Swickard: Parent-Teacher Conferences, Chinese Style

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. A friend recently returned from a visit to her childhood home in Liaoyang, China. She has resided in America for many years and is an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at an area elementary school. While home she captured on video some of her former city. Also, her nephew had a parent-teacher conference so she took a video at his school.
     The kids looked almost indistinguishable from kids in America. Some smiled, some were shy, some boisterous, they laughed and played outside the school. Walking into the elementary school the kids spoke to the camera when questions were posed. I was surprised they replied in Chinese to Chinese questions and in English to English questions. Most students in China have some conversational ability in English by third grade.
     The parent-teacher conference was crowded. I asked what percentage of Chinese parents attends parent-teacher conferences. She replied, “All of them.” 
     I pushed for the reasons for perfect attendance in China. “First there is strong parental concern about their children. Secondly, Chinese society informally demands parents participate. People not attending are seen as not caring about their children’s education. There is the perception in China that without parental involvement children will not do as well in school.” 
     The group activity was to review the major test given at the end of the semester. The teacher and the parents reviewed each question, not just the scores of the test. The teacher worked each math problem on the board while the parents took notes. This was so these parents could help their children with the material covered by the test. Read full column


Driver's licenses an issue again for state legislature

From KOB-TV.com - By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - The New Mexico State Capitol is once again turning into a battlefield for the issue of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.
     This is the fifth time Gov. Susana Martinez has demanded that state lawmakers dump the 2003 law that allows licenses for people here illegally, and for the fifth time it looks like the numbers in the legislature just don't add up to make that happen.
     About one hundred demonstrators rallied outside the Capitol on Wednesday, armed with 700 milk cartons, each one bearing the Zia symbol and a picture of an immigrant family that relies on somebody having a New Mexico license. The crowd heard from a Lea County dairy farm worker who said he couldn't work without his license. Ditto for another man who works in the oil fields near Hobbs. Protest organizer Marina Pina said the issue is a waste of time in the 30 day legislative session.
     Gov. Martinez fired the first shot in this fight on day one of the session in her State of the State Address. "It's time to act," Martinez proclaimed in her speech. "The legislature should do what the overwhelming majority of New Mexicans are demanding - repeal this dangerous law!"
     The governor may well have the votes to eke out yet another narrow win in the House of Representatives, but she surely does not in the state Senate. More

Public Service Company takes another step to close units at San Juan Generating Station

From the Farmington Daily Times - The Public Service Company of New Mexico has taken another step to meet federal emissions rules at San Juan Power Generating Station and close two units at San Juan Generating Station.
     In December last year, PNM submitted a filing with the New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission to gain approval for processes that would enable the generating station to meet federal emission standards. The filing contains a proposal to close two units at the station by the end of 2017, to reroute power from Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station to serve PNM customers and to install emission reducing technology, all of which need PRC approval to happen.
     According to the executive summary of the filing, PNM is proposing to close units two and three to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency's Regional Haze Rule. "Approval of PNM's Application will also enable the company to move forward with plans to reduce its use of coal and significantly increase its use of cleaner fuels, including natural gas and solar," the filing stated.
     As a result, PNM is asking for 134 megawatts of power from a unit in Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station to be used to replace power lost as a result of the closures. PNM has partial ownership in one unit at the nuclear facility.
     PNM has future plans to build a 144 megawatt natural gas power facility to be used for peak usage, said PNM spokeswoman Valerie Smith, and also build a 40 megawatt solar facility. PNM will ask PRC to approve those plans in the future. More

State lawmaker proposes judge financial statements be online

A state lawmaker is proposing that financial disclosure statements of New Mexico's judges be posted online. 
Democratic Sen. Jacob Candelaria of Albuquerque said his measure would increase governmental transparency. Judges and other government officials must file annual financial statements with the secretary of state disclosing sources of income and business interests.
 A spokesman for the secretary of state's office said the agency stopped online posting of all financial disclosures after some officials voiced security concerns because the forms listed residential addresses and personal identifying information. The disclosures can be obtained through a public records request. 
Candelaria's legislation calls for posting disclosures of judges on the secretary of state's web site and the state's online "sunshine portal."


