by large numbers of vulnerable people.

    While conducting research about human trafficking in Thailand and Cambodia, I’ve observed that grassroots nonprofits are often effective in addressing its root causes.

    Good models

    While no one knows how big the problem is, human trafficking is getting more attention today. This higher profile has given rise to what the criminology researchers Sanja Milivojevic and Sharon Pickering call a “global trafficking complex,” which they describe as a “tangled web of agendas, priorities, policies and ideological underpinnings.”

  • Two new tales about Native Americans have emerged recently from New Mexico. One is fiction, a novel, the other non-fiction, a gathering of economic numbers and big policy challenges.

    The novel is “There There.” The numbers are in “The Economic Impact of the 19 Indian Pueblos in New Mexico.”

    Tommy Orange wrote “There There” while completing a master’s program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. The urban tale is about a dozen protagonists as they converge on a pow-wow in Oakland, California. Some of the characters spend a bit of time in New Mexico as they travel to Oakland from as far away as the alleys of downtown Oklahoma City.

    “There There” is challenging, an illuminating tale well worth reading, though not exactly a page turner. It has spent time on best seller lists including that of the New York Times where it was ranked for 15 weeks.

    The All Pueblos Council of Governors commissioned the economic impact report. The University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business & Economic Research did the analysis.

  • Predictably, our governor signed Senate Bill 11, which would require a nonprofit entity with 501(c)(3) status with the IRS to pay state gross receipts taxes (GRTs) and specifically targets our national laboratory. Say what?

    I am deeply concerned about this issue, because as I have written before, “Our Legislature should advocate for policies that bring more job creators to our state, not drive them away. Susana Martinez was right to veto this onerous and flawed tax policy on the No. 1 job creator in northern New Mexico.” TRIAD has a moral obligation to the American Taxpayers, not to Los Alamos County’s bloated government and its pet projects.

    I speak as a small business owner, whose livelihood depends on our national laboratory (LANL) and its hiring patterns. I speak for those whose ability to provide for their families and pay their bills depends on LANL and its long term success.

    I speak for those who care more about LANL’s national security and scientific missions than about government projects that do little to directly improve the lives of citizens.

  • BY DR. T. DOUGLAS REILLY
    Columnist

    A major event of the past week was the meeting of Kim Jong-un and Donald John Trump in Hanoi.. This note discuses the history of North Korea’s nuclear program, which is much larger than most of us know.

    On Aug. 15, 1945, Japan surrendered, ending World War II and liberating the Korean peninsula. Three years later, the peninsula was divided at the 38th parallel; the South became the Republic of Korea (ROK), and the North the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

    The DPRK began nuclear research in the 1950s, as did other countries. The Yongbyon Nuclear Research Center is its major, but not only, nuclear site. It’s located 90 km north of Pyongyang. The Soviet Union supplied an IRT-2000 pool-type reactor to North Korea in 1963 that has operated since 1965. This type of research reactor was the USSR’s answer to the reactors supplied under Ike’s Atoms for Peace Program to 15 nations. It was placed under IAEA safeguards in 1977; DPRK stated it had separated 300 mg of plutonium (Pu) from spent fuel in 1975. It is only run occasionally now to produce iodine-131 for thyroid cancer therapy.

    Yongbyon’s more controversial 5 MWe reactor, is very similar to Calder Hall, the UK’s initial Pu production reactor.

  • BY KATHLEENE PARKER
    Guest Columnist

    Harold Morgan’s “Utah works, makes babies, grows,” (Jan. 30) should win an award for misleading discussion of population.

    But that award perhaps already belongs to the Washington Post. The newspaper shoves its self-righteous “Democracy dies in darkness” motto in our faces, but when it comes to population, WaPo itself creates darkness. Little wonder

    Americans are “innumerate” or to numbers — in this case, population — what illiteracy is to letters!

    Morgan asserts New Mexico loses population. Yet, we increase by .64 percent a year, or twice our current numbers early next century! In 2010, New Mexico numbered 2,059,207 and in 2018, 2,095,428. But for universal assumptions growth can only be good, some might ask if that isn’t too much growth in a state with failing education, crumbling infrastructure, overwhelmed medicine and ever-worsening poverty despite decades of boom growth, perhaps an indicator that “growth always brings prosperity” is a myth.

  • BY TOM WRIGHT
    Columnist

    We have elected 45 presidents and five have been second-place winners in the popular vote. I visited with a friend the other day and he voiced the need to circumvent the electoral college saying, “We need to elect our presidents just like we do all other politicians, by popular vote.”

    His reasoning sounds good, if you don’t think about it. The problem with his reason is, all other politicians are elected to represent local or state districts and only our presidents are elected to represent us nationally.

