States see energy boom along with economic expansion

An oil and gas bonanza in Southwestern states may be helping to drive the continuing national economic boom. The nation’s 4.2 percent growth in GDP, estimated last month by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, is the highest quarterly growth since 2014. State estimates aren’t due until mid-November, but many experts see oil and natural gas drilling, driven by higher prices, as a leading reason. “The states that contribute most might be the ones with strong increases in energy production,” including Texas, New Mexico and Colorado, said Mark Perry, an economist at the University of Michigan and an economic analyst for the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute. GDP measures gross domestic product, or the value of all goods and services produced in a given period of time.

Proper fire funding continues to elude Congress

On Sept. 14, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue officially declared that the 2017 fire season was the Forest Service’s most expensive ever, with costs topping $2 billion. Perdue noted that fire suppression, which accounted for just 16 percent of the agency’s budget in 1995, now takes up over 55 percent. “We end up having to hoard all of the money that is intended for fire prevention,” he wrote in a press release, “because we’re afraid we’re going to need it to actually fight fires.”
This story originally appeared at High Country News. The Forest Service’s fire funding is subject to a budget cap based on the average cost of wildfire suppression over the last 10 years.

California latest to say yes to ‘aid-in-dying’

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a controversial and high-profile bill allowing the terminally ill to end their own lives, meaning the country’s most populous state will become the next state to allow the practice. Until a few months ago, New Mexico was the fifth such state, but the state Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision that struck down a decades-old ban on medically assisted suicide. Now, the state Supreme Court is poised to hear oral arguments in the case later this month. The California law goes into effect in 2016; a Supreme Court decision could decide if New Mexico’s constitution requires a right to “aid-in-dying” before then. “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain,” Brown wrote in a signing statement.

State Rep: Glad about ‘discussion’ on vaccination exemptions

State Rep. Deborah Armstrong watched with interest while California debated changes to the law on exemptions vaccinations for children. California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that would give California one of the strictest laws regarding vaccination exemptions. The other two states with similarly strict laws are West Virginia and Mississippi; Mississippi has the highest rate of vaccinated children in the nation. “I’m glad to see that there was support and recognition that something needs to be done to not have exemptions be really easy, but for legitimate reasons to be able to have an exemption,” the Albuquerque Democrat told New Mexico Political Report in a short phone interview on Wednesday morning. Armstrong introduced legislation in this year’s New Mexico legislative session that would close a loophole in the state’s vaccination law.