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One of my jobs as your Secretary of State is to act as the state’s chief elections officer. As such, I’m committed to modernizing our elections for the 21st Century and same-day voter registration is integral to that goal. My life in public service has been dedicated to expanding access to the ballot box and fulfilling the promise of our democracy by increasing participation in elections. Our representative form of government can only be of, by, and for the people if the people are actually participating in it. Though New Mexico is already a national model for safe and secure elections because of our paper ballots, post-election audits, and other best practices, there is much more we can do to make it easier, not harder, for eligible New Mexicans to vote.
There is new leadership for our state’s classrooms, bringing winds of change that are long overdue. The new Secretary of the Public Education Department, recently appointed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, is Karen Trujillo – a New Mexican with over a decade teaching in the classroom and twenty years in teachers’ professional development. Special Advisor Pedro Noguero is an internationally recognized counselor and researcher to schools seeking improvement. The governor called her seven education appointees an “all-star team,” and she is right. They bring hands-on understanding of the classroom, deep expertise in the areas where we most need it, with a combined 100-plus years of experience in New Mexico among them.
New Mexico has a lot to offer, and we all share in the benefits of the state’s beautiful land and clean water, roads and bridges, and public services like education, health care, and public safety. We should all share in the responsibility of paying for them, too, but we don’t. Corporations get a big pass here in the Land of Enchantment. Not only did federal reform give a huge tax break to big businesses this past year, but here in New Mexico, we’ve given away more and more of our tax revenue over time in the form of corporate handouts. We’ve also allowed multi-state corporations to play shell games with the profits they earn here.
Standing on the mesas near Bandelier National Monument in about 1970 we looked across the Rio Grande Valley through a thick, often impenetrable gray smog that blew in from the new Four Corners Generating Station near Farmington. The Clean Air Act and later regulations forced the coal fired power plant’s owners to control its visible pollution but today invisible greenhouse gasses spew from the plant unabated. With an epidemic of coal fired power plant closures sweeping the country, why does the Four Corners Generating Station chug on? Much has changed since the mammoth Four Corners Generating Station (FCGS) was built in the 1960s. Large scale wind and solar energy technology have come on line and grown rapidly, a massive boom of natural gas production has swept the country, pollution controls have tightened on coal fired power plants, climate change is on the mind of a majority of Americans, and ratepayers are actively interested in where their utility companies are sourcing their electrical power. While coal used to be the cheapest source of energy, it now ranks as one of the most expensive.
Elections have consequences and the recent New Mexico elections are no different. You would think, as a Democrat, that I would be thrilled. While I am happy with the results, I also have some serious concerns. The Democrats won every statewide office, retook the governorship, and has all five members of Congress represented by the same party. The Democrats have retaken the U.S. House of Representatives and now act as a check on the abuses of the current administration. The New Mexico House of Representatives has increased its majority from 38-32 to 46-24. While the New Mexico Senate was not up for election, it will enter this legislative session with the same 26-16 majority. At the county level, all of the commissioners in Doña Ana County are Democrats. State Sen. Bill Soules
Good legislation is the result of varied ideas and careful consideration of the benefits and consequences of that legislation. This works best when there is both a majority view and a minority view with both sides listening carefully and considering the other side’s viewpoint. In a two-party system of government, the majority rules and the minority has a right to be heard and the majority has an obligation to listen and consider.
One of the best things about living in New Mexico is the abundance of great natural beauty and opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. Whether it’s the view from just about any rural highway or one of the many state and national parks and forests, New Mexico boasts some of the most beautiful land in the nation. It is a heritage that all proud New Mexicans want to protect for future generations, a pride woven into our culture. The preservation of our public lands is a sacred trust, but it’s being made more difficult by the inaction of Congress. Much of New Mexico’s beautiful landscape has been protected and enhanced by one of the best federal programs you’ve probably never heard of: the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
Most of the fruit trees are dead, as are all the grandmother cottonwood trees along the lower acequia. The beautiful song of the meadowlarks no longer reverberates through the little valley. The spring, Ojo la Rosa de Castilla, which is also the name of our acequia running alongside Las Huertas Creek in Placitas, has not provided any water to our two little farms for over five years. This has happened in the past, but never has the soil been so deprived of moisture, the weather been so hot, and my parciantes so discouraged. We still perform the annual limpiando (ditch cleaning) every spring, mainly so it will be ready for the water if it ever comes again, and to maintain our old water rights, as we need to prove intent to use them so the State won’t forfeit them for non-use.
For decades, our State government has failed to provide our students with the education they need and deserve, creating some of the worst racial and economic inequalities for educational achievement in the country. Sweeping changes must be made. In a landmark court decision, a judge ruled that New Mexico is violating the constitutional rights of students to a sufficient education (Yazzie/Martinez case). The court ruled that the state must provide funding sufficient so that every New Mexico student can have an equal opportunity to succeed, no matter a student’s personal, family or community circumstances, or the state’s other needs. The court also highlighted a severe teacher shortage in our state.
A recent report released by the New Mexico State College of Education Southwest Outreach Academic Research Lab found that nearly 1,200 positions in our schools were left open this fall, leaving students without access to trained counselors, librarians to help guide their research, or certified educators to lead their classrooms. That same report found that 740 classrooms in New Mexico, or roughly 53,000 students, were being taught by long-term substitutes rather than certified teachers this fall. These shortages prevent our students from achieving their full potential. Our children are forced into classrooms with large class sizes that leave them without school resources to help them overcome basic obstacles like a learning problem. On Election Day New Mexico voters sent a clear message to our public officials in Santa Fe and elected a new wave of representatives who made strengthening public education a cornerstone of their campaigns.
Heading into the 2019 legislative session, our political leaders are well-positioned to champion polices and create a budget that can enact real and lasting improvements for our students and for our public schools. Our legislature must use some of the projected $1.2 billion budget surplus to combat the teacher shortage by raising pay for licensed teachers and all public school employees. This will help districts give our students what they deserve the brightest minds to teach our them.
Legislation that prioritizes education funding and provides our students with the resources they need to obtain a real 21st Century education is also a must.
After Thanksgiving last week, we survived Black Friday and then yesterday Cyber Monday. But today is something very different: It’s Giving Tuesday, a day to at least temporarily shift away from consumerism and instead support worthy causes, including non-profits. NM Political Report is local non-profit news outlet. We’re a small team, currently with just three reporters and one regular freelancer. Why is supporting us so important?
The Albuquerque Journal reported on September 17th that the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration issued warnings to 22 New Mexico businesses and fined one of them this past summer for selling electronic cigarettes to minors. It is of course illegal to sell e-cigarettes and tobacco to people younger than 18. Since the perpetrators include some of the nation’s largest mainstream retailers and convenience stores, including Walmart, Walgreen’s and 7-Eleven, it should illustrate to policy makers and citizens alike why tough, urgent action is needed at the state and local level. Earlier the federal FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated that e-cigarette use, or ‘vaping’, among teenagers nationally now has reached “an epidemic proportion”. New Mexico’s youth are no exception.