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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.
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.
Today is #GivingTuesday. It’s a change in pace from the shopping frenzy and chaos of Black Friday and the less-frenzied Cyber Monday. Instead it’s a day to give back to the non-profits and causes you care about most. NM Political Report is a non-profit news outlet. Even better, we’re a local non-profit news outlet.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In October, while reviewing the new Public Education Department’s End of Course (EOC) Assessment Blueprint for U.S. History with my high school teacher colleagues, I was alarmed by the content being stricken from this year’s EOC. Students in high school U.S. History classes across New Mexico this year will not be tested on massive corporations and monopolies being forced to dismantle during the early twentieth century, the racial and ethnic conflict as people moved from farms to cities or the bravery of Rosa Parks in fighting segregation in the South. Andrés Romero is the Democratic State Representative in House District 10 and a social studies teacher at Atrisco Heritage Academy High School in Albuquerque
The New Mexico social studies EOC assessment is a state mandated test established by the Public Education Department to assess student competency in the subject. For the graduating class of 2018 and 2019, students are mandated to pass one social studies EOC. Furthermore, Governor Susana Martinez has decided to make a large portion of a teacher’s grade based on how well students do on tests, so how well students can answer questions that PED mandates has a huge impact on both any teacher’s future and therefore what students are taught. In the game of high stakes testing setup by the Governor, the EOCs are important both for student achievement and teacher evaluations.
An immigration attorney I know shared a document with me recently: an appeal sent to the U.S. Department of Justice Board of Immigration, the government office that interprets and applies immigration laws. The document told the story of how in the summer of 2014, at the height of the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border that brought tens of thousands of unaccompanied child migrants seeking asylum, Border Patrol agents stopped one child (referred to simply as “Y-F”) and interrogated him in Spanish. “Why did you leave your home country or country of last residence?” the officers asked. “To look for work,” Y-F allegedly told them. At the time of the interrogation, Y-F was only three years old.
Pop quiz. Which of the following statements are true? The census is constitutionally required in order to count every person in the U.S. The census determines how much federal money—more than $6 billion—flows into New Mexico’s economy every year. New Mexicans are more at risk of not being counted by the census than are people in most every other state. The census is in jeopardy—and that puts New Mexicans in jeopardy.