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Thursday, March 31, 2011

(Updated) ABQ Mayor Berry's Administration Misses Public Records Inspection Deadline

Update: In response to reports that the City of Albuquerque claims it mailed the documents in question to the Democratic Party of New Mexico (DPNM) on March 9, the Party issued a statement saying it "never received nor has seen these documents" and that "it is curious that these documents have appeared after the Party publicly asked for them.”
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The administration of Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry blew a key 15-day deadline yesterday by not responding to an inspection of public records request from the Democratic Party of New Mexico. The DPNM is seeking to learn whether key Berry staffers took leave to attend a Heather Wilson political announcement.

The IPRA was filed March 8th, with conformation of the request on March 9th. The 15-day response deadline was Wednesday, March 30. Click for the IPRA request and related correspondence with the Berry administration (pdf).

"This should be an easy one," said DPNM Chairman Javier Gonzales. "Taxpayers have a right to know whether their public servants are attending a political event on the taxpayers' dime. It should not take more than 15 days to provide this information."

"The people of Albuquerque expect and deserve a city government that is accountable and transparent. Mayor Berry got elected promising an open government, but he has failed in this case," Gonzales said.

March 31, 2011 at 04:45 PM in City of Albuquerque, Democratic Party, Heather Wilson, Transparency | Permalink | Comments (2)

Prosperity Works Joins National Effort to Oppose Federal Budget Cuts

As Congress works to meet the April 8 deadline for a final budget deal for the fiscal year 2011, Prosperity Works will join direct service providers and advocates from around the country in Washington, DC to warn Congress about the impact of cuts that threaten economic security for families and elders. The groups will meet with Representatives Heinrich, Lujan and Pierce as part of a three-day organizing meeting hosted by Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) -- a national organization that works to achieve economic independence for families.  

During the meeting, groups will also discuss a new report and measure for family economic security. The national Basic Economic Security Tables (BEST), to be released during the meeting, calculates the monthly income necessary for families to cover their basic expenses, including child care, housing, health care, and transportation, and prepare for the future, including saving for emergencies, home ownership, education and retirement. The report will provide new details on the role public programs for housing, child care and health care play in helping families make ends meet.  

“The House budget will hurt job growth and weaken the already tenuous ability of thousands of New Mexican families and seniors to make ends meet,” said Ona Porter, President and CEO of Prosperity Works. “Cutting off the very programs that are helping families and seniors stay afloat is a short-sighted move that will stall our economic recovery as well as jeopardize the well being of families .

Leading economists are projecting a loss of 700,000 jobs nationwide if the most recent House spending bill for fiscal year 2011 (HR1) is enacted. The bill includes $61 billion in cuts, including billions of dollars in cuts to job training, education, elder assistance programs, such as:

  • $3.8 billion in cuts to Workforce Investment Act training programs, which have served 8 million people and place more than half of them in jobs in the past year;

  • Cuts to Head Start, special education (IDEA) and schools in low-income communities, which derail education programs and eliminate an estimated 72,000 jobs; 

  • 44 percent cut to the Community Services Block Grant program, which provides nutrition, employment, health and other necessary services to over 20 million low-income people, including 5 million children, 2.3 million seniors and 1.7 million people with disabilities through 1,065 community action agencies nationwide;

  • Cuts to Low-Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which millions of families depend on to stay warm in winter;

  • 67 percent cut to the Section 202 senior housing program, which already has a two-year waiting list for seniors in need of affordable housing.  

“Job training programs are helping get millions of Americans back to work, and housing, heating and food assistance programs are helping support the millions more who have not been able to find a new jobs,” said Ona Porter. “We need Congress to focus on a budget solution that helps grow, not undercut the middle class.”

March 31, 2011 at 03:38 PM in Children and Families, Economy, Populism, Education, Healthcare, Housing, Jobs, NM Congressional Delegation, Senior Citizens, Women's Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

More Trouble for SOS Dianna Duran? AG Office Disagrees With Her Opinion on Susana Martinez Radio Ads

DiannaDuran SusanaMartinez
Dianna Duran, Susana Martinez

Uh oh -- another incident questioning the judgment of New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran came to light today via Attorney General Gary King's office. Close on the heels of today's call for Duran to immediately resign her post due to racist "humor" contained on an official document issued by her office, it was revealed that AG's office issued a letter disagreeing with Duran's decision that anti-immigrant radio ads paid for by Gov. Susana Martinez's campaign office were a proper use of the funds.