Texas proceeds with water lawsuit against NM

The U.S. Supreme Court says Texas can proceed with its lawsuit against New Mexico over management of the Rio Grande
New Mexico Attorney General Gary King says he's looking forward to telling New Mexico's side of the story. The court has given the state 60 days to file a motion to dismiss the case. 
Texas accuses New Mexico of allowing illegal diversions of surface and underground water of the Rio Grande near the state line. Texas officials say those diversions take away water from farmers and residents around El Paso, a drought-stricken area that gets about half of its drinking water and most of its irrigation water from the Rio Grande.
New Mexico is also struggling with drought and argues that Texas is getting what's required under a compact between the two states.


Climate Change: A Serious Threat to Science

Commentary by Marita Noon - The current cold covering a large portion of the country has, once again, brought out the climate change alarmists with claims of “serious threat.”
     Due to his respected position, as climate scientist at the University of California, San Diego Institution of Oceanography, Richard C.J. Somerville’s recent “Cold comfort” column was published in newspapers throughout the country.
     In it, he grouses that the public doesn’t take the “consequences” of climate change seriously—pointing out that they are “here and now.” He cites: “only 54 percent of the public sees it as a global threat to their countries—and only 40 percent of Americans do.”
     Somerville suggests: “people either are scientifically illiterate or reject science when it conflicts with their core values or religious convictions.” He posits: “the medical profession and communication experts may have much to teach those climate scientists” because “Priming patients to appreciate the value of medical diagnostic tests has been shown to make them more likely to take these tests and then act on the results.”
     What Somerville misses in the analogy is that the data back up the medical case. For example, getting a mammogram catches breast cancer early and increases survival rates. The data have shown that medical science is correct.
     On the contrary, the data don’t support the claims made by climate scientists—but they just keep making them. Apparently they believe the “big lie” propaganda technique used so effectively by Adolf Hitler. In Somerville’s column, he offers several familiar, easily disproven statements:
•“Low-lying areas are threatened by sea-level rise” which will result in “millions of environmental refugees” and
•“major threats to agricultural productivity as rainfall patterns change and as heat waves, floods, droughts and other weather extremes worsen.”
     Because my expertise is in communications not climate, I reached out to someone who could help me: Robert Endlich—who does in fact have both the education and experience. Endlich, who served as a USAF weather officer for 21 years and holds a BS in geology and an MS in meteorology, offered me pages of data and documentation, which I’ve summarized for my readers. Read full column


Martinez adds millions to budget to replace outdated textbooks

From KOB-TV.com - by : Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - There is a battle brewing over books. Governor Susana Martinez announced Saturday that she is adding $9 million to her budget so that school districts across New Mexico can replace outdated textbooks.
     But the legislature may have a different vision on how to spend that money. "We’re comparing what the governor has proposed and what the legislature has proposed and it is quite significantly different when it comes to textbooks because there is a lack of understanding of how important it is that we don't give kids books that are 3 decades old," Martinez said.
     The governor’s budget adds $9 million more compared to last year for replacing old text books across the state. The total budget line item in 2014 is $30 million for new textbooks.
     But Representative Mimi Stewart, who sits on The House Education Committee, says it is the governor who lacks understanding. "It’s a funny year for the governor to ask for an increase in instructional materials because the books that schools have to buy for next year are for career and technical classes and driver's ed," said Stewart.
     Stewart says the state rotates subjects every year and history and science are not even on the rotation for next year. Stewart welcomes more funding to public education, but wonders if they money may be suited best elsewhere for this year. More

