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Friday, May 22, 2009

Senators Udall and Bingaman Sign On to Demand Public Option in Health Care Reform; What Will Baucus Do?

This is certainly excellent news. According to a story on Politico, Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall have both signed on as cosponsors of a resolution introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) demanding that any health care reform bill include a public insurance option. A total of 25 other Senators are also cosponsoring the bill.

The “sense of the Senate” resolution is the latest effort by a bloc of Democratic senators to influence the closed-door negotiations of the Finance Committee, where the bulk of the bill is being written. The group wrote a letter last month to Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Health Committee Chairman Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), calling the public option essential to reform.

Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, claimed yesterday that he thinks a public option will be included:

“I do suspect that a version will be there,” Baucus said. “Now, by saying that, I don’t want to frighten people, particularly on the industry side. … All I’m saying is, there are ways to skin a cat. There are ways to find a solution.”

Notice Senator Baucus doesn't seem concerned that the lack of a genuine and serious public option might "frighten" ordinary Americans. Instead he blurts out reassuring words to the "industry side" suggesting, in my view, that any public option will be devised in a manner that won't compete effectively with private sector insurers. Not to worry, health care industry profit vultures, we'll be watering down anything that might "scare" you!

This is even more distressing:

The debate, though, centers on exactly how to construct a public plan. Some members of the Finance Committee have been giving consideration to a “fallback” plan, which would trigger a public insurance option if private competition proves inadequate in a geographic region.

Right. Now I wonder who would decide whether private "competition" is "inadequate." Anything to weasel out of a public option that would push prices down on the private side.

Baucus and the Health Care Profiteers
I cringed when I heard that Baucus would be one of the main honchos shaping health care reform. I'm still cringing. As Open Secrets reports:

Campaigns Donors: Despite having no serious opponent in the 2008 election cycle, Baucus raised $11.6 million for his campaign, nearly twice the amount ($6.7 million) he raised for his previous re-election bid in which he faced a challenger with some real financial clout. Most of Baucus's top 10 contributors have remained the same since the 2002 election--predominantly health and finance-related industries--but nearly all ramped up their contributions this cycle, in the midst of an economic crisis and in preparation for impending health care reform. [emphasis mine] Absent a threat to his elected office, Baucus's surge in contributions is most likely a reflection of his rise to chair of the Finance Committee, a position that many industries will need to push in order to see their desired policy changes implemented.

Since 1989, Baucus's top donors have been American International Group (AIG), Goldman Sachs and New York Life Insurance--in the 2008 election cycle alone, these companies' employees and PACs contributed $148,550 to his campaign chest. After law firms, securities and investment companies and insurance companies, the most generous industries to Baucus's campaigns have been health professionals and pharmaceuticals. The health sector has given Baucus at least $2.8 million during his career, [emphasis mine] more than any other sector with the exception of finance, insurance and real estate companies, which have given him $4.6 million.

You can read more about the ties of Senator Baucus and other members of the Senate Finance Committee to corporate health industry profiteers on the Physicians for a National Health Program website. Example:

In 2008 the full [Senate Finance] committee received a total of $13,263,986 from industries affected by health care reform. Can we trust this committee to put the interests of the people before their donors?

Excellent question.

If you haven't yet done so, please sign the petition at StandingWithDrDean.com demanding that Congress include an effective public option in any health care reform bill. It's also important to call your Senators and tell them any "trigger" provision to justify a public option is unacceptable. Senate Switchboard -- (202) 224-3121. Report your call.

May 22, 2009 at 03:25 PM in Healthcare, NM Congressional Delegation, Sen. Tom Udall, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bush Visits Artesia NM, Talks About Dog Doo; Wonkette Mistakenly Reports He's in Roswell

ImagesAccording to a by the AP, former President George W. Bush was in Artesia, New Mexico yesterday giving a commencement speech at Artesia High School while his former veep was giving the same he's given for years to try and keep the fear alive in America. George, however, was tackling a different subject -- canine droppings:

It was a humbling moment for the former commander in chief: President George W. Bush was walking former first dog Barney in his new Dallas neighborhood when it stopped in a neighbor's yard for relief.

"And there I was, former president of the United States of America, with a plastic bag on my hand," he told a group of graduating high school students in New Mexico on Thursday. "Life is returning back to normal."