According to a story by Steve Terrell in today's Santa Fe New Mexican, the AG's office said yesterday that "Gov. Susana Martinez's campaign committee might have violated campaign laws by spending money on radio ads in support of a bill to prohibit driver's licenses for illegal immigrants."

In a letter to Secretary of State Dianna Duran, Albert Lama, deputy attorney general, said Duran's office should reconsider its decision that the Martinez ads were not in violation of the Campaign Reporting Act. 

"Although you did not seek our advice in this matter, we are concerned that your interpretation of the Campaign Reporting Act is unnecessarily broad and may open the door to use of campaign contributions contrary to the Legislature's intent," Lama wrote. 

At Issue
Last month, both Somos Un Pueblo Unido and Common Cause New Mexico raised serious questions about the use of Martinez's campaign fund for the ads, contending that the governor violated campaign finance laws by tapping into the fund after her campaign had ended. Somos Un Pueblo Unido filed a formal complaint about the funding with Duran's office. Duran later said the use of the funds was proper, although she failed to consult with the Attorney General's office before issuing her decision letter.

On March 3, Duran wrote Somos, saying, "Susana Martinez meets the definition of a 'candidate' who has authorized her campaign committee to make expenditures for the purpose of seeking future election to office. ... I have no reasonable belief that Susana Martinez for Governor Committee committed any violation of the Campaign Reporting Act, and I do not intend to refer this matter to the Attorney General or a District Attorney." 

Martinez's campaign committee spent $5,648 in February on radio ads that urged listeners to contact legislators and tell them to support bills aimed at repealing the issuance of driver's licenses to undocumented people and foreign nationals. Despite a big push from the Martinez administration -- and her staffers videoing debates on the issue in an apparent attempt to gather footage that could be used against Democrats in the 2012 election -- repeal of the law failed

Lama and Martinez Campaign Disagree
In yesterday's letter to Duran:

... Lama argued that the act requires campaign money to be spent on campaign-related expenses. "Based on the information available to us at this time, the content of the radio ads does not obviously relate to a campaign or suggest that the purpose of the ads is to elect Gov. Martinez to office," he wrote. "The circumstances and the timing of the ads also are not consistent with an election campaign," he said, noting that the next gubernatorial election is in 2014."

Instead, the radio ads seek to influence the Legislature's decision regarding laws that make driver's licenses available to illegal immigrants," Lama wrote. "In effect the committee is using campaign contributions to lobby the Legislature on an issue that is important to the governor and her administration." 

Lama said the act "clearly distinguishes" campaign expenses from an elected official using money in promoting positions they take while in office or trying to influence the Legislature. 

In a response to Lama's letter, a spokesman for the Martinez campaign said Duran's decision on the funding was the right one because the governor was merely exercising her First Amendment rights with the ads.

"Just like other groups and political parties that aired ads during the session, the governor has a First Amendment right to promote ideas and issues, including her desire to ban driver's licenses for illegal immigrants," Danny Diaz said. "The secretary of state has ruled this was perfectly fine, which is consistent not only with common practice, but more importantly, with the opinion of the United States Supreme Court."

He was referring to a 1976 case, Buckley v. Valeo, which, among other things, struck down limits on campaign expenditures in federal law.

What Does the Law Say?
Click to see the provisions (pdf) of New Mexico’s Campaign Reporting Act describing the lawful uses of a candidate’s campaign funds.

As Somos Un Pueblo Unidos pointed out in their complaint to Duran's office:

"(The act) allows such funds to be used only for the payment of campaign debts, donations to charities or the state's general fund, contributions to other candidates or political parties and refunds to the contributors."

Is Dianna Duran just misinterpreting the law, or is this another example of Martinez and her right-wingers putting politics above ethical practices and the law? Seems pretty clear to me that campaign funds are supposed to be used for campaign activities -- not for lobbying the legislature. What do you think?

March 31, 2011 at 02:53 PM in Dianna Duran, Ethics & Campaign Reform, Hispanic Issues, Immigration, Legal Issues, NM Legislature 2011, Political Ads, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (5)

(Updates) New Mexico PAC Calls for Immediate Resignation of SOS Dianna Duran for Racist "Humor"

Update 2: The AP reports that SOS Dianna Duran has placed a state employee who works in her office on leave in response to this controversy, and has issued a statement saying the racist "humor" was "deeply offensive" toward two African-American legislators. Duran also said she "will not tolerate any form of racism or bigotry." Still unanswered are the questions of why a staffer in Duran's office would feel comfortable putting demeaning language on a state form, and why nobody caught it before it was posted online and sent out in the mail to political action committees around the state.
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Update 1: Since I published this post, the Secretary of State's website has taken down the offending spreadsheet. Here is a pdf of the original document that resided on the site, as noted below.
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DiannaDuran Is this Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran's macaca moment? 

