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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

NM Legislative Land Grant Committee to Hold Public Meeting in Taos July 30-31

The legislative interim Land Grant Committee will meet in the Rio Grande Hall of the Taos Convention Center on July 30th and then tour the Cristobal de la Serna Land Grant on July 31st, according to a statement released by the NM House. The public is encouraged to attend.

“This is the first of our annual round of taking the Committee to the ‘home ground’ of our land grant communities for our interim meetings. During this meeting we will get a first-hand view of the issues our community land grants are facing in the region surrounding Taos. I am particularly looking forward to our tour of the Cristobal de la Serna Land Grant," said Representative Miguel P. Garcia (D-Bernalillo-14), Chair of the Committee.

"We will also be taking a look at how some of the legislation we passed during the last legislative session is being implemented and how that implementation is filtering down to the local community land grants. Some of that legislation dealt with tort liability coverage for community land grants as governmental entities, and also with tailoring the financial reporting required for governmental entities to smaller entities like community land grants," said Senator Richard C. Martinez (D-Los Alamos, Rio Arriba & Santa Fe-5), Vice-Chair of the Committee.

On Thursday, July 30th, the Committee will convene at 10:00 AM and will first hear from Darren Cordova, Mayor of Taos, Daniel R. Barone, Chair of the Taos County Commission and Representative Roberto "Bobby" J. Gonzales (D-Taos-42) or their representatives. At 10:30 AM, Joe Romero, President of the Cristobal de la Serna Land Grant will them provide the Committee with a history of that land grant and update them on the land grant’s current issues. At 11:15 AM the Committee will be briefed by Joanna Prukop, Secretary of Energy Minerals and Natural Resources on the Senate Bill 32 which provides tax credits for land conservation incentives and how the legislation can be applied to benefit community and grants.

After breaking for lunch, the Committee will reconvene at 1:30 PM when Al Duran, General Counsel of the General Services Department’s Risk Management Division (RMD), and Paula Ganz, RMD Staff Attorney, will address Senate Bill 59, which provides for land grant tort liability coverage under the state’s Tort Claims Act. At 2:30 PM, Evan Blackstone, General Counsel for the Office of the State Auditor, will brief the Committee on how the tiered financial reporting system provided for by Senate Bill 336 will be implemented.

At 3:15 PM, the Committee has invited the Rio Costilla Cooperative Livestock Association to report on its current operations and programs. At 4:00 PM the Committee will be briefed on the Arroyo Hondo Land Grant’s history and the current issues it faces. At 4:45 PM, the Committee will conclude its business for the day with a presentation by Juan Sanchez, President of the Chilili Land Grant on the status of the nominating process for creating a land grant council.

On Friday, July 31st beginning at 9:00 AM, the Committee will be taken on a tour of the Cristobal de la Serna Land Grant and the Arroyo Honda Land Grant and their facilities by officials and representatives of the two community land grants. The gathering place for the tour will be determined during the meeting of the preceding day.

July 28, 2009 at 01:54 PM in Events, Land Issues, Legal Issues, NM Legislature 2009, Taos | |

Quote of the Day on Baucus' Leaked Do-Nothing Health Care Reform Bill

"It's the day after the House Democratic Caucus meeting on health care, and early indications are that the meeting was overshadowed by the trial balloon from the Senate Finance Committee, offering up a "compromise" package, wherein Democrats agree to drop everything considered important in the bill, and Republicans agree not to actually pee on them while they accuse them of socialism. While it's still a trial balloon at this stage, and therefore it's perhaps not worth expending too much energy getting up in arms about it, trial balloons still need shooting down as a matter of routine. Otherwise, they just end up being, well... balloons, I guess."

--David Waldman, Congress Matters

Here's the leak of the corrupt, compromised "bi-partisan" trial balloon as reported at Senatus. No real public option -- fake co-op BS instead. No employer mandate/penalty to provide coverage so employers would naturally dump their workers' insurance coverage. Good job Senators Max Baucus, Kent Conrad, Jeff Bingaman, Olympia Snowe, Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi. You managed to take effective reform proposals and remove all the reform to make corporate-approved pablum.