You have to wonder about the national media, though, even if it's the "new media" of Wonkette. Get out the map, as the Indigo Girls sing. In commenting on Bush's visit to New Mexico, Wonkette conflated Roswell and Artesia:

... while his former intern Dick Cheney was cackling about death and carnage and sadism in Washington, Bush was cold talkin’ dog shit with a bunch of high school kids in the alien concentration camp of Roswell, New Mexico.

If you’re wondering what the sam hill George Bush was doing in New Mexico, mouthing off to a cadre of alien teenagers, it’s an old enough story and one you’re familiar with: Big Oil made him do it.


I guess the blogger got a little mixed up because the article they cited was from the Roswell Daily Record. Message to Wonkette: Artesia, NM is an oil and gas town in southeastern New Mexico, in Eddy County, which bumps up against the Texas border. As Wikipedia explains, Artesia is famous in its own right:

Artesia is home to the former Abo Elementary School ... the first and most likely only public school which is entirely underground and equipped to function as a fallout shelter. The school, completed in 1962 (the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis), had a concrete slab roof which served as the school's playground. It contained a large storage facility with room for supplies for 2000 people in the event of nuclear warfare.

The Artesia Chamber of Commerce asserts that Artesia is "nestled between the two larger cities of Roswell to the north and Carlsbad to the south." Yes, Roswell -- the city located near a reported 1947 flying saucer crash and home to the International UFO Museum -- is a separate place altogether, in Chaves County, 40 miles away from Artesia. The Roswell UFO Festival takes place there every year during the 4th of July weekend. The New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI), founded in 1891, is located in Roswell. Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge is located a few miles northeast of the city on the Pecos River. Roswell ain't Artesia.

May 22, 2009 at 02:14 PM in Humor, Local Politics, National Security | |

Ike Benton Becomes First ABQ City Council Candidate to Qualify for Public Funding

IkeBentonIsaac (Ike) Benton, who represents District 3 on the Albuquerque City Council, is running for reelection and will be using the public campaign funding option. His campaign made its first turn-in of $5 qualifying donations on Wednesday and met the threshold of one percent of the number of voters registered in the District on the first try. He's one popular Councilor. The campaign is now qualified to participate in the Open and Ethical Elections financing, the first 2009 Council campaign to do so. Qualified City Council candidates receive $1.00 per registered voter in their District.

"We're well-organized, but asking for $5 from average citizens is harder than you might think, said Councilor Benton. "What made it work was a great group of volunteers! The really good news is we don't have to depend on contributions from special interests. We can focus on the issues facing the city instead of fundraising, and I hope many more folks can help us with that dialogue."

Councilor Benton was elected unanimously to serve as President of the Council for 2008-2009. Previously, he served on both the Council's Finance & Government Operations Committee and on the Land Use, Planning & Zoning Committee, which he also chaired for two years. Ike is a New Mexico licensed architect and contractor and a member of the Urban Design Forum, Public Library Association, the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council, the United States Green Building Council, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Benton will will likely face former City Councilor and County Commissioner Alan Armijo, a fellow Democrat, in the October municipal election. Armijo has announced he intends to run, but no word yet on whether he'll be seeking public campaign funding. District 3 encompasses neighborhoods in the downtown, UNM, Ridgecrest and Nob Hill areas (see map).

Informal photo of Ike Benton taken by M.E. Broderick at a recent political event.

May 22, 2009 at 12:05 PM in 2009 Albuquerque City Council Races | Permalink | Comments (0)

Senators Udall and Bingaman Vote for Supplemental War Funding

On Monday, all three of New Mexico's Congressmen of the $97 BILLION supplemental appropriations bill to fund the war spending and foreign aid efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq through September 30. Yesterday, Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman did the same with a Senate version of the bill totaling $91.3 BILLION. The measure passed by a margin of 86-3, with 10 abstentions. The only Dem to vote no was Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold.

As I'm sure you know by now, the Senate version of the bill stripped $80 million in funding for closing Guantanamo prison -- ostensibly because Dems wanted more info on Obama's plans. Apparently, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also was concerned that the prisoners would be set loose to hang out in our neighborhoods: "“You can’t put them in prison unless you release them ... we will never allow terrorists to be released in the United States." The only problem with his statement? A prison transfer isn't a release and nobody has ever proposed releasing any Guantanamo prisoners in the US.

The Senate bill also contains less for weapons procurement and foreign aid than the House version. It also fulfills Obama's request to extend up to $108 billion in credit lines to the International Monetary Fund for helping countries suffering from the global financial crisis, and backs up the IMF's plan to sell 400 tons (12.97 million ounces) of gold. After the Memorial Day break, the House and Senate will confer on a compromise measure to present to Obama in June.