Today, the New Mexico-based Justice League PAC called for the immediate resignation of Secretary of State Dianna Duran for racist jokes aimed at two African-American legislators in her political reporting form required of all New Mexico political committees.

The Justice League PAC says it received a packet in the mail yesterday from Duran’s office with instructions for filing the bi-annual campaign report for state political committees, due April 11, 2011. The packet contained instructions to download an Excel spreadsheet from the Secretary of State’s website (http://www.sos.state.nm.us/sos-pacs.html then click “2011 PAC Filing Form for April 11, 2011 Report”).

The Excel spreadsheet (xls) contains the following racist language in the “Monetary Contrubutions” (sic) tab, targeting African-American state legislators Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton (D-Albuquerque 19) and Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert (R-Albuquerque 44):

ORGANIZATION NAME

LAST NAME

FIRST NAME

ADDRESS

National Organization of the Beer Drinkers and Guzzlers

Sheryl Powdrell-Culbertson

JeffersonDavis

246678 North
General
Dwight D.
Eisenhower
Boulevard
Northeast

“Sheryl Powdrell-Culbertson” is obviously a merger of the names of the aforementioned African-American legislators and “JeffersonDavis” was the President of the Confederated States of America.

Commenting on the insulting characterizations and languge in the spreadsheet, Justice League PAC Treasurer Eli Il Yong Lee said, “I was shocked when I downloaded Secretary Duran’s spreadsheet this morning to find such racist comments on a State document. Secretary Duran should be ashamed of herself. We expect more from elected officials. There is no place for racism in New Mexico, much less in a state office. She should resign immediately.”

An Emerging Pattern of Wedge-Issue Bigotry?
We're in only the third month of Secretary of State Duran's first term and she has already been heavily criticized and challenged on her announcement late in the just-ended legislative session that she had started comparing driver's license lists provided by Gov. Susana Martinez with voter rolls, and claimed she had already found examples of possible voter fraud by undocumented immigrants. Nothing to back up that claim, of course, but it served to once again call attention to the immigrant wedge issue and another right-wing favorite, "voter fraud" -- both of which have been used extensively during the campaigns of Duran and Gov. Susana Martinez and beyond.

Duran's unsubstantiated claims even prompted the ACLU NM to file a massive document request so they can investigate what's really going on related to Duran's statements. The Bernalillo County Clerk's office filed a similar document request. 

By emphasizing hot-button ethnic-racial and immigrant issues like driver's licenses for foreign nationals, the targeting of immigrants by law enforcement and immigrant "voter fraud," the Martinez administration, Republicans in the legislature and the Secretary of State's office have clearly helped to create a racially and ethnically charged negative atmosphere in the state. Local right-wing radio talk shows have featured invective-filled "discussions" about immigrants, Democratic lawmakers have reported receiving large numbers of phone and email messages containing hate speech and threats in response to their refusal to support the repeal of driver's licenses for foreign nationals -- and now this. 

Clearly, at least some of the staff in the Secretary of State's office have picked up on the atmosphere of bigotry unleashed in New Mexico by the political maneuvering of Dianna Duran herself and other right-wing politicos, and thought it was funny -- and acceptable -- to inject racial insults into an official document issued by the office. Especially in a multi-ethnic state like New Mexico, it's horrible to encounter something this offensive and unconscionable emerging from a government office. 

Call for Duran's Resignation
I believe all New Mexicans of conscience should join in the call for Dianna Duran to immediately tender her resignation and apologize for the racism contained in the spreadsheet. New Mexicans should not be expected to tolerate this "macaca moment" -- or the hateful atmosphere that evidently produced it. This is not Arizona and we cannot permit our state to become another outlet for the kind of wedge-issue hate offensives typified by the Republicans who are in power in our neighboring state to the west. We have to nip it in the bud right now.

Take Action: Call the Secretary of State's office at 505-827-3600 and the Governor's office at 505-476-2200 and demand that Dianna Duran immediately resign her post due to the racist material released by her office.

