When All of the Above Has Nothing Above the Neckline

Commentary by Marita Noon - The State of The Union Address (SOTU) reminded me of the idiom, “on one hand, on the other hand.” On one hand, President Obama extoled efforts to increase fuel efficiency to “help America wean itself off foreign oil.” He touted the new reality of “more oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world, the first time that's happened in nearly twenty years.” On the other hand, he promised to use his “authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations”—which is code for more national monuments and endangered species designations that will lock up federal lands from productive use.
     Concern was expressed for Americans who “are working more than ever just to get by.” He wants to help Africans “double access to electricity and help end extreme poverty.” But his policies are limiting access to electricity in America and raising the cost (20% in the past 6 years). Higher-cost energy is the most punitive to those struggling “just to get by.” Read full column

Deadline looms for Gila River decision

New Mexico officials are facing a looming deadline on how to manage the state's last free-flowing river. 
The state has rights to some of the Gila River and one of its tributaries under a 2004 settlement with Arizona but must decide by the end of the year what to do with the water. 
If New Mexico doesn't use the water, it could forgo millions of dollars in federal funds available for construction of a diversion project. 
Environmentalists and sportsmen say any dams or diversions would harm the area's wildlife and limit opportunities for recreation. But farmers throughout the region say the Gila would offer a backup source of water as dry conditions persist. 
Two state senators have introduced legislation this session to try and address the dilemma.


Hispanic students in NM top AP exam ranks

Hispanic high school students in New Mexico have taken the top spot nationally in getting passing scores in Advanced Placement classes. 
Gov. Susana Martinez announced that a new report shows nearly half of Hispanic high school graduates in 2013 scored a three or higher on an AP exam. Martinez says 43 percent of the students achieved the score and it is the highest percentage nationwide. She says it is the second year in a row Hispanic students in the state taking at least one AP class have ranked No. 1. 
The state's low-income student population ranked second nationally for AP scores. The report shows almost half of those students who graduated in 2013 took an AP class and 40 percent of them got at least a passing score.


Health exchange enrollment drops in NM

New Mexico's state-run health insurance exchange has sharply reduced its enrollment expectations for this year by about half. 
Mike Nunez, interim chief executive officer of the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange, says problems with the federal healthcare.gov website slowed the state's efforts to promote enrollment. 
The state had expected up to 83,000 people to register this year, according to a 2011 study cited in an application for a grant under the Affordable Care Act. Nunez now estimates only between 40,000 and 50,000 will enroll. 
The exchange announced Thursday it was awarded a $69.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
 The first open-enrollment period for individual policies ends March 31.