Don't you wish the Congress was instead voting to spend $97 billion on things like commuter trains and light rail? In our dreams, as the seemingly never-ending military missions continue in their 8th year. The war in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, with the US invading Iraq on March 20, 2003. I'm well aware that there are cogent arguments for continuing on this path in order to try to rectify -- in some way -- the grave errors and tragedies perpetrated by Bush et al. But is that even possible?

Will $97 billion more dollars thru September really make a difference in the outcomes in Iraq and Afghanistan? What the heck is the exit plan for Afghanistan? What does "winning" there entail? Does anybody really know what's going on in Iraq right now and what will change if we stay there for who knows how long? While dealing with the supplemental, members of Congress asked few questions, demanded no detailed plans and challenged no assumptions in the conduct of the wars, as far as I can tell. Instead, they seemed to be content to take Obama's word that more billions are needed, 22,00 more troops must go to Afghanistan and the military and diplomatic strategies being pursued are the right ones.

As I noted before, the supplemental bill is in addition to Obama's regular budget request now before the Congress for $205 BILLION for Iraq and Afghanistan over the next 18 months. More than $75 BILLION of that is earmarked for the rest of the year.

According to the Cost of War counters provided by the National Priorities Project, as of today we have spent a total of $859,684,211,796 on our wars-occupations since 2001 -- $671,225,383,000 for Iraq and $188,458,925,442 for Afghanistan. The numbers don't exactly add up because the counters keep moving at a rapid pace as the dollar amounts continue to increase by the second. And the conflicts drag on and on and on and on.

May 22, 2009 at 09:48 AM in Afghanistan, Economy, Populism, International Relations, Iraq War, Military Affairs, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Administration, Sen. Tom Udall, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Compare Language of Obama and Cheney Speeches on National Security

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These are word clouds created by the language used in the speeches about national security given today by President Barack Obama and Dead-Ender Dick Cheney. The bigger the word, the more it was used in the speech. Click on the images to see larger versions. Notice any big differences? Like use of the words TERRORISM and 9/11 by Cheney vs. the words WILL, AMERICAN, PEOPLE and GUANTANAMO emphasized by Obama? Click for the complete texts of the speech by Obama -- and the one by Cheney. There he goes again. Hey, Dick, go back to your bat cave!

May 21, 2009 at 03:34 PM in Afghanistan, International Relations, Iraq War, Military Affairs, National Security, Obama Administration, Terrorism, Torture | Permalink | Comments (3)

'Fess Up Mayor Marty Chavez

Now that Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez has gotten his name on the ballot, qualified for public funding and pocketed $328,000 in campaign money, isn't it time for him to 'fess up and admit he's officially running for a fourth term at the helm of the City? The public funding is supposed to pay for his campaign, including ads, but instead the Mayor is apparently content to let public service TV ads featuring his smiling face be the vehicle for his campaign PR. At least for now.

RichardromeroCRRepublican RJ Berry and Democrat Richard Romero (photo right) -- both of whom have officially declared their candidacies and are in the midst of campaigning -- have called Marty out on his use of City-funded TV ads. Is it ethical or fair to sit on hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars specifically designated for the campaign and depend instead on City budget money to call attention to yourself in this way? I guess the citizens of Albuquerque will decide.

Unlike the Mayor, Romero and Berry have to dole out campaign funds if they want to get their names and faces before the public on TV in any meaningful way. Meanwhile, Mayor Chavez is getting a free ride. The other candidates will have to save up their bucks to purchase ads closer to the October election, while Chavez is the beneficiary of both regular TV news coverage typical of local media and public service ads aimed at shining up his image on the City budget's dime.

Last week, Romero and Berry appeared at a joint press conference to criticize Mayor Chavez's behavior. Romero called on the Mayor to stop using the airwaves for political purposes and start admitting he’s a candidate.

“The Mayor, through a series of TV ads, is using the City treasury to unfairly and unethically promote himself during an election year,” said Romero. “He’s qualified for public financing, but instead of announcing he’s a candidate and spending his campaign funds, he’s double-dipping on the backs of taxpayers.”

The two official candidates for Mayor urged Chavez to stop appearing in any taxpayer-funded ads from now through the municipal election on October 6. The Romero campaign points out that rather than finding ways to cut wasteful spending to deal with a $68 million deficit, Chavez instead keeps finding ways to spend taxpayer dollars to promote his political career.