The Justice League PAC is a statewide political committee and was formed by Neri Holguin, Sandra Wechsler, Eli Il Yong Lee, Keegan King and Antionette Tellez-Humble, who have years of experience in New Mexico politics and issues. For more information, please go to www.justiceleaguepac.com.

March 31, 2011 at 12:34 PM in Dianna Duran, Hispanic Issues, Immigration, Minority Issues, NM Legislature 2011, NM Secretary of State, Racial Minorities, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (8)

4/2: César Chávez Day March and Festival in ABQ with Honored Guest Dolores Huerta

From the Recuerda a César Chávez Committee (RCCC):

César Chávez Day
MARCH & FESTIVAL
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Honored Guest
DOLORES HUERTA
Co-founder of United Farm Workers

11 AM March begins
National Hispanic Cultural Center
(4th St. at Avenida César Chávez SW)
(Bring your signs and banners!)

Noon – 3 PM FESTIVAL
National Hispanic Cultural Center
Kids’ activities, cultural performances, food, community exhibits
FREE CONCERT BY:
CULTURA FUERTE, EN-JOY & ANTONIO REYNA
Click for Flyer (pdf)

For more information: e-mail rcccabq@gmail.com, visit www.cesarchaveznm.org or call 246-2261

Co-sponsored by the Recuerda a César Chávez Committee, City of Albuquerque, County of Bernalillo, National Hispanic Cultural Center, McCune Charitable Foundation, NM Commission for Community Volunteerism, Center of Southwest Culture, and NM Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO

See below for the Spanish language version:

Día de César Chávez
MARCHA Y FESTIVAL
Sábado, 2 de abril, 2011
Invitada de Honor:
DOLORES HUERTA
Co-fundador de United Farm Workers

11:00 AM Empieza la Marcha
el Centro Nacional de la Cultura Hispana
(Calle 4ª y Avenida César Chávez suroeste)
¡Traiga sus Pancartas!

Mediodía – 3:00 PM FESTIVAL
el Centro Nacional de la Cultura Hispana
Festival con actividades para niños, comida, actuaciones cultural, y exhibiciones
CONCIERTO GRATIS CON:
CULTURA FUERTE, EN-JOY, Y ANTONIO REYNA

Para recibir más información: www.cesarchaveznm.org, rcccabq@gmail.com, o llama 246-2261

Co-sponsored by the Recuerda a César Chávez Committee, City of Albuquerque, County of Bernalillo, National Hispanic Cultural Center, McCune Charitable Foundation, NM Commission for Community Volunteerism, Center of Southwest Culture, and NM Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO

March 31, 2011 at 11:05 AM in Civil Liberties, Events, Hispanic Issues, History, Holidays, Labor, Minority Issues | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sen. Tim Keller to Gov. Martinez: Your Turn to Finish Reforming State Investment Council, Then Step Out

TimKeller This is a guest blog by New Mexico State Senator Tim Keller (D-Albuquerque 17), who represents Albuquerque’s East Central Gateway and the International District.

In the recently completed 2011 legislative session, Senate Bill 17 (Keller, D-Bernalillo, and Neville, R-Aztec), a bill designed to complete State Investment Council (SIC) reforms by removing the governor as chairperson, passed with wide bipartisan support. It now sits on Governor Susana Martinez's desk waiting to be signed. 

Senate Bill 17 was carefully crafted in the interim by the bipartisan Investments Oversight Committee, long before the recent gubernatorial election. It is composed of original sections from a similar 2010 bill, including sections to ensure minority party legislative appointments. It now also includes an amendment that allows the governor to serve for two more years in the chairperson role before the position is removed altogether. Signing SB 17 provides our new governor with an appropriate chance to oversee a transition and recovery of lost funds -- and then to turn over the reins at the SIC. 

In 2010, the legislature passed landmark reforms of the SIC (Senate Bill 18) in response to conflicts of interest, legal investigations and governance challenges at the SIC. These reforms reflected multiple governance recommendations from the 2010 interim, independent, bipartisan Enis Knupp Report. The reforms achieved by SB 18 included: making the State Investment Officer serve the SIC rather than being personally appointed by the governor, requiring 10 years of investment expertise for all appointed board members and diffusing the influence of any single individual by moving four appointments out of the Executive Branch.  

Knupp Report's Top Recommendation
All of these changes have been important in reforming the SIC. However, the top recommendation of the Enis Knupp Report was to remove the governor as chairperson of the SIC. While this was included in the original 2010 SB 18, the provision removing the governor was stripped out in the final hours of the session to enable the other reforms to move forward.

