Net neutrality under Title II was far from ‘neutral’

Despite the outcry from the political left, Chairman Ajit Pai and the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to end Title II regulation of the internet is the right move for individuals of all political stripes looking to create and share content on the internet. Government rules mandating that internet service providers treat all applications the same provided service providers less incentive to experiment with new ideas of how to get consumers the products they want. Thankfully, due in part to Pai’s leadership, this ill-conceived rule has now been overturned after just a few years. Notably, Title II flew in the face of years of bi-partisan agreement that government should maintain a “hands-off” policy towards the internet. In 1996, it was agreed that the internet was an information service and should be classified under the light touch regulation of Title I, not 1934’s Title II, but in 2015, instead of implementing ‘innocuous’ Net Neutrality consumer protections, the Obama FCC forced through a major expansion of regulatory state power by reclassifying the internet under Title II.

Beware of ‘one-size-fits-all’ punishment over sexual harassment

Across the country, everyone is talking about sexual harassment. A man tosses and turns as memories of past behavior roil his mind. Women examine their pasts, re-examining advances, furtive comments and wonder if they should have said something. New Mexico is no exception. Take, for example, an opinion piece recently authored by consultant Heather Brewer.

What should be considered by PRC in rate cases

While I shall defer to my esteemed counterparts at the the PRC regarding utility regulation I do represent ratepayers in District 22 and I wanted to take this opportunity to explain what I look for when the legislature is considering issues that affect the taxpayer. If possible, I look for multi-party consensus. While difficult to attain, given separate agendas and viewpoints on behalf of affected parties, it is possible after cooperation and compromise. In this spirit our State Attorney General, PNM, the Sierra Club, the Coalition for Clean and Affordable energy, as well as Western Resources Advocates are all signatories of a Revised Stipulated Agreement designed to “reach a fair, just, and reasonable resolution…consistent with public interest” in PNM’s current rate case before the PRC. In addition to the aforementioned signers the PRC’s own Utility Division Staff has signed on to the the Stipulated Agreement.

It’s time for Michael Padilla to step aside

Michelle Lujan Grisham is right. So why is everyone so quiet? Since Lujan Grisham first called on state Sen. Majority Whip Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, to step out of the race for lieutenant governor because of his history of creating a “sexually hostile” work environment, there’s been a deafening silence. Yes, we’ve heard from Padilla about consulting with his friends and family; we’ve seen handwringing from legislative leadership about their sexual harassment polices (or lack thereof); and we’ve even had a reporter apologize for not taking the story seriously sooner. But we have not had the chorus of amens and thank-yous that I expected.

Congressional tax plan will hurt NM student success and put educator’s jobs at risk

The multi-trillion-dollar tax plan proposed by Republican leadership in Congress is a $5 trillion giveaway to the super-wealthy and corporations that will blow a hole in public-school budgets, hinder our ability to provide students with a good education, and put educators’ jobs at risk. By eliminating the state and local tax deduction (SALT), the Senate bill would blow a $370 billion hole in state and local revenue over 10 years and put at risk the jobs of nearly 370,000 educators. A state-by-state breakdown of the impact is available on this table. For New Mexico, the tax-plan could deal a devastating blow to school improvement efforts aimed at improving student success for our students. It means a loss of $650,593 over the next ten years in federal support our own taxpayers will have to make up for to avoid these cuts to our already-underfunded schools.

NM supporters of cleaner school buses to rally for lawsuit windfall

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The New Mexico Department of Health says 47,000 children in the state suffer from asthma, and that’s why a coalition wants funds from the Volkswagen emissions-test settlement spent to transition diesel school buses to electric. A group will rally in Albuquerque Thursday to lobby for the $18 million owed to New Mexico by Volkswagen after the auto company was found cheating on federal emission laws. Liliana Castillo, a spokeswoman for the Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund, says the unexpected windfall should be used to phase out dirty diesel school buses for clean, electric buses. “In New Mexico, there are approximately 166,000 kids who ride school buses to over 89 school districts, which serve over 300,000 students, over half of whom are children of color,” she points out. “That explains, that’s part of why there are more than 1 in 11 children in New Mexico who suffer from asthma.”