Some of that will stop, regardless. At Monday's meeting, the Albuquerque City Council voted unanimously to cut the City's advertising budget, including funds for certain TV ads, billboards and a hot air balloon. Presumably, many of those ads would have featured the face of the Mayor, as they have in the past.

City Councilor Michael Cadigan said the mayor's face is on too many advertisements and there are cheaper ways to get the city's message across, rather than "spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to advertise to adopt a pet or 'be green like me.' "

Romero and Berry also challenged whether the Mayor's use of public service ads defied the spirit, if not the letter, of the City's campaign laws -- and connected his behavior this time around to questionable activities in the past. After the 1995 mayoral election, the City Charter was amended in response to what Romero characterizes as "Mayor Chavez cross-marketing his campaign materials with official city business such as road projects."

“Our new campaign laws are supposed to level the playing field,” said Romero. “But, typical of Marty, he’s skirting the rules and exploiting loopholes.”

Which brings me to another point. If Mayor Chavez is running for reelection -- officially or unofficially -- shouldn't he have a campaign office by now? What location did he use to manage and conduct his efforts to get petition signatures and $5 donations to qualify for public funding? His home? His City Hall office? Inquiring minds want to know.

What Matters
All this may seem like small potatoes to Albuquerque residents, but I think it does shed some light on how the Mayor tends to operate in the political arena -- frequently on the boundary that separates right from wrong, and often in a gray area in terms of fairness and ethical principles.

I hope that the mayoral race perks up soon. I want to see the candidates move on to discussing issues of real substance and offering their competing visions for the future of Albuquerque. This is, after all, a time of paradigm-altering change and challenge. We need a mayoral contest that does this era justice -- one that focuses on specific solutions to specific problems, as well as what we want to do to shape Albuquerque's identity as a 21st century city. I highly doubt that will happen, however, unless the sitting Mayor finally admits publicly that's he's in the race.

To support Richard Romero's mayoral campaign, join an upcoming Organizer Training on any Saturday throughout May and June. The Romero campaign is committed to building Albuquerque's largest grassroots campaign for mayor.

The next Saturday training sessions are set for May 23 and June 6 from 10 AM to 1 PM (lunch will be served). They'll be held at the Campaign Office at 4605 4th Street NW, Suite A 87107, on the west side of the street, just south of Griegos (map). To attend, contact Zach Mikelson at zach.mikelson@obamaalumni.com or 870-3873.

May 21, 2009 at 02:46 PM in 2009 Albuquerque Mayoral Race, Ethics & Campaign Reform | Permalink | Comments (5)

NM House Delegation Votes for Bill to Strengthen Small Businesses, Create Jobs

Reps. Heinrich, Teague, Luján

Yesterday, New Mexico Reps. Martin Heinrich, Ben Ray Luján and Harry Teague voted in favor of H.R. 2352, the Job Creation Through Entrepreneurship Act of 2009. According to a statement released by the trio, the legislation will help small businesses and start-ups create jobs during this difficult economic time. The bipartisan legislation will help improve the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Program, establish business centers for veterans and women, enhance opportunities for Native American entrepreneurship, make it easier for businesses to participate in a clean energy economy and use new technology to help businesses succeed.

H.R. 2352 passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 406-15. Yes, believe it or not, 15 Republicans voted against this bill.

Click for info on the highlights (pdf) of the provisions in the Job Creation Through Entrepreneurship Act. The legislative package, comprised of seven bipartisan bills, marks the first overhaul of the SBA's entrepreneurial development programs in a decade.

The latest Census Bureau data shows that 98 percent of U.S. firms have less than 100 employees and that these firms both employ more than 50 percent of the private sector workforce and are responsible for creating some 97 percent of new jobs.

“At the heart of our economic recovery is the entrepreneur,” said Rep. Martin Heinrich. “Entrepreneurs’ creativity and innovation have the potential to create new companies in new industries. This bill gives New Mexicans the tools they need to launch these careers, and nurtures entrepreneurial and small business development. Small businesses hold neighborhoods together by providing better jobs, better opportunities, and a more vibrant community.”