Swickard: The reason to vote for school bonds

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. In 1975 I was working for the University of New Mexico. In front of the UNM library were 200 or so of the most coveted parking spaces on the entire UNM campus. In this parking lot people could park close to where they were going rather than miles away. 
     This parking lot was so attractive to some people that they came to work early just to get one of these fine parking spaces. It was quite a status symbol to go out to that center of the campus parking lot and nonchalantly get in your car. As you drove away you would wave to the less fortunate people who had to go quite a distance to get their car.
     As happens to all good things, one day the UNM leaders declared this wonderful parking lot would be closed forever. We were incredulous at the announcement. A friend complained, “The very idea of them using taxpayer money to turn our valuable parking spaces into, can you believe it, a duck pond. We have to do something.”
     The battle was not pretty. Signs on campus proclaimed, “We don’t need no stinking duck ponds, we need more parking lots.” Other signs said, “The taxpayers cannot afford to be building duck ponds.”
     The protests, including a rude song, President Bud Davis’s Duck Pond, luckily fell on deaf ears. The protests continued until the first day the water and the ducks and the sunshine made everyone feel great.
     Here is the point of my story: today the UNM Duck Pond and Commons Area is one of the defining campus symbols of UNM. Best I can tell, pretty much everyone cherishes the duck pond. In fact, if someone desires a beating all they have to do is go to UNM and propose turning the duck pond into 200 parking spaces. It might even be worse. They might be shot at sunrise on three consecutive mornings for just such a suggestion.
     The duck pond has attracted many new students to UNM. When they come for the campus visit it is one of the first places they go. So whatever the university spent on constructing the duck pond is more than covered by the money the additional students bring to UNM over the year. Therefore, it is good UNM officials had foresight and thick skins.
     The same syndrome applies at school bond election time. First, it is the mechanism to fund capital projects in school districts. We pass bonds for the future. Shortsighted people oppose bonds because that money does not provide personal benefit. read full column


State officials to consider digital billboards

State officials may allow digital billboards along interstate highways and other federal routes in New Mexico
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that today the state Transportation Commission  is scheduled to consider rule changes that could legalize electronic billboards. 
States oversee off-site outdoor advertising along federal highways under agreements with federal agencies. Outdoor advertisers already use digital signs in some places in New Mexico, including within the city of Albuquerque
Critics say the signs are visual blight that damage the night sky. Outdoor advertising companies deny that their signs lighten dark skies.


WNMU making big cuts

Western New Mexico University is facing layoffs, higher tuition and consolidation of classes amid a budget crunch. 
The Albuquerque Journal reports that the Silver City-based university plans to slash spending by 4 percent and eliminate less popular courses. 
WNMU President Joseph Shepard says the changes are needed because a projected 5 percent increase in student enrollment did not materialize. He says the university by the end of this month will cut spending for the remainder of this budget year by more than $1.3 million. 
Officials say cuts will probably be a combination of layoffs and letting some vacancies remain unfilled.


Gun safety rally in Santa Fe

About 100 gun safety advocates rallied at the Capitol for a proposal to require criminal background checks of more people who buy firearms at gun shows. 
Santa Fe Police Chief Ray Rael spoke in favor of the measure at Wednesday's rally. Supporters are urging Republican Gov. Susana Martinez to add the gun proposal to the Legislature's agenda. The Legislature is restricted to considering the budget, tax measures and proposals allowed by the governor.
 A bill failed in the Legislature last year to mandate background checks for firearms purchased at gun shows from private sellers. Federal law requires those checks for sales by licensed dealers in their stores and at gun shows. 
Opponents contend that background checks won't stop shootings like one this month at a Roswell school.


New tax bracket, fewer deductions for wealthiest people

From The Carlsbad Current Argus - by Carole Feldman, Associated Press - A new top tax rate, higher Medicare taxes and the phaseout of deductions and exemptions could mean higher tax bills for wealthier Americans this year. Legally wed same-sex couples, meanwhile, may find the true meaning of the marriage penalty.
      All taxpayers will have a harder time taking medical deductions.
      In other changes for the 2013 tax year, the alternative minimum tax has been patched — permanently — to prevent more middle-income people from being drawn in, and there's a simpler way to compute the home office deduction.
      Tax rate tables and the standard deduction have been adjusted for inflation, as has the maximum contribution to retirement accounts, including 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts, or IRAs.
      The provisions were set by Congress last January as part of legislation to avert the so-called fiscal cliff of tax increases and spending cuts. “We finally got some certainty for this year,” said Greg Rosica, a contributing author to Ernst & Young's “EY Tax Guide 2014.”
      Nevertheless, the filing season is being delayed because of the two-week partial government shutdown last October. The Internal Revenue Service says it needs the extra time to ensure that systems are in place and working. People will be able to start filing returns Jan. 31, a week and a half later than the original Jan. 21 date.
      “People who are used to filing early in order to get a quick refund are just going to have to wait,” said Barbara Weltman, a contributing editor to the tax guide “J.K. Lasser's Your Income Tax 2014.”
      No change in the April 15 deadline, however. That's set by law and will remain in place, the IRS says. Read more

Study shows large number of NM students need remediation

A new study says more than half of the New Mexico students attending the state's colleges and universities aren't ready academically and that it's costly for the state. 
The student study released by the Legislative Finance Committee says 51 percent of the students needed remedial courses last year and that the cost was $22 million. 
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the study says remediation rates haven't changed in the past seven years. Nearly half of the remedial coursework is in math. Most of the rest was in English and reading.