Let's hope that Sen. Sherrod Brown is right about what the full Senate will do to ensure that the Senate Finance Commmittee's leaked proposal is sacked. Maybe the plan is to get a bill, any bill, past Baucus, the corporate shill who heads the powerful SFC. Then it can go to the floor where real Democrats can amend the hell out of it to create an effective bill that represents the will of the people. We'll see.

July 28, 2009 at 11:43 AM in Corporatism, Democratic Party, Healthcare, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Health Care Reform, Sen. Jeff Bingaman | |

2009 KIDS COUNT Shows Some Improvements in NM Child Well-Being

From New Mexico Voices for Children: New Mexico has moved up from last year's ranking of 48th in the nation for child well-being to 43rd. That's according to the 2009 KIDS COUNT Data Book, the newest edition of the annual state-by-state study on the health and welfare of America's youth. The data book, which is published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, was released today. It shows that New Mexico has also improved its ranking on six of the ten key indicators of child well-being since 2000.

Still, the report presents a mixed picture for our state's kids. New Mexico ranks among the bottom ten states on four of the ten key indicators used in the report: teen birth rate (ranking 49th among the states), children without secure parental employment (ranking 44th), child poverty rate (ranking 47th), and children living in single-parent families (ranking 48th).

Some of the most striking improvements are in New Mexico's infant mortality and teen dropout rates. "Our low infant mortality rate has long been the highlight in the KIDS COUNT data book," said Christine Hollis, KIDS COUNT program manager at New Mexico Voices for Children. New Mexico's infant mortality rate is lower than the national average, ranking us 14th in that indicator.

In addition, New Mexico's teen dropout rate has been cut in half since 2000, ranking New Mexico 36th nationally. KIDS COUNT defines this indicator as the percentage of 16- to 19-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and are not high school graduates. This definition may not track exactly with how New Mexico’s Public Education Department determines dropout rates, however.

"The expansion of our investment in Medicaid and education, especially Pre-K and K-12, during the Richardson/Denish administration is starting to pay off," Eric Griego, Executive Director of NM Voices said. "However, more investment is still needed to move these numbers further, particularly given the current economic downturn."

The 2009 KIDS COUNT report contains the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data available – most of it from 2006-07 – which do not reflect the effects of the current recession.

NM Voices, the Annie E. Casey KIDS COUNT state affiliate, has prepared a supplement to the Data Book, available at www.nmvoices.org/kidscount.htm showing more clearly New Mexico's ranking on each of the ten measures, what the state would need to do to gain a national ranking of #1, and policy efforts that could help move New Mexico in this direction. A link to the national data book can also be found there.

Nationally, the data book shows large disparities for children based on race or ethnicity, which may impact New Mexico's ranking.

"Because New Mexico is a minority-majority state, we are concerned that the report shows that, on several measures, Hispanic child well-being is worse than child well-being in the US as a whole," said Hollis. Hispanic teens, for example, have the highest teen birth rate nationally (83 births per 1000 females ages 15-19, compared to the overall teen birth rate of 42 per 1000), and more than one-third of the country's Hispanic children live in single-parent families.

"New Mexico also has the second highest percentage of Native-Americans, and the indicators for Native-American children are dismal," Hollis added. Nationally, Native Americans have the highest teen death rate (95 deaths per 100,000 teens ages 15-19, as opposed to the national average of 64/100,000), and more than half (52 percent) of Native-American children live in families where no parent has full-time, secure employment, versus 33 percent of US children overall.

This year's report marks two decades of KIDS COUNT data collection and includes an essay that takes stock of how much progress the country as a whole has made in collecting data that can help move public policies that improve children's well-being.

In the 20 years of data books, New Mexico has always ranked in the bottom ten among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. We hit our highest overall ranking of 40th in 1995. Our lowest ranking of 48th dogged us for five years in 1999, 2001, 2004, 2006, and 2008.

