What Does Mexico’s President Know That President Obama Doesn’t?

Commentary by Marita Noon - It is not often that Americans look south of the border for solutions, but Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto seems to have figured out a few things in his first year of power that has, in six years, eluded Obama.
     Late last month, Peña Nieto spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. There, he highlighted his first-year achievements: “a legislative consensus with the two major opposition parties on the transformations and structural reforms that the country needed,” reports Mexico City’s The News. He pointed out that this has been achieved “in a climate of plurality and diversity.”
     A few months ago, with great enthusiasm, I wrote about Peña Nieto’s proposed energy reforms—something his predecessor had been unable to achieve. (President Felipe Calderon’s critics believed his proposals violated the constitution.) The reforms passed on December 12, 2013, amend Articles 25, 27 and 28 of Mexico's constitution to allow profit- and production-sharing contracts, and licenses. The reforms also put an end to government monopolies in the operation of oil-and-gas fields, while maintaining the Mexican government’s ownership of the country’s resources.
     “The current government’s ability to build coalitions puts Mexico on the verge of its biggest economic victory since the North American Free Trade Agreement,” states Arturo Sarukhan, who has served in Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Ministry. Read full column

New state police cadet trainer defends changes

The man who oversees basic training for police cadets across New Mexico is defending his new curriculum, which includes giving officers more leeway to use deadly force. 
Jack Jones, director of the state's Law Enforcement Academy, has come under some criticism since being given control in September of all basic training courses. Jones' changes include more training in traffic stops involving gunfire and use of possibly deadly force. He says officers need to be prepared for any violence. Jones says previous training models have been too restrictive. 
The new training comes as the Albuquerque Police Department is under a U.S. Justice Department civil rights investigation. The department is facing allegations of excessive force and three dozen shootings by officers since 2010.
Information from The AP. 


Bernalillo County Commisioners oppose "Cops" TV shooting

Two Bernalillo County commissioners are asking the county sheriff to reconsider allowing the long-running TV show "Cops" to film in the area.
 In a letter sent to Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston on Saturday, Commissioners Debbie O'Malley and Maggie Hart Stebbins says the show's "sensational focus on criminal activity" would portray the county as a dangerous place to work and live. They also argue members of the public may be reluctant to report crimes if they think a TV crew might show up with authorities.
Albuquerque's mayor banned the reality program from filmming in New Mexico's largest city more than a decade ago
. However, Houston announced Thursday that the show would start filming with his department in April for its 26th season. The episodes would air in the summer.


Senate panel approves budget package

A Senate panel has approved a $6.2 billion budget package and provided additional money for education initiatives of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. 

The Senate Finance Committee unanimously endorsed the budget on Sunday and sent it to the Senate for consideration.

 The panel added $17.5 million for administration school programs. Republicans on the committee said the goal was to give the Public Education Department some flexibility to work with school districts on initiatives to improve educational performance. 

The budget provides for a $293 million or 5 percent increase in spending in the fiscal year starting in July. 

The committee's proposal is an attempt to break an impasse over the budget and avoid a possible special session. 

A budget bill failed in the House, with Republicans saying it shortchanged Martinez's school proposals.


Conceal carry permits double in NM

Government records show that more than twice as many concealed carry permits were issued in New Mexico last year when state and federal policymakers considered whether to tighten firearms laws. 
The Department of Public Safety issued 10,601 licenses in 2013 compared with 4,793 the previous year, according to state records obtained by The Associated Press. 
The state issued an average of about 4,500 licenses annually from 2008 to 2012. 
Firearms instructors attribute last year's license increase partly to a push by the Legislature and Congress for new gun laws, including stricter criminal background checks on people who buy firearms and proposals to ban military-style assault weapons.
Information from The AP. 


Fire in Isleta Pueblo

Isleta Pueblo fire crews, with assistance from New Mexico State Police, Valencia County and Bosque Farms, fought one of the first big fires of 2014 Sunday night. 

As of 9:30 Sunday evening, the fire burned 30 acres of grassland, though it did not threaten any homes or other structures. Fifty crew members fought for hours to keep it contained. 

Investigators are still working to learn what started the fire Sunday afternoon around 3 p.m. 

Smoke billowed high, making it visible across the Albuquerque metro and warning residents of the fire season to come.

 Although the fire did not threaten any structures, the pueblo set up an evacuation site at the recreation center just in case.


Senate to vote on Hanna Skandera

From KOB-TV.com - by Jen Samp, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - Governor Susana Martinez handpicked Hanna Skandera and ever since has been by her side. Three times now, the senate has failed to take a vote, which would officially confirm Skandera as the education secretary.
     Skandera self-proclaimed the title "education secretary” on her official website, the governor gave her the title “Secretary-Designate” until she is confirmed. “I think we need to have a vote and I think we should have had one before now", said Democratic State Senator and majority whip Tim Keller
     He argues Skandera is not credentialed for the big job. She worked as a senior policy adviser to the U.S Education Secretary and was a deputy commissioner for Florida's education system, but she has never been a teacher.“Our constitution says clearly you need a qualified educator and for better or worse regardless of her ideas I don't believe she meets the criteria,” said Sen. Keller.
     A statement from the Department of Education reads: “Secretary Skandera has broad support from education leaders and business leaders throughout New Mexico. She is well-qualified for a position she has held for three years now and if she wasn’t, the senate would have taken action long ago. Last year, Senator Lopez staged a politically motivated and prolonged political circus at taxpayer expense that did nothing to help improve student achievement in New Mexico. Secretary Skandera looks forward to a fair confirmation process.”
     Last year, the confirmation hearing on Skandera lasted for hours. Political insiders think if the Senate takes a vote, she would get the confirmation. But political games are not new to the Roundhouse. More