    The national popular vote movement is not new.  It has been around since the early 1800s and is not a part of the U.S. Constitution. And once again, there is a winner-take-all bill before the New Mexico Legislature (HB 55), if passed would move New Mexico into a compact of 11 other states requiring their designated electors to cast their ballots for the national popular vote winner and not who won the local state vote.

  • BY REP. CHRISTINE CHANDLER
    New Mexico House of Representatives, Dist. 43

    Rep. Christine Chandler has co-sponsored several important bills this legislative session. Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto (SD 15) and Representative Christine Chandler (HD 43)’s bill (SB 11) closing the so-called lobbying “loophole” has successful passed out of committee and onto the Senate. The bill is similar to Senator Ivey-Soto’s bill from the 2018 session that was vetoed by the former governor.

    According to the Secretary of State, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, current law needs clarity with regard to small lobbying expenses. Currently, the law requires individual expenses over $100 to be reported but ignores small cumulative lobbying expenses that in total are more than $100. The bill clarifies that cumulative small donation lobbying of $100 or more should be reported. “I am committed to ensuring New Mexicans have more information about the money that is spent influencing policy at the legislature,” Rep. Chandler said. “I am proud to to work with Senator Ivey-Soto to get this important legislation signed this year by the governor.”

  • BY VERNON KERR
    Guest Editorial

    When some people retire, they move away from Los Alamos and that I do not understand. In my opinion, there cannot be a more idyllic place on earth to retire.

    Despite the fact we do not have all the amenities of metropolitan areas, we can still visit them. One hundred miles to Albuquerque or 35 miles to Santa Fe is no big deal. The Aspen Ridge Lodge is a fantastic place for young at heart but antiquated in body. Their personnel are fantastic, the food is good, and you are still in Los Alamos.

    The people of Los Alamos are kind, thoughtful and curious, quite a combination. You could not ask for better neighbors. The American Legion Post along with the VFW are places where you can meet some great GI’s. The Elks, Knights of Columbus, The Masons, Beta Sigma Phi, and other organizations occupy esteemed places in our town. Officials in our local government are accessible and open to citizens’ questions and concerns.

  • By Milan Simonich
    The New Mexican

    New Mexico college students should beware of trickery at the state Capitol.

    A proposal that seems innocuous at first glance would undermine the state scholarship program that serves them well.

    I call your attention to Senate Bill 283. It's the latest attempt to fatten the income of vendors for the state lottery at the expense of New Mexico's students.

    The title of this legislation by Democratic Sens. Jacob Candelaria of Albuquerque and John Arthur Smith of Deming is as deceptive as any I've seen.

    It reads: "Limit lottery operational expenses."

    Restrictions on what the New Mexico Lottery Authority could spend to run its gambling operation are only a small part of this proposed legislation. And they're the least important part.

    The bill by Candelaria and Smith would eliminate a section of law requiring the lottery to provide at least 30 percent of its gross monthly revenues for college scholarships. Instead, the bill contains a stark reference to net revenues going to the scholarship fund.

  • BY FRED NATHAN
    Think New Mexico

    As Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the legislature consider a package of bills to transform New Mexico’s public schools, Think New Mexico urges them to include House Bill 77, which will make sure that a greater proportion of New Mexico’s education funding reaches our students and teachers in the classroom.

    The education reform bills being considered by lawmakers were developed in response to last year’s landmark Yazzie/Martinez court decision. In that decision, Judge Singleton directed New Mexico lawmakers to spend more on education for the state’s most vulnerable students. Judge Singleton also made clear that this additional money must be spent on evidence-based “classroom instruction programs such as quality pre-K, K-3 Plus, extended school year, and quality teachers” that have been proven to make a difference for at-risk children.

    In order to accomplish this, New Mexico will need to change the way it spends its education dollars. When Think New Mexico analyzed New Mexico’s education spending, we discovered that in the decade between 2006-2007 and 2016-2017, more than two-thirds of school districts across New Mexico (61 of 89) grew their central office administrative spending faster than their classroom spending.

  • BY REP. ROD MONTOYA
    R-District 1, San Juan

    What is the No. 1 source of education and state government funding in New Mexico? What is our No. 1 industry for employment, high paying jobs and tax revenue?

    What is the specific source of the current $1.1 billion budget surplus? – If you said that the oil and gas industry is the “Golden Goose,” you would be correct. So why is the governor trying place natural gas production on the endangered species list?

    Since the beginning of the year, we’ve seen the new administration declare war on oil and gas producers, and at the same time propose a 13 percent budget increase. That’s like expecting to win the lottery every year!