Regardless of who is serving as governor, a change in who serves as SIC chairperson is critical to eliminate conflicts of interest, as well as the potential for pay-to-play and favoritism, and to maintain the appropriate level of fiduciary responsibility and expertise.

New Mexico is the only state in the country where the governor is personally in charge of similar permanent fund oversight. 

We expect our governor to lead the state and appoint and hire staff to implement the vision they were elected to deliver. We do not, however, expect him or her to have the expertise or direct responsibility for approving the buying and selling of billions of dollars in stocks, bonds and alternative investments with our children’s endowments. This is precisely why the SIC was set up as quasi-independent government institution in the first place.

Finance, Not Politics
Governance best practices suggest that the SIC should internally elect a chairman who is not an elected official -- a choice based on merit, sound judgment, integrity and expertise that the fiduciary nature of the position warrants. The bottom line is that it is best to base our state’s financial investments on the principles of finance, not politics.

New Mexico needs our new governor to finish the job of reform at the SIC, and then put the long-term governance of the SIC above executive office authority. It takes real leadership to reduce one’s own direct power and influence.

Voters sent Susanna Martinez to the governor’s office to put what is right over what is personally beneficial. It is now up to her to seize the opportunity to protect our state’s financial future and put our SIC on sure footing for generations to come. It is precisely the kind of bold change and deviation from the status quo that our state will be proud to celebrate with her signature of Senate Bill 17.

This is a guest blog by Senator Tim Keller. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

Take Action: Contact Governor Martinez and urge her to keep her campaign promises and sign SB 17.

March 30, 2011 at 12:49 PM in Ethics & Campaign Reform, Finance, Investments, Guest Blogger, NM Legislature 2011, Susana Martinez | Permalink | Comments (2)

Enlace Communitario Video: Anti-Immigrant Policies Hurt Women, Families

Enlace Communitario, an Albuquerque-based non-profit social justice organization, has developed the video above in response to the harsh, anti-immigrant sentiment that is influencing our lawmakers to create unnecessary links between law enforcement and immigration enforcement. The organization says this approach is creating significant barriers for domestic violence victims and their children.

Recent policies by state and municipal governments in New Mexico have sought to blur the lines between police and immigration enforcement. The unnoticed consequence of this has been that immigrant domestic violence victims have become fearful of law enforcement, making all of our communities less safe. Enlace Communitario says its video is designed to raise awareness of how these policies are working against these innocent women and their children.

Take Action: What can we do to help? First watch the video. Then visit the Enlace Communitario website to learn about simple, specific actions people can take to help create a more humane policy in the Southwest regarding immigrants -- especially those who are the most powerless.

March 30, 2011 at 11:21 AM in Children and Families, City of Albuquerque, Hispanic Issues, Immigration, Law Enforcement, NM Legislature 2011, Susana Martinez, Women's Issues | Permalink | Comments (1)

Young Women United: Urge Gov. Martinez to Change the Landscape with Treatment Not Incarceration

Wow04
Women in recovery share their stories with each other
and community members

This is a guest blog by Adriann Barboa and Micaela Cadena of Young Women United.

As people who work with young women in Albuquerque every day, we are intimately familiar with the landscape of addiction -- its twisting curves, jagged peaks, and endless valleys. In many ways, addiction is the white noise we hear at night, and the background music playing in our earphones by day. It is everywhere.

What does it mean to live in a state where you are more likely to be impacted by addiction than you are to earn a living wage or to graduate from college? It means that virtually every person we know who was born and raised here has a story to tell, about how substance use impacted their lives: their own struggles with drugs, or the struggles of their parents, siblings, partners and friends. Weekly, we hear stories of custody struggles, sexual violence, poverty, and death.  But we also hear stories of hope, healing, unity and recovery.

As the economic crisis digs in, day-to-day struggles are getting worse. Often exacerbated by other stresses, we know substance abuse is generational, contagious, and tenacious. Once it has taken root in a family, neighborhood or town it is hard to remove. But we also know that with quality treatment, it is possible to break free. 

Last week, the New Mexico legislature passed four bills that could expand access to substance use treatment. Taken together, Senate Bill 232, Senate Bill 321, Senate Bill 354, and Senate Bill 451 will dramatically improve the chances that a person struggling with addiction will be able to access treatment.