Stipulated signatories should be heard on PNM rate case

Rate cases can be contentious, and 100 percent satisfaction is not attainable whether you’re on Capitol Hill, at the Roundhouse or the PRC. But once in awhile, parties from various backgrounds and political viewpoints breach traditional barriers and forge a compromise in the interest of a third party; in this case, ratepayers. PRC Commissioners have a golden opportunity to legitimize compromise, cooperation, and collaboration when they vote on PNM’s rate case. By rejecting the “modified” version and voting for the Revised Stipulated Agreement, commissioners can act in the best interest of PNM’s customers and at the same time encourage traditionally adversarial parties to return to the table in future cases. Outside of the very real benefits to ratepayers, commissioners have a chance (and perhaps a responsibility) to nurture a working environment that incentivizes environmentalists and utilities to continue to collaborate and compromise on behalf of ratepayers.

Stopping our own nuclear threat

Last week, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, called the Senate Foreign Relations Committee together to investigate the president’s ability to command the use of nuclear weapons. It is heartening to see leaders on both sides of the aisle recognize the need to reevaluate this dangerous and undemocratic policy. While President Donald Trump may extol the leadership qualities of dictators and despots around the globe, his job is to function within the confines of the democracy we live in, and he must not be given unchecked power to attack any nation with the catastrophically destructive force of nuclear weaponry. For us New Mexicans, the danger of nuclear weapons hits close to home. In 1945, in a desert just a short drive from where I am writing this in Albuquerque, the U.S. government detonated its first atomic bomb.

It’s time for New Mexico to negotiate lower Rx drug prices

Last April, Governor Susana Martinez vetoed legislation that could have saved New Mexico millions of dollars a year in prescription drug costs for state agencies and its employees and retirees.  Senate Bill 354, which passed the Legislature with strong bi-partisan support, would have required all New Mexico state agencies who purchase pharmaceutical drugs, to work together to aggressively seek a better deal on drug prices. Citizens pay a huge cost for high drug prices.  In fiscal year 2016 New Mexico state government spent over $670 million on prescription drugs, a staggering 54% increase in just two years.  Senate Bill 354 would have leveraged the purchasing power of all of our state agencies who purchase prescription drug benefits including the Departments of Health, Human Services, Corrections, Medicaid, General Services Department, UNM, and other agencies, to aggressively pursue lower drug prices. Even though the legislation passed the Senate unanimously and the House with broad bi-partisan support, it was vetoed by Governor Martinez without explanation. Several weeks ago the National Academy for State Health Policy (www.nashp.org) invited me to speak at their annual conference about my prescription drug purchasing reform legislation.  The Academy, a non-profit and non-partisan organization of state health professionals, had identified this bill as a key strategy that states could implement to better control the rising health care and prescription drug costs. Aggressively negotiating lower prescription drug prices could save New Mexico’s state government millions every year.  It can be done.  The U.S. Department of Veterans of Affairs negotiates at least a 24 percent discount on the drugs it buys.  Many other industrialized countries pay a fraction of what U.S. citizens and governments pay for the same drugs.  Members of Congress have sought for decades to leverage the federal government’s purchasing power for Medicare, but have been fought tooth and nail by the pharmaceutical industry.

The Rio Grande del Norte National Monument: Leave it be

There are borders to be crossed as well as lines to leave alone. The Rio Grande forms a 1,225 mile boundary between Mexico and the United State for its final stretch to the Gulf of Mexico. But long before it attracts attention as an international border, the Rio Grande drops out of Colorado’s high country, wanders across a broad plain and quietly enters New Mexico and a basalt lined canyon. It is a lonesome river stretch as it pours into the recently created Rio Grande del Norte National Monument; a landscape worthy of its protected status. Therefore, seeking solitude, on an October morning my wife and I plopped our canoe into the Rio Grande 18 miles north of New Mexico.