New Mexico’s courts face a funding crisis that threatens to undermine the judiciary’s ability to protect our rights by delivering timely justice. We must act now to prevent further damage. As Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Daniels recently told a legislative committee, “We are now basically on life support through the end of this fiscal year.” Pete Campos is a Democratic state senator who represents the Las Vegas area. In courthouses across the state, New Mexicans can see the corrosive effects of budget cuts and underfunding of the judiciary. Most magistrate courts are closed to the public for at least half a day each week because the courts are unable to fill vacant staff positions.
State Sen. Pete Campos is a Democrat who represents the 8th Senate District in New Mexico. In early June, the New Mexico Legislature met for a one-day session to pass supplemental appropriations for some state agencies, a tax relief package and, most importantly, a $295 million capital outlay package to inject much-needed infrastructure funding into communities and projects across the state. While it is true that a special session only became necessary because the legislature could not come to an agreement among a majority of its members and the governor, the negotiation, passage and signing of the special session bills are a prime example of how effective policymakers in New Mexico can be when we all agree on the importance of something and are willing to compromise on a solution to fix it. I am retired now, and so, since July 1, I have spent day after day traveling around New Mexico, beginning in the district I represent. In each community I visit, and with most of the people I speak with, several recurring themes emerge. Communities in every corner of the state, many of them small, rural ones, have educational facilities and state and local highways, bridges and roads in dire need of repair or replacement and small businesses just trying to survive. Community leaders also repeatedly identify a need to improve infrastructure delivery for clean water, wastewater and solid waste systems and good public health care and health care facilities as important. The State of New Mexico can do a lot more to help these people and their communities! We have a capital outlay system that begs for meaningful reform. Millions of unspent dollars languish in state coffers that realistically are not sufficient to complete a phase or an entire project, and no other alternative exists but to claw back or revert these funds. These funds could be put to use improving roads, schools and public water systems. More could be done to encourage people to take advantage of free or low-cost preventive health care services, which will lead to lower health care costs and healthier lifestyles. These are a few steps we can take, some simple and others more complex, to continue assisting New Mexico with its immediate problems and simultaneously move toward solving issues that hold back our efforts to improve our health, safety and the economy. This fundamental approach will prepare us for a more robust economy, a skilled, healthy and happy work force gainfully employed and the basis to keep our children living and working in the state.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]HOWIE MORALES is a Democratic state senator from Catron, Grant and Socorro Counties. He is an educator, member of the Senate Education committee, and former candidate for governor. [/box]
There is a lot of misinformation circulating regarding the upcoming Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test (PARCC) that will be administered to students from grades 3-11 this spring. I want to clarify the options parents have in deciding to opt their children out of taking this test. Many of you have expressed concern and, indeed, dissatisfaction with the intensity of the current amount of standardized testing taking place in our schools. One of the top concerns I share is the elimination of a parent’s right in deciding whether or not their child has to take the test. I was appalled to be notified that school districts are intentionally telling parents that they cannot “opt out” their children from taking standardized tests.