Congress should not trade one injustice for another

President Trump created a crisis over DACA by rescinding the directive that protected from deportation thousands of undocumented immigrants brought here as children. Now he is holding them hostage, demanding that Congress give him $25 billion for border security, including his “beautiful” wall, in exchange for not rounding up Dreamers and sending them into exile. That’s a deal that Congress should not only reject, but condemn in the strongest possible terms for the sinister choice that it is. You don’t fix one injustice by creating another. Many people seem to think that the wall, although expensive and offensive, is harmless. “If this is what it takes to protect Dreamers,” they say, “just give Trump his wall.”

The truth is the wall is not benign.

Racist rhetoric will not be tolerated in NM

On January 30th, during Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, New Mexicans –along with the entire country– mourned with the parents of the two teenage girls from Long Island who were brutally murdered in the fall of 2016. It was a tough thing to watch, considering the underlying purpose for their presence at the capitol that night. It was no coincidence they were called to stand during President Trump’s part of the speech on immigration. That was the perfect opportunity for Trump and his white supremacist administration to reinforce their racist ideal that because the culprits were undocumented youth and had ties to the infamous MS 13 gang, all Dreamers must be equally as dangerous. Only a little more than a week later, New Mexicans once again had to face that xenophobic, racist rhetoric when the Albuquerque Journal, the state’s largest newspaper, published a political cartoon by Sean Delonas—well known for his brutally racist “political” drawings.

Time to act

New Mexico, like most states, struggles to create an education system that can compete nationally and internationally and prepare our children to succeed in a global economy. My thirty years as an educator have taught me, just as importantly, the best of our schools can transform our children with positive experiences that lead to emotional well-being and resiliency. No child should be denied access to these best schools. We need every school to be a great school, and by learning from the best educational systems, we can make that happen. The National Conference of State Legislatures, as an outgrowth of a dynamic forum with education experts and state policymakers about the poor showing of the United States on the Programme for International Student Assessment, launched a study on the world’s top education systems. While U.S. students were scoring about the same on the test administered to 15-year-olds in 72 countries, students in other countries were improving, leaving the United States behind.

The big public land sell-out

Next month, hundreds of corporate representatives will sit down at their computers, log into something called Energynet, and bid, eBay style, for more than 300,000 acres of federal land spread across five Western states. They will pay as little as $2 per acre for control of parcels in southeastern Utah’s canyon country, Wyoming sage grouse territory and Native American ancestral homelands in New Mexico. Even as public land advocates scoff at the idea of broad transfers of federal land to states and private interests, this less-noticed conveyance continues unabated. It is a slightly less egregious version of the land transfers that state supremacists, Sagebrush Rebels and privatization advocates have pushed for since the 1970s. This piece originally appeared at High Country News and is reprinted with permission.

Funding early childhood education is a moral issue

Each year, the New Mexico Legislature debates the issues that influence whether children receive the tools they need to make better lives for themselves, that decide our state’s economic future, and that create the moral fabric of our lives here together in our beautiful state. Bills are not simply jumbles of text on paper that restrict or liberate us, each bill (and the support or opposition it draws) stakes out a moral position that reveals priorities. There’s no better example of this moral question about our laws than the yearly push for more smart investments in early childhood care and education using the $17 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund. All of our discussions about the future economic prosperity of our children (and our state more generally) are bound up in how we treat their early learning. It’s an indisputable fact that the earlier children begin learning, the better learners they become as they age.

Tools to make capital outlay more efficient

Capital outlay funding is a controversial and difficult process. The demand for state money far exceeds the funds available; for the 2018 legislative session, state and local governments have requested over $2 billion for capital outlay funded by general obligation and severance tax bonds. The Department of Finance and Administration (DFA), the General Services Department and legislators are responsible for prioritizing these requests and allocating funds, but frequently find themselves missing the tools necessary to do so. Future generations and those new to politics may not understand the power that their legislators have when allocating capital outlay. While all New Mexicans suffer when capital outlay funds are spent on short-term projects that do not address long-term community needs, future generations are some of the most affected.

PNM’s Energy Redevelopment Bond Act deserves consideration

To characterize PNM’s request for legislators to identify alternative vehicles to mitigate costs inherent to their industry, which are ultimately born by the consumer, as an attempt to circumvent Public Regulatory Commission (PRC) authority is not only disingenuous but also indicative of the opposition’s selective research. A bi-partisan effort spearheaded by Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, and Sen. Steven Neville, Aztec, is underway as they have pre-filed the Energy Redevelopment Bond Act (SB 47). SB 47 is designed to provide the PRC a financial option for utility companies to trigger as a possible solution when addressing corporate debt. SB 47 is a “may” bill not a “shall” bill and in no way circumvents the regulatory jurisdiction of PRC regarding utility operations. In fact, SB 47 simply allows the PNM to submit an application to the PRC in which they would consider PNM’s intention to issue bonds.

Anti-sexual harassment policy needs outside investigators

In 2017 I was proud to co-sponsor and vote to pass legislation to place a strong Independent Ethics Commission on the 2018 ballot. In 2018, we must take another critical step forward for ethics and against corruption and implement a comprehensive anti-sexual harassment policy. Making the Capitol safe for everyone is an issue of basic human dignity and good government accountability. We know there is strong, bi-partisan support for this anti-sexual harassment policy. We also know that getting critical details right is essential for the policy to work.

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.