NM ranks last in child well being for 2nd time

As in 2013 when the Kids Count Report came out, New Mexico was yet again ranked last in terms of child well-being for 2014. 

The report was released Tuesday, a day in which legislators gathered at the Roundhouse for Gov. Susana Martinez’s State of the State Address. Many of them the say state needs to move up in these rankings. 

New Mexico Voices for Children executive director Veronica Garcia says the legislature needs to make the appropriate investments in children. 

Nearly one-third of New Mexico’s children live in poverty, according to the report. Sixty percent live in low-income families. More than a third have parents without secure employment. 

The report was released at the state capitol Tuesday in an effort to get lawmakers’ attention.


State SUPCO to review abuse and neglect law

The New Mexico Supreme Court has agreed to review a recent court decision narrowing who must report suspected cases of abuse and neglect. 
State law requires "every person" to contact authorities about suspected abuse and neglect. 
However, the state Court of Appeals ruled last November in an Albuquerque case that the law's wording means the requirement only applies to 10 categories of people, including physicians, teachers and nurses. 
The Albuquerque Journal reports that the Supreme Court granted a request by the state Attorney General's Office for a review of the Court of Appeals ruling. 

Meanwhile, Gov. Susana Martinez has said she wants the Legislature to change the law immediately to clarify the reporting obligation.


Sec. of Interior to visit southern NM

Sally Jewell
On Friday, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will join New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich in a visit to the Organ Mountains region of south-central New Mexico

While there, Jewell will spend time exploring the area and will attend a public meeting hosted by Senators Udall and Heinrich regarding the community’s vision to preserve, protect and enhance some of the public lands located in Doña Ana County.  

At the invitation of the two Senators, Jewell will join Udall and Heinrich, as well as Principal Deputy Director at the Bureau of Land Management Neil Kornze, for a public listening session on the community’s conservation priorities in the area. 

 The community meeting will take place Friday at 3pm at the Ramada Palms Las Cruces.


Controversial bills up for debate in legislative session

From KOB.com - By: Nikki Ibarra, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - Tuesday kicks off the 30-day legislative session in New Mexico. A number of controversial bills are set to take the state in the coming weeks.
     First, Gov. Susana Martinez will give her State of the State address, where she's expected to talk about her budget proposal for 2014. She wants $6 billion in spending, with about $100 million in new spending for public schools.
Martinez has been vocal in the past about making New Mexico competitive through education reform. Part of the new funding will go toward raising the starting salaries for new teachers from $30,000 to $33,000.
     The governor is also expected to push the state to stop issuing driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants—something she's fought for in the past four sessions.
     Another bill expected to heat up the legislative session is about legalizing recreational marijuana in New Mexico. The bill is modeled after Colorado's new pot law, and anyone 21 and older would be allowed to possess and use marijuana. The lawmaker who proposed the legislation, Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, said he thinks legalizing marijuana will actually help fight to war on drugs. More

NM ranks near the bottom for economic job growth

An economic study ranks New Mexico as one of the worst in the nation when it comes to economic and job growth.
The report, authored by the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, shows New Mexico ranks 48 among states when it comes to job growth.
According to the report New Mexico had previously been ranked among the top 15 states for job growth over the last 40 years. The report showed New Mexico has the largest gap of any state when it comes to the disparity between its upper and lower class incomes. There’s also a large educational disparity. The report points out the state ranks fourth in the country with the number of people living here with Ph.D.s, but toward the bottom when it comes to people with bachelor’s degrees. 
The report also shows the state relies heavily on federal dollars and its economy could be badly hurt by any cuts to federal spending. It also said the state could benefit from the Affordable Care Act. 
There are some positives. According to the report, New Mexico does well in the areas of technology, arts and culture, mining, gas and oil production, transportation and tourism.