    Unfortunately, the governor has announced plans to institute a Methane Rule, and the first order of business for her new (OCC) Oil Conservation Commission members is to undo a previous decision to update to the Blanco / Mesa Verde Pool Rule. The Pool Rule allows existing gas wells to be reworked to produce natural gas from multiple gas strata pockets.

  • By Greg Mello
    Los Alamos Study Group, Guest Columnist

    At the end of the Cold War it made sense for the Department of Energy (DOE) to consolidate and temporarily preserve pit production technology at LANL. Given the National Nuclear Security Administration’s(NNSA’s) mandate, it still does.

    However, hopes for a reliable, small, pit production capacity at LANL – let alone an enduring one that could quantitatively contribute to maintaining the nuclear stockpile over decades – didn’t pan out.

    In 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down and the Rocky Flats Plant madeits last pit, PF-4 was only 11 years old. The extent of LANL’s seismic hazard was then unknown, officially at least.

    Likewise, the poor geotechnical properties of the unconsolidated volcanic sediments at LANL’s TA-55 were unknown then.

    They were certainly plain to see in the surrounding terrain and in records of TA-55 borings.

  • Arts Council thanks all who helped make council a roaring success

    Dear Editor,
    Los Alamos Arts Council would like to take this time to thank all of the people who have helped to make the events at LAAC a roaring success. Over the past six months, we have had several events that have required the help of other organizations in town, as well as the assistance of many volunteers.
    Our No. 1 “Thank You” goes to our board members and their families, who spend many hours in preparation, as well as time staffing each event. Without their time and dedication, we could not present our events to the level we hope to present to the community.
    The Arts Council is fortunate to have a wonderful group of volunteers who assist us with our events. Among them are Marlane Hamilton, Patrice Goodkind, Lisa Lloyd, Lori Dauelsberg, Don Monteith and Luckey, as well as several students from the LAHS and LAMS. We could not manage these events without their help. Specifically, we would like to thank Aidan, Isaac, Xavier, Jeffrey, Nolan, Haley, Troy and Peyton. We also send our heartiest thanks to Monica Jean and “The House of Boo” for their fantastic Pumpkin Glow Display.

  • The Wall Street Journal published this editorial Nov. 27 on a U.S. auto maker saying it plans to eliminate 15 percent of its salaried workforce in North America and stop production at five plants that employ 6,700 workers.

    President Trump believes he can command markets like King Canute thought he could the tides. But General Motors has again exposed the inability of any politician to arrest the changes in technology and consumer tastes roiling the auto industry.

    GM said it plans to eliminate 15 percent of its salaried workforce in North America and stop production at five plants that employ 6,700 workers, including one in storied Lordstown, Ohio. “We are taking these actions now while the company and the economy are strong to stay in front of a fast-changing market,” CEO Mary Barra said.

    The U.S. auto maker plans to redeploy some $4.5 billion in annual savings to more profitable truck, electric-car and autonomous-vehicle manufacturing. Investors cheered by bidding up GM’s stock, but the President reacted like a spurned suitor. “You know, the United States saved General Motors and for her to take that company out of Ohio is not good,” he said Monday, adding Tuesday that he might end GM’s subsidies. GM shares promptly fell 2.6 percent.

  • The Telegraph published this editorial Nov. 27 on the seizure of three Ukrainian warships by the Russian navy.

    The seizure of three Ukrainian warships by the Russian navy in the Black Sea shows that Moscow has lost none of its enthusiasm for seeking to intimidate its neighbor. Accusing the Ukrainians of illegally entering what Moscow deems to be Russian territorial waters, Russian warships are reported to have fired on two Ukrainian vessels, and rammed a third. As is often the case with unprovoked acts of aggression by Russia, the attacks took place when the rest of the world was distracted, on this occasion because EU leaders were meeting to sign off the Brexit deal.

    Indeed, it is precisely because the world has failed to take sufficient interest in Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, and its subsequent meddling in eastern Ukraine, that the Kremlin felt emboldened to attack the warships sailing through the Kerch Strait which, under international law, is designated as shared territorial waters.

  • New Mexico is short of teachers – about 740, according to NMSU’s College of Education. Vacancies are up by 264 from last year. Add in counselors, librarians and nurses, and we’re short 1,173 skilled professionals.

    Some 53,455 students are being taught by substitutes.

    Understanding why isn’t too hard. It’s pay, job insecurity related to testing, and the lack of respect for teachers, according to NMSU’s survey of teachers and comments from union representatives. Half of 1,900 survey respondents would not recommend a career in education.

    These shortages didn’t just sneak up on us. The warnings began in 2012.

    During the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years, when 23.2 percent of teachers left, New Mexico had the nation’s second highest rate of teacher turnover, according to the Learning Policy Institute, a California think tank. Only Arizona was worse, at 23.6 percent.