This year's Data Book is complemented by the launch of an expanded web-based KIDS COUNT Data Center containing multiple measures of child well-being that include information on national, state, county and metropolitan levels. Information specific to New Mexico is found at http://datacenter.kidscount.org/nm.

July 28, 2009 at 10:23 AM in Children and Families, Education, Healthcare, Minority Issues, Poverty, Public Policy, Youth | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 5: Candidate Forum for ABQ City Council Districts 1, 3, 5

From the West Side Coalition of Neighborhood Associations (WSCNA): The WSCNA will host a Candidates’ Forum for City Council Districts 1, 3 and 5 (district map) on Wednesday, August 5, from 6:30 – 8:45 PM. The Forum will be held at the Don Newton Taylor Ranch Community Center located at 4900 Kachina NW in Albuquerque (map).

WSCNA is a group of recognized neighborhood associations on Albuquerque’s West Side that often work together toward common goals. Our community members are extremely active and our events are always well attended.

The Forum will be moderated by KOAT Anchor Weatherman Joe Diaz, who will ask the candidates questions generated by members of WSCNA that represent issues important to West Side communities. All six candidates are expected to attend. Everyone is welcome to attend the WSCNA Candidates’ Forum.

The candidates are:

  • District 1: Ken Sanchez (incumbent)
  • District 3: Isaac Benton (incumbent), Alan Armijo
  • District 5: Michael Cadigan (incumbent), Dan Lewis, Jeremy Toulouse

July 28, 2009 at 08:30 AM in 2009 Albuquerque City Council Races, Events | |

Monday, July 27, 2009

Howard Dean to Guest Host Countdown Tuesday & Wednesday

HowardeanAccording to Media Bistro, former Vermont Governor and DNC Chairman Howard Dean, who spends part of his time back at Democracy for America, will be guest hosting MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann this Tuesday and Wednesday. My guess would be that Dr. Dean will be covering a lot of ground on the health care reform debate -- and it won't be from the Blue Dog Dem, corporatist point of view. Tune in to Albuquerque Comcast Cable channel 30 at 6, 8 and 11 PM.

To learn more about where Howard is coming from on health care reform -- to which he's been dedicated for 30 years -- check out this interview conducted by Time magazine and this interview by Esquire. Also see his new book on the topic.

July 27, 2009 at 05:37 PM in DFA, Healthcare, Media, Obama Health Care Reform | |

NM Leaders to Join Senators, Governors, at Project New West Summit in August

In American politics and policy today, all roads lead West. In just eight short years, the Intermountain West went from being a reliably Republican stronghold to the center of the American political landscape. This dramatic political transformation is evident in New Mexico, where Barack Obama more than doubled Al Gore’s margin of victory and Democrats took control of the entire congressional delegation.

Next month, Project New West, a leading authority on the values, issues, and demographics that define America’s "New West," is bringing together the region’s top national and local elected officials, strategists, and organizers to offer the strategic roadmap to understand the "New West." The 2009 Western Summit -- A Road Map for the New West for the New Decade -- will feature a wide-array of Western notables who will help participants to understand who and what define the New West.

The New West Summit is set for Wednesday, August 12, through Friday, August 14, at the Colorado History Museum in downtown Denver.

Key New Mexico leaders, such as U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, U.S. Congressman Ben R. Luján, Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish, and State Auditor Hector Balderas will join Robert Redford and Western leaders from across the New West region including: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, U.S. Congressman Walt Minnick of Idaho, Colorado State Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll, Utah Senate Minority Leader Patricia Jones, Chairman of the Coeur D’Alene Tribe Chief J. Allan, and Arizona State Rep. & Asst. Leader to the Democratic Caucus Kyrsten Sinema to discuss progressives’ success in the region and the challenges ahead.

The Summit will also cover a broad array of political and policy issues facing New Mexico and the region. Top strategists will discuss the region’s political trends and help participants craft smart strategies for maximizing success in the unique political environment of the New West, according to a press release from the organization. Experts will address policy challenges like water, clean energy, and smart growth that define the Western political landscape. Key organizational leaders will discuss the challenges and opportunities ahead and strategies for meeting them.