Student shot at Roswell school returns home

Kendal Sanders
One of the students wounded when a classmate opened fire inside a Roswell middle school gym is recovering at home. 
The family of 13-year-old Kendal Sanders says she was released from the hospital Sunday. She had surgery last week to repair damage done to her shoulder. 
The other victim, 12-year-old Nathaniel Tavarez, remained at a Lubbock, Texas, hospital Monday. A family member says the boy is in critical but stable condition and is now breathing on his own. 
Sanders and Tavarez were wounded when the gunman entered the crowded Berrendo Middle School gym last Tuesday and fired three times from a 20-gauge shotgun. 
The seventh-grade suspect has been charged as a juvenile with three counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Police have yet to speculate about a motive.


State legislature convenes today

Gov. Martinez
Gov. Susana Martinez will outline her legislative priorities to lawmakers on the opening day of the Legislature's 30-day session. 

Lawmakers convene at noon today, and the governor will deliver her State of the State address to a joint session of the House and Senate. 

Martinez already has unveiled parts of her legislative agenda, including merit pay for teachers and budget increases for programs to help train more health care professionals.

 A Democratic legislator is sponsoring a constitutional amendment to legalize the possession and use of marijuana by people 21 and older. 

Democratic Party officials are urging the Legislature to raise the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour, up from $7.50. The session is limited to budget, taxes and proposals placed on the agenda by the governor.


Is This Any Way to Treat the Job Creators?

Commentary by Marita Noon - It’s no wonder that, as the New York Times (NYT) headline declared: “Growth in jobs slows sharply to 3-year low.” Addressing the Labor Department’s disappointing December Jobs Report, CNNMoney’s headline states: “2013 ends with weakest job growth in years.” USA Today called it a “Big miss” and CNBC’sJim Cramer sees the 74,000 gain in payrolls as “A disastrous unemployment number.”
     USA Today surveyed 37 economists whose median forecast for the December jobs number was a gain of 205,000 jobs. Not only did the report’s 74,000 jobs gain fall far short of the 205,000 jobs forecast, it is not the only number that portends a job market about which CNNMoney believes: “suddenly looks a lot weaker than economists had thought.” USA Today points out: “For the year, employers added 2.18 million jobs, slightly fewer than 2012’s total of 2.19 million.” It adds: “Payroll growth was weak across the board, with education and health services, a reliable source of job growth even through the recession, adding no jobs.”
     The one apparent bright spot in Friday’s Jobs report a sharp drop in the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent from 7 percent was tarnished because it largely resulted from people exiting the work force rather than because they landed jobs. The work force shrank by 347,000 in December, reversing a big gain from November, and returning the proportion of Americans in the labor force to its October level of 62.8 percent, the lowest in 35 years.”
     According to the Associated Press (AP), White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer sent out an email Tuesday morning to the White House list of supporters claiming: “The president will use every tool he can to create jobs and opportunities for the middle class.” While I oppose this administration’s fondness for skirting Congress through the use of executive orders, here’s a case where an “executive order or administrative action” could really help “pick up the pace of the jobs message.”
     If President Obama truly wanted to “create jobs and opportunities for the middle class,” he could tell the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to work with—instead of against—people and companies who are ready to risk their capital in the development of our natural resources and create jobs.More


College prep programs get a funding boost

The college-prep programs in four New Mexico school districts got a big financial boost this week.  
Gov. Susana Martinez has announced each district will receive a $100,000 grant to start or expand on programs that prepare high school students for college. 
The funds are from a Denver-based foundation and are going to districts in Albuquerque, Carlsbad, Gadsden and Hobbs.
Martinez made the announcement on Thursday at Arrowhead Park Early College High School. The Las Cruces program was the first such program in the state. 
Officials in the some school districts say the money will help immensely with purchasing technology and recruiting new students. 


Legislator files pre-bill to legalize marijuana

New Mexico State Senator Ortiz y Pino pre-filed Senate Joint Resolution 10 Friday proposing to amend New Mexico’s constitution to tax and regulate marijuana for adult use. 
SJR10 would allow for the possession and personal use of marijuana by persons 21 years of age and older and for the regulation of the production, sale and taxation of marijuana in New Mexico.
 If SJR10 passes, both the House and the Senate, the amendment will be placed on the November 2014 general election ballot for the voters to decide. 
Harvard University professor of economics Jeffrey Miron concluded that New Mexico could bring in between $19 – $20.82 million annually in marijuana tax revenues alone and by ending marijuana prohibition, the state of New Mexico could save over $33 million on police, courts and corrections costs of enforcing existing marijuana laws.