“Small businesses are the backbone of New Mexico’s economy, and we have to make sure that they have the ability to succeed in this challenging business environment,” said Rep. Ben Ray Luján. “This legislation will help small businesses do what they do best, create jobs and make our economy strong. I’m particularly glad that this legislation will establish business centers to assist veterans and customize grant programs to improve Native American entrepreneurial opportunities.”

“As a small businessman I know that these programs are some of the smartest investments we can make in getting Southern New Mexico’s economy back on track,” said Congressman Harry Teague. “For every dollar we spend on a successful entrepreneurship program, we see a $2.87 return to the Treasury. That seems like money well spent.”

This critical legislation reauthorizes and modernizes the Small Business Administration's (SBA) entrepreneurial development programs so that small businesses can survive, expand and thrive. The bill would expand opportunities for veterans, Native Americans, and women by creating a new Veterans Business Center Program and Office of Native American Affairs within the SBA and expanding funding for the Women’s Business Center Program. H.R. 2352 makes sure that tax dollars are spent wisely with an overhaul and modernization of the SBA’s entrepreneurial development programs. Entrepreneurial development programs helped create 73,000 jobs in 2008 alone.

May 21, 2009 at 11:06 AM in Business, Economy, Populism, Green Economy, Jobs, Minority Issues, Native Americans, NM Congressional Delegation, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Women's Issues | |

Check Out Events During Taos Peace Week May 26-31


The Taos Peace House and Town of Taos is hosting the First Annual World Peace Week, May 26-31, 2009. Grassroots organizations and individuals interested in world peace will gather for a five-day experience of celebrating, creating, and strategizing for peace in their communities, lives and world. Peace Week is driven by the general inquiry, "What Does Peace Enable Me To Do?" Click to read the Town of Taos resolution about Peace Week.

The weeklong conference takes place at Taos Convention Center, KTAO Solar Center, Kit Carson Park, and other local venues. Peace Week is organized around programs and presenters with themes of non-violent conflict resolution and social change, war veterans insights on war and peace, healing scars of war and PTSD, industrial hemp and medical marijuna, Fair Trade and sustainable living, meditation and massage, sacred activism, social evolution of humanity, and Israeli and Palestinian peace-making.

Plenaries to strategize for peace, orientation, and classes are based upon C.T. Butler's Formal Consensus model for facilitating meetings and making democratic decisions. Open Space Technology will allow for spontaneous meetings, discussions and strategizing for peace. People will enjoy the health and wellness tent with massage demostration, exhibit and vendor hall, "A Piece for Peace" art show, and food by DragonFly Cafe, as well as music and entertainment.*

For Vets: On Friday, a powerful program with varied aspects will feature and offer resources and support for current and past veterans -- especially those interested in furthering peace efforts in a personal and conscious way. The Joan Duffy Chapter (Santa Fe) of Veterans for Peace is encouraging and facilitating ride sharing to enable more people to attend. Chapter President Bob Gaines will coordinate those who offer and those who need rides. Contact him at gaines@comcast.net.

For detailed information, a schedule of events and a registration form, visit the Taos World Peace Week 2009 website at www.worldpeaceconference2009.org/.

May 21, 2009 at 08:35 AM in Events, Food and Drink, International Relations, Middle East, Music, Peace, Progressivism | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

NM Congressional Delegation Votes in Tandem for Credit Card Reform; Split on Loaded Guns in National Parks

Yesterday the US Senate passed an amended version of H.R.627, the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights Act of 2009. The 90-5 vote followed a 357-to-70 vote in the House on April 30. Today, the US House approved the Senate version of the bill by a vote of , and the legislation will go next to President Obama, who has said he will sign it.

Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman, as well as Congressmen Martin Heinrich, Ben Ray Luján and Harry Teague, all voted in favor of the main bill. There was also a separate vote in the House today on an amendment included as Section 512 in the Senate-passed version to allow loaded guns in national parks. On that provision, Rep. Luján voted no while Reps. Heinrich and Teague voted yes. The House passed Section 512 by a vote of . Only two Republicans voted against the gun measure. On the Dem side of the aisle, 105 voted for it and 145 voted no.

Section 512, allowing loaded guns in national parks and federal wildlife refuges, originally got into the bill when Sen. Tom Coburn's amendment passed in the Senate with 67 senators -- including 27 Democrats -- voting for it. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall both voted against the gun amendment. Democratic leaders then said there wasn't enough time to send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee — where it could possibly have been removed without a vote — and still get it to the President by Memorial Day as Obama requested. It therefore went to the House intact, where leaders decided to hold separate votes on the bill and Section 512.