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Right now, in New Mexico, if you are a substance user and come into contact with the legal system, the only bed you are likely to get is in a jail cell. There is a lack of space in treatment centers, and no incentive, structure or support for judges to get you there. If you are pregnant or a mother, your chances of accessing quality treatment are even worse. Women who are pregnant and seeking help fear prosecution and often don’t reach out. Mothers know they run the risk of losing their children, and often try to get clean on their own, rarely succeeding. 

One woman who has thrived in recovery recently told us, “I was in and out of jail for years. I went into jail broken and lost, and came out of jail broken and lost. Finally, I went into treatment and now I feel whole. I can do better for myself, and I want better for myself.”

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Now is our chance. If Governor Susana Martinez signs these bills, she can save lives. By making quality treatment accessible, Governor Martinez can unclog the courts and make our communities more vibrant and beautiful. She can make real her promise of “bringing bold change and a brighter future to New Mexico families.”

Right now, sitting on Governor Martinez’s desk are four bills that would do that. Join us in urging her to sign, and help change our landscape.  

Adriann Barboa and Micaela Cadena lead Young Women United in Albuquerque, where they each live with their children. Both were born and raised in New Mexico.

If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

Photo credit: Young Women United.

March 30, 2011 at 12:10 AM in Crime, Drugs, Alcohol, Guest Blogger, Justice, NM Legislature 2011, Susana Martinez, Women's Issues | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New Radio Ad Urges Susana Martinez to Support Transparency in Health Insurance Rate Bill - You Can Too

Health Action New Mexico and Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, hit radio airwaves over the weekend with an ad encouraging New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez to sign SB 208, the health insurance rate review bill, sponsored by Sen. Dede Feldman (D-Albuquerque). The policy proposal, which received bi-partisan support during the recent legislative session, will create a more transparent and fair process for reviewing health insurance rate increase requests.  

The radio ad (mp3), airing on stations throughout Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Las Cruces, encourages New Mexicans to call the Governor and voice their support for the rate review bill. You can call Governor Martinez and do just that at 505.476.2200. She has until April 8 to take final action on the bill. 

Given Martinez's repeated claims that she is a strong backer of greater transparency in government, as well as in increased opportunities for citizens to weigh in on important issues, her support for this bill would seem like a no-brainer. Whether she signs this bill or not will tell us a lot about her level of honesty and commitment on the transparency issue. Will Susana walk the walk and not just talk the talk?

Specifically, the bill will provide: 

 ·      A stronger standard of review requiring that rates be actuarially sound, reasonable, and not excessive, inadequate or unfairly discriminatory. 

 ·      New criteria for evaluating whether rates are reasonable, including the company’s overall financial picture in New Mexico, compliance with the state’s new loss ratio standards, changes to benefits or plan design, and potential changes in the number of enrollees if the rates are approved. 

 ·      Stronger transparency for consumers to help them understand and consider rate hikes, including public disclosure on the New Mexico Insurance Division website of a plain language explanation of the reasons for a rate increase, how much of the premium has been spent on actual medical care for the prior three years, and company financial information, such as surplus and reserves. 

 ·      New avenues for consumers to participate in the rate review process, such as a 30-day public comment period on a proposed increase and a right to appeal a decision on rates.

·      New protections for consumers insured in individual market “closed blocks” – policies that are no longer being sold. Consumers in these policies are especially hard hit with high increases unless rate review requires broader risk spreading, as this bill would.

March 29, 2011 at 06:47 PM in Healthcare, NM Legislature 2011, Regulation, Susana Martinez, Transparency | Permalink | Comments (1)

UNM Professor Atkeson's Research Results in Election Improvements

Elections in New Mexico have been run with more security and fewer complications in recent years, according to UNM Political Science Professor Lonna Atkeson, as published in her recent report titled, “2010 New Mexico Election Adminis­tration Report” (pdf). The report, released last month, is the third in a series starting with the 2006 election cycle.

Atkeson, who is also a Regents Lecturer and director of the Center for Democracy, said, “The 2010 New Mexico Election Administration Report represents a systematic examination of New Mexico’s November 2010 General. Results from the study provide important feedback to on-going efforts at election reform in New Mexico.”

The most recent report was supported by the Bernalillo County Clerk, the University of New Mexico’s Center for Democ­racy, the College of Arts and Sciences and the New Mexico Secretary of State. Project partners include a number of county clerks including those in Bernalillo, San Juan, Doña Ana, Santa Fe, Lincoln and Curry counties.

