One in every ten children in New Mexico have at least one parent incarcerated at some point in their lifetime, according to a recent report. That’s the third-highest rate in the nation and just one of three states with a rate in double digits. In raw numbers, this is 52,000 children throughout the state. The findings came from a new Kids Count report called “A Shared Sentence: The Devastating Toll of Parental Incarceration on Kids, Families and Communities.”
New Mexico Voices for Children executive director Veronica C. Garcia, Ed.D., explained the reasons why this is detrimental to the youth of the state. “Often their families lack the financial resources to cover basic needs such as food and housing.
Economic headlines for New Mexico have rarely been good in recent months. In November and December, the state led the nation in highest unemployment rate. In January, New Mexico improved, but only to 49th. Stories abound of people moving out of the state to states with better economic climate. Which brings to mind the “r” word that everyone dreads when it comes to the economy: Recession.
A proposed constitutional amendment on creating an independent redistricting commission had support but consensus that more work is needed in the House, Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on Monday. The committee is the first stop on the way for constitutional amendments that originate in the House. Constitutional amendments go to the voters for approval if they clear both the House and Senate; the governor does not get a say in them. Most of the discussion in the committee came on a proposed constitutional amendment by Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, that would create an independent redistricting commission and take the process out of the hands of the Legislature. Trujillo echoed something that President Barack Obama said during the State of the State, “Politicians shouldn’t choose their voters, that voters should choose their politicians.”
A bill to allow local governments to impose curfews on minors jumped through its second House committee, this time with some Democratic support. House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, joined with seven Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee to vote yes on the bill. Maestas had been previously public about his support. “I’m stuck on this one,” Maestas said at committee. “I lean towards local control.”
The bill allows cities and counties to set up their own curfews for minors under 16 years of age.
The issue of teen curfews set up a firestorm of back and forth between supporters and opponents of a bill addressing the issue Monday afternoon. House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, presented a bill that would allow municipalities and counties to set their own curfew rules for minors. During his presentation to the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee, Gentry said that the bill would not have major impact, saying that the term “curfew” is “a bit misleading.”
“All this bill does is during school hours and from midnight until five, law enforcement can contact minors,” he said. Gentry said the bill defines minors as people who are 16 years old and under. Still, the bill drew opposition from many, including some fellow lawmakers in committee.
A day after a report attributed New Mexico’s high rank when it came to dangerous states, in part, to poverty, a report finds that New Mexico is again last in the nation when it comes to child poverty. This is one of the findings from the annual KIDS COUNT report that is put together locally by New Mexico Voices for Children. In overall child well-being, New Mexico doesn’t fare much better, ranking 49th out of 50 states. Only Mississippi is worse. “Child poverty is at the root of all of New Mexico’s poor outcomes for children,” KIDS COUNT director Amber Wallin, MPA, said in a statement announcing the findings.
Amber Wallin, MPA, is the KIDS COUNT Program Director for NM Voices for Children. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all of the blessings we enjoy—our families, our health, and the bounty of our good earth and beautiful state. It’s also a time that many of us think about those who are less fortunate and a time to donate to the charities that help them. But hard times know no season, and many New Mexicans experience hunger throughout the year. These people—many of them children, seniors, and hard-working parents—already live on the margins, often just one financial setback away from disaster.
The next major water project in New Mexico could be diverting the last free-flowing river in New Mexico, the Gila River. New Mexico Voices for Children became the latest group to criticize the diversion, saying the amount of money spent on it could better be spent in other ways in the state, citing a potential $1 billion cost. The cost of a diversion plan are highly debated. Some say that it would cost $330 million, others that it would cost $1 billion. When the Interstate Stream Commission voted to move ahead on the diversion, opponents of the plan pegged the cost at between $575 million and $1 billion.
Bill Jordan, MA, is Senior Policy Advisor/Governmental Relations for NM Voices for Children. Thousands of adorable and inquisitive youngsters are trotting off to school for the first time this month. From all around the state these wide-eyed kiddos are beginning their school adventures. In honor of this new class, we thought we’d look back at how New Mexico prepared them for school, and look forward to how babies born this year will fare in their preschool years. In 2010, the year this new class was born, 30,733 of New Mexico’s children were enrolled in the state’s early childhood programs that help children prepare for school: home visiting, pre-kindergarten, and child care assistance.
Every year, the Annie E. Casey foundation, in partnership with New Mexico Voices for Children, issues its national ranking of states according to child-wellbeing. Once again, New Mexico ranks at the bottom of the pile—49th in the nation. This isn’t the first time that New Mexico ranks so low. New Mexico was also 49th in the 2014 report and has never been above 45th. In 2013, the state fell to 50th.