The Keynote Luncheon will feature A Conversation with Robert Redford and U.S. Senator Tom Udall, a discussion about the West and the future of the West with two of the nation’s leading conservationists. The opening session will feature Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who will provide and over-arching introduction to the Summit and Project new West, with an historical, demographic and political look at the West. Other sessions will focus on Hispanics and the New West, the New Energy Economy, Western Challenges and Opportunities and Coalitions in the West.

Join hundreds of key stakeholders from the “New West” and peers from across the nation for two days of western-style fun, analysis, discussion, and networking. Click for a glimpse of the program. Space is limited, so register now. Or call Project New West at 303.405.8502 for details.

July 27, 2009 at 09:37 AM in Current Affairs, Energy, Environment, Events, Green Economy, Land Issues, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, Minority Issues, Native Americans, NM Congressional Delegation, Polling, Progressivism, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, Rural Issues, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sarah Palin: I Feel Quitty

Yes, it's Monday again and there's another long work week ahead for most of us. With so many serious and complicated issues bouncing around in our heads, I thought we could use something more light hearted to start off the week. Sarah Palin, who is now officially the former governor of Alaska, is happy to oblige. (h/t bg)

July 27, 2009 at 09:02 AM in Humor, Music, Republican Party | |

Friday, July 24, 2009

Progressive Caucus Leaders Complain About Watering Down of Public Option; Latest on Lujan and Heinrich

The word progressive can mean a lot of things in today's parlance. Many politicos like to portray themselves as progressives but when push comes to shove -- as it has with federal health care reform legislation -- some have a tendency to backtrack into supporting some decidedly unprogressive provisions. As too many Dems get caught up in the Blue Dog version of fiscal responsibility -- no tax hikes for our richest 1 percent, no meaningful cost-reductions being demanded of drug companies or for-profit insurers, a push to cut services for Medicare and Medicaid patients and payments to providers -- there are some real progressive Dems trying to hold the line.

Read this letter sent today to Speaker Nancy Pelosi from Representatives Lynn Woosley, Raul Grijalva, Jan Schakoswky, Dennis Kucinich, Jerold Nadler, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Donna Edwards and Jim McDermott on behalf of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. It says they won't tolerate further weakening of the public option, and that they're getting very worried about the impact of "cost-cutting" proposals on "seniors, people with disabilities, doctors and hospitals." Notice they did not say they were concerned that the wealthiest individuals in our nation, who have benefited hugely from Bush-era tax policies, might have to pay what amounts to a small increase in taxes to help pay for health care reform.

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03)
Rep. Lujan is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, as well as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Previous informal whip counts had him listed as pledged to vote no on any reform bill that lacked a public option that met certain criteria. Now it appears he may be wavering a bit. See New Mexico FBIHOP's today for a video and quote from Lujan's office that shed some doubt on the firmness of his stance.

Rep. Lujan also recently signed a letter originated by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) that claims a proposed surcharge on individuals (and some small businesses) earning more than $250,000 would negatively impact small businesses.

When I contacted Mark Nicastre at Rep. Lujan's office, he provided the following explanation of Lujan's support for the Polis letter:

Rep. Luján was concerned about any possible unintended consequences affecting the very small businesses that the health care reform plan is trying to help. He has proposed that any costs should be spread out more evenly among corporations and big businesses -- and is working to ensure that the surcharge affects the least number of smaller businesses.

In a quote in today's Albuquerque Journal, Rep. Lujan "agreed that cost savings should be a priority, but he said the surtax proposal is not necessarily a bad one."

"This surcharge associated with reforming health care would only apply to those that are earning the highest 1 or 1.2 percent," he said. "I'm sure there would be some households (in New Mexico) that would be affected, but they are also households that benefited from the Bush tax cuts."

Lujan seems more enthusiastic about the surcharge idea now that Speaker Pelosi has informally agreed that it wouldn't kick in until individual earnings reach $1 million, instead of the $250,000 per year threshold that was previously being discussed.

Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01)
Rep. Martin Heinrich, who is NOT a member of the Progressive Caucus, seems to be portraying himself as a kind of "New Democrat" these days. Heinrich has been mostly silent on health care reform, and vague when he has issued a statement or spoken about the issue. Here's what Heinrich said, in part, in a recent interview clip on KOB:

Congressman Martin Heinrich says he's not happy about a potential tax hike.

"I think we have to be committed to providing health care reform this year to stabilize a very problematic system, but it's still a work in progress and I think we need to reduce costs before considering other options," he said.

Heinrich was a bit more forthcoming in a quote in today's Journal, although he mainly stuck to the topic of cutting costs:

Heinrich said there are "a lot of good things in the House bill," including the public option proposal and efforts to address regional disparities in the quality and delivery of health care. The congressman said less than 1 percent of New Mexicans would be affected by the surtax proposal because of the state's relatively low income levels, but that doesn't mean he will support it.

"I think we owe it to the public to pay for as much of this with savings before we go to (more spending)," Heinrich said.

Heinrich said he and other House members are "pushing hard" on Democratic leaders to force health care providers to cut back on the overuse of expensive "unnecessary procedures" such as magnetic resonance imaging and CT scans.

"We have this whole model that works on volume: The more people (doctors) see the more procedures they prescribe, the more they get paid," Heinrich said. "If we can squeeze those savings out of the system then that's money we don't have to raise some other way and it makes the whole system sustainable."

Failure to Disclose
There's a somewhat disturbing aspect to Rep. Heinrich's communications on health care reform revealed in another article in today's Journal that inexplicably isn't on their website. The piece discusses the calls, letters and emails four of the five members of the NM Congressional delegation are receiving on the health care issue (most are pro-reform). Oddly, Rep. Heinrich's office declined to participate:

"Rep. Martin Heinrich's office refused to release any information about the nature of his constituent calls and e-mails on health care. He also declined the Journal's request for an interview on the status of the legislation in the House, and instead issued a statement saying that he's met with health care consumers, providers, seniors and others to gather input.

What's up with that? You'd think every Dem member of Congress would want to get into the media as much as possible discussing their positions on the health care reform the nation needs so badly, and which is one of the Party's core platform planks. I don't think I've ever encountered a politico who'd turn down free newspaper time to discuss what's on his or her mind. I guess there's always a first time.

July 24, 2009 at 06:44 PM in Democratic Party, Healthcare, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Health Care Reform, Progressivism, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) | |

Meet Lt. Gov. Denish at Saturday's DPBC Pancakes & Politics at Nick's

DianeDenish1300

From the Democratic Party of Bernalillo County: This Saturday's Pancakes & Politics, hosted by the DPBC, has been moved from the Plumbers & Pipefitters Hall to Nick's Crossroads Cafe at 4th & Central in downtown Albuquerque. The time (8:30 AM), date (July 25th), donation ($10.00/person) and special guest (Lt. Governor Diane Denish) all remain the same. All are welcome!

July 24, 2009 at 02:30 PM in 2010 NM Governor's Race, Democratic Party, Events, Local Politics, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish | |

Eight NM Democratic Legislators Receive Friend of Education Award

Democrats are all about supporting education. So it's no surprise that eight Democratic members of the New Mexico Legislature were honored today with the Earl Nunn Memorial Recognition for Friends of Education from the NM Coalition of School Administrators.

The representatives received the awards at the closing luncheon today at the Coalition's conference, "Leadership: The Path to Student Success." The award is named after Earl Nunn who was a former superintendent and founding father of the Coalition of School Administrators.

"In these tough economic times, the Democratic legislators honored today worked hard during the legislative session to make sure that our schools have the resources they need to prepare our children for the future," said Democratic Party Chairman Brian S. Colón in a statement released today. "I am pleased to see these eight champions in education honored by such a great organization."

The legislators awarded the honor are:

July 24, 2009 at 01:39 PM in Democratic Party, Education, NM Legislature 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1)

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