Congress withholds funding for horse slaughter to resume

The resumption of the commercial slaughtering of horses was blocked Friday as President Barack Obama signed a budget measure that withholds money for required federal inspections of the slaughtering process.
 The measure provides temporary funding for the federal government, but it stops the U.S. Agriculture Department from spending on horse slaughterhouse inspections. 
The last domestic horse slaughterhouses closed in 2007, a year after Congress withheld inspection funding. Since federal money was restored in 2011, plants in New Mexico, Missouri and Iowa have fought to start slaughtering to potentially export horse meat for overseas consumers.

Meanwhile, on Friday in New Mexico, State District Court Judge Matthew Wilson granted New Mexico Attorney General Gary King’s motion for a preliminary injunction against Valley Meat Company, preventing the opening of a proposed horse slaughterhouse until the AG’s lawsuit is resolved.

 In a statement relased to the press, King said, “The judge’s decision allows our lawsuit to continue while preventing the immediate killing of horses for human consumption. I still strongly believe that Valley Meat’s proposal for commercial horse slaughter posed a serious danger to consumers and to our environment.”


Lamy residents, energy officials meet over oil dispute

From KOB-TV.com - By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - The fight is on for residents in Santa Fe County, and they have made it clear that they do not want their town of Lamy to be turned into a crude oil distribution site.
     Residents met with representatives from the company proposing the idea on Saturday evening. As you would expect, things got heated.Lamy is famous for being nothing. Really—that is the draw.
     People move to the town for a rural lifestyle to get away from city life and those who live in the serene town are fighting to protect that.
     Pacer Energy wants to use the town to exchange crude oil from trucks to trains. About 250 concerned people met with representatives from Pacer Energy. It is a lot more than a lifestyle they are trying to protect; they fear the company’s plans may ruin the environment.
     Some fear one bad accident could set their historic town blazing. Representatives from Pacer Energy could not answer all the questions. Many people wanted to know if this deal was already made or if the company was listening before acting.
     "This is still being discussed in our corporate office, there has been leases signed to my knowledge with the Southern Santa Fe Railway," Donnie Talk of Pacer Energy Marketing said. Lamy is proud of its draw, but the oil industry is one new resident the town does not want. More

Swickard: Better to solve problems than create new ones

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. Solving problems is a funny business. The other day someone asked how to deal with thousands of wild horses starving in New Mexico. They wanted to prevent those horses from starving. So I combined that with another problem. 
     The reintroduction of gray wolves into New Mexico has caused ranchers in those areas huge problems because the aforementioned wolves not only eat deer and elk, they eat cows. Why? The cows are easier to catch and must taste good.
     The most pernicious cow catchers are gathered by the authorities and housed in a pen for wayward wolves to get them to quit killing cows. But the damage to ranchers is of concern. So to review: horses are starving and wolves are killing cows. 
     Problem solver that I am: why not move those hungry wolves to the areas where thousands upon thousands of wild horses are starving. The wolves will put the horses down and live happily ever after since they are killing machines.
      Forget the legal fight in Roswell about horsemeat packing. Natural predation will cull out the weak and sick wild horses leaving the strong to survive in a much smaller herd. It is a win-win solution. However, I do expect the wolves to protest, “Hey, this meat tastes like dog food.”
     There is another unrelated problem that is not as easy to solve. Through a state Constitutional Amendment process Colorado legalized marijuana and now members of the New Mexico legislature are looking at a state Constitutional Amendment to do likewise in New Mexico. The problem as I see it is the New Mexico legislators have not adequately considered the problems this will cause. Let me count them:
      First, it is the wrong way to make societal changes. The legislature is designed to enact those types of rule changes. Evoking the Constitutional amendment process is a chicken way to avoid the governor’s veto and opponent advertisements saying said legislator is soft on drugs. If it cannot pass in the people’s house, it is not a good idea.
      Second, as Colorado is finding out, it not only opens Pandora’s Box but a whole host of Pandora Boxes not the least of which is that it is an activity both legal and illegal at the same time. The United States is a land of laws. It is what makes our country different than other countries that have “situational” laws. 
     So in our country every activity should be legal or not. I do not want our New Mexico State Police in gun battles protecting New Mexico citizens from the national Homeland Security forces over what is legal statewide but not nationally. Read the full column


New Mexicans can register to vote online

New Mexico residents 18 and older can now register to vote online through Motor Vehicle Division offices throughout the state. 

