Malkin: Waivers for Favors

Michelle Malkin
Townhall - President Obama's storytellers recently launched a White House blog series called "Voices of Health Reform," where "readers can meet average Americans already benefiting from the health reform law." I propose a new White House series: "Voices of Health Reform Waivers," where taxpayers can meet all the politically connected unions benefiting from exclusive get-out-of-Obamacare passes -- after squandering millions of their workers' dues to lobby for the job-killing, private insurance-sabotaging law from which they are now exempt.
At the end of last year, the Department of Health and Human Services had granted some 222 temporary waivers to businesses small and large, insurers, labor and other organizations that offer affordable health insurance or prescription drug coverage with limited benefits. On Wednesday, the agency quietly updated its online list, which now reveals a whopping total of 729 Obamacare escapees -- in addition to four states, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio and Tennessee -- who collectively cover about 2.1 million enrollees. Read full column here:


Dark Day for New Mexico - It was a black day for the citizens of New Mexico when members of the House of Representatives voted to retain Ben Luj├ín as speaker and rejected Joseph Cervantes’ bid for this office. Shamefully, the Democrats did not back Cervantes, and the Republicans shot themselves in the foot by not supporting him. Read full column here:

Egypt on the Verge of Implosion

Washington Times - CAIRO (AP) — Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters poured into the streets of Egypt Friday, stoning and confronting police who fired back with rubber bullets and tear gas in the most violent and chaotic scenes yet in the challenge to President Hosni Mubarak‘s 30-year rule. One protester was killed and even a Nobel Peace laureate was placed under house arrest after joining demonstrations.
Hosni Mubarak
Egyptian state TV reported that Mr. Mubarak has ordered a night curfew from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. in Cairo, the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria and the flashpoint city of Suez east of the capital. It said the military will work in tandem with the police to enforce the ban. It was the most drastic measure so far to quell riots and protests that spiraled into chaos on Friday. Groups of thousands of protesters, some chanting “out, out, out,” defied a ban on any gatherings and turned out at different venues across Cairo, a city of about 18 million people, some marching toward major squares and across scenic Nile bridges. Burning tires sent up plumes of black smoke across the cityscape as the sun set. Security officials said there were protests in at least 11 of the country’s 28 provinces. Read full story here:


White House to Push for Gun Control

From -Obama intentionally did not mention gun control in his State of the Union, but aides say that in the next two weeks the administration will unveil a campaign to get Congress to toughen existing laws.  At the beginning of his State of the Union address, President Obama tipped his hat to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who’s now recuperating in a Houston medical facility. But throughout the hourlong speech, he never addressed the issue at the core of the Giffords tragedy—gun control—and what lawmakers would, or should, do to reform American firearm-access laws.  That was intentional, according to the White House. An administration official says Obama didn’t mention guns in his speech because of the omnipresent controversy surrounding the Second Amendment and gun control. Tuesday’s speech was designed to be more about the economy and how, as Obama repeated nine times, the U.S. could “win the future.”  But in the next two weeks, the White House will unveil a new gun-control effort in which it will urge Congress to strengthen current laws, which now allow some mentally unstable people to obtain certain assault weapons, in some cases without even a background check.  More here

Obama Puts Union Bosses in Charge of Federal Agencies

From -President Obama is garnering lots of critical attention for his recently signed executive order directing federal agencies to conduct what appears to be a purely symbolic review their regulations for their economic impact, but another presidential document he signed nearly two years ago is anything but figurative. The document is Executive Order 13522, aka "Creating Labor-Management Forums to Improve Delivery of Government Services." As RedState's Labor Union Report notes, this EO was signed when the nation was distracted by the Obamacare debate. What the EO means, however, is that Obama "has turned over a significant portion of the Executive Branch of the United States government to union bosses." This could be the most significant federal policy decision regarding federal labor-management relations since President Kennedy signed the first EO in 1962 granting representatial rights to federal employee unions.  More here

EIB Appointments Completed

Governor Martinez
LAS CRUCES – Governor Susana Martinez announced today that she has made nominations to fill the three remaining positions on the state’s Environmental Improvement Board. The Governor announced the first four nominations yesterday. “I have asked the Environmental Improvement Board to work diligently to balance economic growth with the need to protect New Mexico’s natural beauty,” said Governor Martinez. “In order to move New Mexico forward, the EIB must strive to make decisions based on scientific evidence and common sense. Injecting politics into the business that comes before the EIB only does a disservice to our state as we strive to attract business, foster growth, and get our economy back on track.” The additional EIB nominees are: Jeff Bryce is the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Sierra Peaks Corporation, an engineering design firm in Albuquerque. Gregory Fulfer is a rancher and business owner from Jal; he is also the Chairman of the Lea County Board of Commissioners. John Volkerding is the General Manager of Basin Disposal, a salt water disposal company in Farmington. He previously managed the New Mexico Department of Energy’s Oversight Bureau in Albuquerque.


Lobbyists Shirking Reporting Rules

Santa Fe New Mexican - Despite all the social events that have been taking place the past week since the Legislature began its 2011 session, most lobbyists have not filed required expense reporting within 48 hours. In fact, as of about 2 p.m. Wednesday, only one lobbyist had filed a report, the Secretary of State's Office said Wednesday. Tom Horan, representing Presbyterian Healthcare Services, estimated the company spent $17,400 for a "Legislative Appreciation Dinner" at La Posada last Thursday. Horan noted the final bill had not come in, so the figure was just an estimate. Horan also reported spending $7,500 for Presbyterian on the Governor's Prayer Breakfast, held Friday morning at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center. When told Wednesday that he was the only lobbyist to file a report so far, Horan, a former legislator, said, "I carried the Lobbyist Regulation Act, so I'd better do it." Employees of the Secretary of State's Office on Wednesday speculated that there might be confusion over the act, which says when the Legislature is in session, lobbyists must report "within 48 hours for each separate expenditure made or incurred during a legislative session that was for ... ($500) or more." Read full story here:

Study: Off-Reservation Casinos Hurt Tax Base

At year-end the editorial pages of various news outlets seemed to be attempting to resurrect the Anthony Casino proposal. With all the fiscal troubles local, county, and state government are having it might be a good time to get a reminder of why that casino is such a bad idea for Sunland Park, Anthony, Dona Ana County, and the State of New Mexico. Several studies have been conducted to investigate the impact of the Anthony casino on the economy. There have been updates of previous studies conducted as far back as 2004.
Off-reservation Indian gaming is an extremely controversial topic, because it is exempt from local taxation. Simply put, the incredible tax-exempt status of a tribal operation creates a distinctly unfair advantage over local businesses. Existing businesses including, but limited to, restaurants, truck stops, gas station/convenience stores, retail shops, cinemas, race tracks, and hotels will no doubt lose sales volumes and employees to a tribal operation. The resulting gross receipts diverted from existing businesses are subtracted from the local tax base, reducing collections by local governments, county governments, and the state. New Mexico Economic Consultants did a particularly extensive study on the subject. In its study, NMEC measured the total impact on the economy in Dona Ana County by considering both the direct and indirect effects of changes in spending.
Using impact analysis, NMEC found it possible to estimate the effect of changes in spending associated with the proposed Anthony casino on income, employment, and local tax collection under alternative scenarios. The study was extensive. It can be read here: The analysis contained in the NMEC study shows that "the positive impacts of the proposed Anthony casino could be negligible once its effect on other businesses is considered. Under reasonable assumptions, the loss of revenue by existing business could significantly offset the benefits of the new casino on local economic activity. Moreover, the loss of gross receipts tax revenue to the state and local governments could total up to $6,500,000 per year."