“My office is proud to once again support this important work, which provides crucial data to my staff and me. This report will help inform important improvements for our election systems, training and preparations for the upcoming presidential election,” said Maggie Toulouse Oliver, Bernalillo County Clerk. “We value our partnership with Professor Atkeson and UNM and look forward to putting this report’s recommendations into action.”

Many involved in the 2010 research project had experience studying other elections across the United States, including Cal Tech Professor R. Michael Alvarez. Election monitoring team members for Election Day were selected from two of political science’s research design courses, the graduate level Introduction to Methods of Political Science Research and the undergraduate Research Methods class. The graduate students and faculty were paired with undergraduate stu­dents into 16 election-monitoring teams.

Atkeson and her lead research assistant, Alex Adams, directed the monitoring teams who visited multiple Bernalillo County voting locations and noted any problems the polling workers might have had setting up the location, any con­cerns of voters or workers during the day of the election and the procedures used to end voting and properly close down the voting location.

The report addresses many different voting issues such as varying the number of poll workers at each location to provid­ing additional staff at heavily trafficked voting locations, and the importance of poll worker training.

One important improvement Atkeson and her teams noted in the 2010 election was the use of “ballots on demand,” which Atkeson recommended in her 2008 report.

“In 2008, each early voting location had to have printed versions of all ballot styles on hand -- this was insecure, proce­durally complex and difficult to handle logistically. Ballot on demand for early voting is more secure, less complex, eas­ier procedurally, more environmentally friendly, more cost-effective and can be helpful when last-minute changes to bal­lots are necessary,” Atkeson said in the report.

Besides election monitoring the report also examines the attitudes and behaviors of poll workers and voters. For exam­ple, both voters and poll workers were asked about their attitudes toward vote centers. Vote centers are a polling place where any registered voter in the county may vote. The data show that both groups are largely ambivalent toward the introduction of vote centers in New Me ico and that after learning about both their positives and negatives, on average, increased their support for them.

This research project originally started in 2006 as three independent projects, but has become an important on-going tool to analyze the New Mexico election landscape. Since then an expanded project received funding from the Pew Charita­ble Trusts Center for the States in 2008, and from the Bernalillo County Clerk’s office in 2010. This continuation of research has allowed Atkeson and her researchers to provide systematic information about elections, what voters think about elections and how poll workers operate across the variety of counties in New Mexico.

“Thanks to feedback from regular voters, poll workers and local election administrators, this research has been very pro­ductive and helpful to New Mexico’s continued election reforms,” Atkeson said.

March 29, 2011 at 05:17 PM in Election Reform & Voting | Permalink | Comments (1)

4/5: Participate in Fight Back USA National and Local Teach-In and Webcast

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From Teach-In Organizers:
The courageous actions by the citizens in Wisconsin are an inspiring defense of the core values of this country: a civil society based on freedom of association, healthy and stable communities that value public services and the public good.

The outpouring of support nationally shows the possibilities for challenging deepening economic inequality and political marginalization of the majority of the American people. We are on the cusp of a great movement to resist and roll-back the corporate domination by banks, energy companies and war profiteers.

To join that movement and escalate the activism planned in the days, weeks and months ahead, participate in a “National Teach-in on Debt, Austerity and How People Are Fighting Back." The live webcast Teach-In will be streamed on Tuesday, April 5th, from the Judson Memorial Church in New York City, beginning at 12:00 Noon MDT.

Social justice experts and activists from around the country, including economist JEFFREY SACHS of Columbia University; HEATHER McGHEE of Demos; and RICHARD TRUMKA President of the AFL-CIO, will be hosted by moderators FRANCES FOX PIVEN and CORNEL WEST in New York City through a live webcast. The webcast will also feature activist reports on Wisconsin, teacher unions and anti-forclosure movement.

In Albuquerque, join members of the New Mexico Health Equity Working Group (NMHEWG) for the webcast of the national TEACH-IN from 12 Noon to 1:30 PM (MDT). The event, co-sponsored by the MPH program and the New Mexico Health Equity Working Group, will take place at the University of New Mexico in the Domenici Center Room 2112. Contact Victoria Sanchez at visanchez@salud.unm.edu or Kristine Suozzi at kosuozzi@yahoo.com if you have questions.

You can also participate by organizing a Teach-In on your campus or in your community by contacting fightbackteachin@gmail.com and registering your event at www.fightbackteachin.org/. Also see this Facebook page for more info.