Voters who conduct a transaction at MVD will now be offered the opportunity to register to vote online. The information will be transmitted to New Mexico county clerks electronically, eliminating delays and improving the efficiency of the voter registration process. 

Secretary of State Dianna Duran says this is yet another part of the state’s modernization program, and continued efforts to make the entire voting and elections process more convenient for New Mexicans. 

All voters will be able to update their voter registration information online from their personal computers by mid-summer of next year, according to Duran.


Judge to decide Horse slaughterhouse fate

A New Mexico judge will decide Friday whether a Roswell company can move ahead with plans for slaughtering horses. 
State District Judge Matthew Wilson made the announcement after a hearing Monday on a request from Attorney General Gary King's office for a preliminary injunction against Valley Meat Co. King has filed a lawsuit alleging the company's operations would violate state environmental and food safety laws. 
The plant was blocked from opening last year after animal protection groups brought a federal lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture for issuing permits to Valley and two other companies, which would become the first domestic horse slaughtering plants in seven years. A federal judge threw out that lawsuit.
 King filed the state case after a federal appeals court declined to keep the plants shuttered.


Details emerge in Roswell school shooting

Officials and witnesses say a 12-year-old boy drew a shotgun from a band-instrument case and shot and wounded two classmates at his New Mexico middle school before a teacher talked him into dropping the weapon. 
A boy was critically injured and a girl was in satisfactory condition following the shooting Tuesday morning at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell
Gov. Susana Martinez said the students were in the gym, where they typically hang out before classes start during cold and inclement weather. The 12-year-old pulled a shotgun and opened fire there at about 8 a.m. She said the boy quickly dropped the gun and surrendered when approached by the staff member. 
Superintendent Tom Burris said the school's faculty had participated in "active shooter" training, and they responded appropriately.


Swickard: Using guns to solve problems

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. We had another student bring a gun to school and used it this week. It is in the media with lurid descriptions yet something is missing. When a student brings a gun to school and uses it why did the student think using a gun would solve problems? 
     In this instance and to my way of thinking, in all other shootings it caused more problems that they could have imagined. But dozens of times each year in our public schools the same action is played out with often fatal results.
     So where did they get the notion using a gun would solve their problems? Did they learn it in school? Of course not, it is not part of the school curriculum. It is not modeled behavior by teachers to shoot problem students. 
     Yet, like it or not, students are bringing guns to school apparently with the belief that the guns will solve their problems. If they do not learn that notion in school, they must learn it somewhere else. Oh, I know, they learn it in their home.
     Most parents reject that premise. “I certainly don’t teach my children that shooting someone will solve problems.” But they do. The message is allowed to be transmitted repeatedly to their children. It is under their aegis that kids watch hour after hour of television and movies where the solution to problems is shoot someone. 
      The average school age student watches hundreds of “shootings to solve a problem” a week. Heroes as well as bad people, all larger than life, solve their problems with guns. I cannot think of a major movie star who has not shot someone on screen. How sad.
     The research strongly suggests watching television and movies influences kids. We know for certain that advertisers believe in this influence by the billions of dollars spent trying to amend the behavior of children in their buying habits. If the media can influence the clothes worn and the language used, it is one small step to influence the way that children solve problems.
     The responsibility to prevent this influence lies with the parents who must take the steps to protect their children from this proven influence. If they do not, they are guilty of child abuse. While it is passive, it is nonetheless abuse. These children are killing and being killed. Read full column