The question is, will we now feel "safer" in the national parks, or will the national parks be more vulnerable to gun violence and/or poaching? I guess time will tell. One thing that is clear is that the National Rifle Association has a lot of clout on both sides of the aisle.

Members of New Mexico's Congressional delegation released statements praising the credit care reform bill's passage.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján said, “I’m glad that this important piece of legislation will now head to the President’s desk for his signature. As I have traveled the district, I have talked to families who have worked hard and followed the rules only to be taken advantage of by unfair and predatory credit card practices. At a time when it is difficult for many New Mexicans to make ends meet, this is unacceptable. The Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights is an important step toward ending these practices by credit card companies. This bill takes common sense steps to protect families from unfair credit practices--safeguarding families from retroactive charges, excessive fees, arbitrary rate increases and misleading terms.”

“Families across southern New Mexico are struggling to make ends meet and their situation is being made worse by deceptive and unfair practices,” said Congressman Harry Teague. “This bill will protect credit card holders from things like: retroactive charges, excessive fees, arbitrary rate increases and misleading terms—those are assurances every consumer deserves.”

“The Credit Cardholder's Bill of Rights Act strengthens the marketplace for consumers and restores a fundamental sense of fairness and honesty to the system, said Rep. Martin Heinrich. New Mexicans have the responsibility to live within their means and pay what they owe, but the government has the responsibility to make sure our credit card industry is playing by the rules. This legislation will improve transparency and accountability in the marketplace, and give consumers confidence in the contracts they enter into with their financial institutions.”

“This legislation is an important step towards protecting the millions of American children whose futures are compromised when their parents become victims of dishonest or unfair credit card company practices,” said Senator Tom Udall. “In 2004, families with minor children were more than three times as likely to file for bankruptcy as their childless friends. More children lived through their parent’s bankruptcy than their parent’s divorce, and these children risk losing a stable home and a shot at college. Today’s vote shows that the Senate can work in a bipartisan manner to protect American families.”

A story in the CS Monitor provides a summary of what the bill does and doesn't do regarding credit card rules.

President Obama was in Rio Rancho, New Mexico on May 14th touting credit card reform. See my previous post (with photos). More photos of the event taken by Mary Ellen can be found on our Flickr account.

May 20, 2009 at 04:10 PM in Corporatism, Economy, Populism, Guns, NM Congressional Delegation, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall | Permalink | Comments (6)

Rep. Heinrich Intros HEARTH Act to Ease Homeownership for Native American Families

Rep. Heinrich introduces HEARTH Act before the US House

New Mexico's freshman members of Congress have been very proactive in introducing legislation and amendments to help our state. US Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) is no exception. Today he introduced legislation aimed at removing barriers between Native American families and homeownership. According to a statement released by Rep. Heinrich's office, the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership (HEARTH) Act would expedite the lease approval process by allowing tribal governments to approve trust land leases and submit them directly to the Secretary of the Interior. The HEARTH Act would remove existing bureaucratic and time obstacles prospective Native American home owners encounter when seeking approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to buy a home on tribal land.

“We can put the dream of owning a home on tribal land within reach of Native families,” said Rep. Heinrich. “This bill would cut through bureaucratic red tape and open doors to homeownership for Native American families in New Mexico and across the country.”

Currently, before Native families can close on the sale of a house, they need approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to lease the land the house is built on. That approval can take between six months and two years. A seller is rarely able to wait two years to sell their house and banks are often unable to hold a mortgage approval for that long. This delay often results in a family deciding to move off tribal land because it’s the only way they can own a house, even when they would rather stay in the community where their family has lived for generations.

Zuni Pueblo Governor Norman Cooeyate said in a written statement, "This legislation provides more of our tribal community members the chance to achieve the dream of their fellow Americans: home ownership. Access to new financial services on tribal land reduces the financial burden on our families and breaks down barriers to keeping our community intact."

“With this legislation, Representative Heinrich has shown his commitment to reforming Federal laws in a manner that respects tribal authority and decision-making. This is good legislation that improves the delivery of housing assistance and related economic development to meet the needs of Indian Country,” said Marty Shuravloff, Chairman of the National American Indian Housing Council. “We heard from our members that they need these reforms and we are committed to seeing this bill signed into law this year.”

May 20, 2009 at 11:58 AM in Economy, Populism, Housing, Native Americans, NM Congressional Delegation, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01) | |

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