As we are seeing every day, Wall Street Banks, American corporations and their political allies have declared a one-sided war on the American people. This war is being waged at our schools and colleges, on public employee unions, in our workplaces and  in our communities.

Today, Americans are working harder and earning less while corporate profits soar. Homeowners, consumers and students are seeing their wealth being stripped away by banks. Our government plunges into debt waging trillion dollar wars. Meanwhile, our infrastructure erodes, climate change proceeds unchecked, our schools, daycare centers, senior facilities, clinics, parks and emergency services are all starved while corporations and elites get billions in tax breaks.

“Austerity” policies falsely suggest that spending on social needs is the reason why governments-- at all levels-- are facing massive budget short falls. NO! Our debt and deficit problems are a direct result of corporate tax breaks and extortionist bank practices that have lead to a scandalous and unprecedented transfer of wealth -- from hardworking Americans to the richest segments of US society.

Photo by M.E. Broderick.

March 29, 2011 at 03:28 PM in Corporatism, Economy, Populism, Education, Events, Labor | Permalink | Comments (3)

Pew Report: U.S. Slipped to Third in Clean Energy Race Behind China, Germany

The U.S. competitive position in the clean energy sector is deteriorating, as the country slipped to third place in terms of the amount of private investment directed to the G-20 economies, according to a new report released today by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Until 2008, the U.S. had held the top spot, which is now firmly held by China. Globally, 2010 clean energy finance and investments grew by 30 percent to a record $243 billion.

The United States received $34 billion in equity last year, a 51 percent increase from 2009. However, the gap with China, which attracted a record $54.4 billion, continues to widen. Germany also attracted more money than the U.S. with $41.2 billion, claiming the number two spot, up from third the previous year.

Weak, Uncertain Policies
“The United States’ position as a leading destination for clean energy investment is declining because its policy framework is weak and uncertain,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s Clean Energy Program. “We are at risk of losing even more financing to countries like China, Germany and India, which have adopted strong policies such as renewable energy standards, carbon reduction targets and/or incentives for investment and production. In today’s global economic race, the United States can’t afford to be to be a follower in this sector.”

Not Enough Demand
Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, added, “The United States remains the global leader in clean energy innovation, receiving 75 percent of all venture capital investment in the sector, a total of $6 billion in 2010, but the U.S. has not been creating demand for deployment of clean energy. As a result it is losing out on opportunities to attract investment, create manufacturing capabilities and spur job growth. For example, worldwide, China is now the leading manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels.”

Behind on Key Clean Energy Indicators
This research shows that the United States is in the middle of the pack on a variety of key clean energy indicators, including asset financing (an important barometer of clean energy deployment, manufacturing and job growth), installed renewable capacity and five-year growth rates. China led the G-20 in this type of financing with $47.3 billion, more than double the U.S. ($21 billion). China also surpassed the United States in installed renewable capacity. In addition, the United States trails leading countries in five-year rates of clean energy capacity additions, investment growth and intensity (a measure of investment dollars compared to gross domestic product).

With underlying data compiled by Pew’s research partner Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race? 2010 Edition examines the key financial, investment and technological trends in relation to the clean energy portion of the world’s leading economies. Known as the Group of Twenty (G-20), these members account for 90 percent of global clean energy finance and investment.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • Worldwide clean energy investment and finance has grown 630 percent since 2004.
  • Regionally, Europe remained the leading recipient, attracting $94.4 billion, led by Germany ($41.2 billion) and Italy ($13.9 billion).
  • Italy ranked fourth, attracting $13.9 billion. It is the first country in the world to achieve grid parity, or cost-competitiveness, for solar energy.

  • The Asia/Oceania region, led by China, continued its sharp rise, attracting $82.8 billion, a 33 percent increase over the previous year.

  • The Americas also saw investment grow 35 percent, but as a region it remains a distant third, attracting $65.8 billion.

  • Investments in small-scale, residential solar in G-20 countries grew by 100 percent to $56.4 billion. Germany accounts for more than half the total, followed by Japan, France, Italy and the United States.

  • Installed generating capacity increased to 388 gigawatts from wind, small-hydro, biomass, solar, geothermal and marine, with China accounting for more than 25 percent of the global total.

Visit www.PewEnvironment.org/CleanEnergy to read the entire report, including country profiles, interactive graphics and video.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance is the world’s leading provider of news, data and analysis on clean energy and carbon market finance and investment.

The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Pew applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.

March 29, 2011 at 10:03 AM in Energy, Environment, Green Economy | Permalink | Comments (0)