District Judge approves physician aid-in-dying

From KOB-TV.com - By: Elizabeth Reed, KOB.com - A district court judge ruled Monday that doctors will not be prosecuted for helping terminally ill patients end their lives.
     New Mexico is now the fifth state in the nation to allow physician aid-in-dying, which allows doctors to prescribe pills that would speed up and ease the dying process.
     The case was brought by a doctor and patient who sued the state for the right. Assisting with suicide is a fourth degree felony in the state, but an Albuquerque doctor argued that "physician aid-in-dying" is not the same thing as "assisted suicide."
     The state had previously argued in district court that a judge shouldn't be the one to legalize aid in dying. They said if anyone was going to change New Mexico's rules on the issue, it should be lawmakers. More

Lesser Prairie Chicken plan touted

From the Portales News-Tribune - By Christina Calloway - Several landowners said they left Thursday’s informational meeting about the Range-wide Conservation Plan for the lesser prairie chicken with more questions than answers. 
     The deadline is approaching for listing the rare grouse, native to New Mexico and four other states, as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. In conjunction with the deadline, meetings have been held around the state to inform landowners about insurance programs for farmers if the bird were to be listed.
     A listing decision will come from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal group which regulates the ESA. Opponents of a “threatened” listing say regulations from the listing could hinder operations for landowners as well as the oil and gas industry.
     The way the program would work, according to New Mexico Game and Fish Biologist Grant Beauprez, is that the energy industry would provide funding for the program, which would in turn be paid out to the farmers and also cover administration costs for the program.
     The voluntary program would pay farmers in the shinnery oak region of the lesser prairie chicken, which encompasses eastern New Mexico and west Texas, based on the quality of the land. The higher quality of habitat for the bird, the higher the payment a farmer would receive. More


Increase of flu cases spurs many to get shots

From KOB-TV.com - By: Nikki Ibarra, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - Doctors across the country are seeing more and more people coming in to get their flu shots, after reports of an uptick of cases and even deaths.
     A 76-year-old New Mexico woman has died from the flu, making it the first death of the flu season. For Roxanne Cabral, health is everything. When flu season came around, she made sure to take her 18-month-old twin daughters to get their flu shots. “It’s just horrible. It’s horrible to have the flu especially a little baby or a child,” said Cabral.
     Cabral said hearing about the increase in flu cases, like H1N1, had her worried. But doctors want people to know that there’s no need to panic. “The flu is the flu and different strains don’t necessarily make it more likely that you’re going to have a complication,” said Dr. Lance Wilson with ABQ Health Partners.
     Dr. Wilson said the current flu shot is the best way to keep yourself healthy, and that same shot protects you from H1N1. The New Mexico Department of Health told KOB Eyewitness News 4 there were 21 flu deaths last flu season. Flu season usually lasts from October to May .More

Four Corners looks at natural gas

One group in the Four Corners wants to bring compressed natural-gas stations to the area, but first they'll need support from local government.

 Four Corners Economic Development is looking into how successful compressed natural-gas stations would be in the four corners area. Farmington used to have one gas station that served eco-friendly cars. That station closed several years ago, but the Four Corners economic team hopes new technologies will create a high demand for this kind of station. 

Currently the development group is talking with several government officials in the area to see if using these stations would benefit them. 

The city of Farmington says they'd be interested in converting some of their vehicles to compressed natural gas if it's easily accessible.

Information from kob.com. 


State Fair revenue down

Attendance at the New Mexico State Fair was down and so was revenue. 
Unaudited figures provided by Expo New Mexico's chief financial officer indicate that revenues totaled $4.7 million during the Sept. 1-22 fair. 
According to the Abluquerque Journal,  that compares with $5.2 million during the 2012 fair. Year-to-year attendance dropped 4 percent. 
Fair manager Dan Mourning says the 2013 fair was hampered by record rainfall during the beginning of the 12-day run.


Gov. proposes 3% budget increase

Gov. Martinez
Gov. Susana Martinez is proposing a 3 percent spending increase on education and state government programs next year, but no across-the-board pay raise for public employees.
 The governor on Monday released the administration's budget recommendations for the upcoming legislative session. Martinez called for spending nearly $6.1 billion in the fiscal year starting in July, an increase of almost $179 million. The governor proposed a smaller budget increase than the Legislative Finance Committee, which recommended a 4.3 percent or nearly $254 million spending increase.
Martinez recommended $14 million for targeted pay raises covering almost a third of the state workforce, including state police and prison correctional officers. 
The LFC has proposed a 1.5 percent pay raise for all state and school workers, with higher increases for many employees.