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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Obama Administration Names Terry Brunner to Serve as State Director for Rural Development in New Mexico

President Obama and Terry Brunner

The Obama Administration today announced that Terry Brunner will serve as New Mexico State Director for Rural Development at the USDA.

"Terry Brunner will be an important advocate on behalf of rural communities throughout the state and help administer the valuable programs and services provided by the USDA that can enhance their economic success," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

When I contacted Terry for a response today he said, "I'm excited to have this opportunity to work with New Mexico's rural communities and to be a part of the President's efforts to revitalize and rebuild rural America. USDA has the potential to make a difference in rural New Mexico every day and in every way and I will work hard to make sure that happens."

TerryBrunnerCrIf you've been involved with politics or policy in New Mexico, chances are you know Terry -- and know he'll do a bang-up job in his new position. He has been the State Director for Senator Bingaman since 2002, managing 5 district offices and 19 staff. He served as the Senator's outreach staff on the issues of economic development, public health, energy and public lands. Brunner has a Masters in Latin American Studies from the University in New Mexico, with an emphasis in Political Science and Community and Regional Planning. (And he's a Cubs fan.)

Rural Development administers and manages more than 40 housing, business, and community infrastructure and facility programs as laid out by Congress through a network of 6,100 employees located in 500 national, state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of over $114 billion in loans and loan guarantees.

The USDA provides leadership on food, agriculture and natural resources and touches the life of every American. Reflecting President Obama's commitment to expanding economic opportunities in rural America, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the USDA are working to enhance availability of broadband, promote the development of renewable energy, to conserve, maintain and improve our natural resources and environment, and promote a sustainable, safe, sufficient and nutritious food supply.

August 25, 2009 at 10:42 AM in Obama Administration, Rural Issues, Sen. Jeff Bingaman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 24, 2009

New Mexico Groups Call for Open Budget Negotiations, Regional Public Meetings

In a letter (doc) to the Governor and Legislators, groups from across the political spectrum today called on the state's leaders to open up current meetings on the state budget shortfall. Groups representing faith, small business, unions and advocates requested that the "legislative-executive working group" openly negotiate a solution to address the $433 million budgetary shortfall for the current fiscal year.

Governor Richardson announced last week that he will call a one-day Special Session in October and form a "legislative-executive working group" made up of legislative leaders and executive branch representatives. The working group is meeting regularly to identify means to close the gap in New Mexico's FY 2010 budget.

"The outcome of these conversations will directly impact the entire state. All New Mexicans should have the opportunity to provide input," said Ruth Hoffman, Executive Director of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry, in a statement released by the groups.

Call for Minimum of Three Regional Public Hearings
Earlier this year the Legislature passed a bill that opens conference committees to the public. Advocacy groups believe these budget negotiations should follow in the spirit of that law and be open to all New Mexicans. Statewide organizations are requesting the legislative-executive working group host at least three regional public hearings -- one each in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Las Cruces -- where members of the public could be allowed to comment.

"We recognize this is an urgent matter and applaud the Governor and Legislature for taking swift action to address this fiscal challenge," said Gerry Bradley, New Mexico Voices for Children's Research Director. "However, we also believe that the people of New Mexico have valid concerns and good ideas on how to reach a solution to the current budget crisis. It is only responsible to take these ideas and concerns into consideration when making these important policy decisions."

The letter called for sufficient public and media notice of all working group meetings and for the meetings to be held in venues other than the state Capitol that will accommodate public attendance and participation.

Groups that signed the letter:

  • American Federation of Federal, State, County, and Municipal Employees – New Mexico
  • American Federation of Teachers – New Mexico
  • Center for Civic Policy
  • Community Action New Mexico
  • Communications Workers of America, Local 7076
  • Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund
  • Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – New Mexico
  • New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty
  • New Mexico Progressive Action, Board of Governors
  • New Mexico Voices for Children
  • Southwest Organizing Project

August 24, 2009 at 09:39 PM in Business, Children and Families, Economy, Populism, Education, Environment, Events, Labor, NM Legislature Special Session 2009, Poverty | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rep. Ben Ray Luján Adds Congress on Your Corner Events in Farmington, Taos and Gallup

BRLujan1Congressman Ben Ray Luján (NM-03) has added three Congress on Your Corner events to his schedule during the August-September District Work Period. Each Congress on Your Corner will allow constituents to meet one-on-one with the Congressman about legislation or casework. See below the fold for details.

Rep. Luján will meet with constituents at the events for five minutes each on a first come, first served basis. There are a limited number of time slots available so please contact the appropriate office to schedule a time. All events are subject to change. For the latest news on events in the district, visit Rep. Luján’s website.

Farmington Congress on Your Corner

  • (Time slots are strictly first come, first served. No need to reserve ahead of time.)
  • When: Wednesday, August 26, 1:00-3:30 PM
  • Where: Rep. Luján’s Farmington District Office, 800 Municipal Dr., Farmington, NM 87401

Taos Congress on Your Corner

  • (Call 505-984-8950 to reserve a time slot.)
  • When: Saturday, August 29, 9:30-10:30 PM
  • Where: Taos, NM (Location TBD)

Gallup Congress on Your Corner

  • (Call 505-863-0582 to reserve a time slot.)
  • When: Friday, September 4, 1:00-3:00 PM
  • Where: Rep. Luján’s Gallup District Office, 110 West Aztec Avenue Gallup NM 87301

August 24, 2009 at 09:06 PM in Events, NM Congressional Delegation, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan | Permalink | Comments (2)

NM Senator Tim Keller Named to Higher Education Position by Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education

TimKellerCrCongrats to Senator Timothy M. Keller (D-Bernalillo-17), who has been named a member of the Legislative Advisory Committee (LAC) for the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), according to a press release from the New Mexico Senate. Senator Keller was chosen from among New Mexico legislators by New Mexico’s WICHE Commissioners, and he will serve and LAC for a 3-year term. >WICHE’s New Mexico Commissioners are Senator Dede Felman, Patricia Anaya Sullivan, Assistant Dean of New Mexico State University’s College of Engineering and Peter White, Secretary of Higher Education.

Responding to his appointment, Senator Keller said, “I am intensely interested in higher education in our State. Education was one of the specific issues that drew me to the Senate. I see serving on the LAC as a way I can work to expand the higher education building blocks of our educational system. Because of the current fiscal situation, we must find improved ways to strengthen higher education – which is a major point of entry into our workforce, especially in areas where professional, scientific and technological skills are required. The stronger our educational system, the stronger that workforce will be and the better our state will be positioned to build a sound base for a healthy economy.”

Among the 30 bills introduced by Senator Keller during the 49th legislative session, six were focused on educational issues. Among the eight that Senator Keller succeeded in getting passed, one of the four signed into law by Governor Richardson was a community school initiative.

WICHE is a regional organization created under the Western Regional Education Compact which was adopted in the 1950's by an array of Western states. In addition to New Mexico, the member states are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. WICHE was created to facilitate resource sharing among higher education systems of the Western states. It began operating in Eugene, Oregon, in 1953, then moved to its present location in Boulder, Colorado in 1955. WICHE is governed by Commissioners from each state who are appointed by the state’s governor. WICHE’s Legislative Advisory Committee was created in 1995 by WICHE to advise its membership on legislative initiatives that affect higher education.

August 24, 2009 at 03:29 PM in Education, Local Politics, NM Legislature 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Watch Today's NM First Health Care Town Hall with Sen. Bingaman Online

The New Mexico in Focus website will be airing the question and answer session from today's health care town hall with Sen. Jeff Bingaman from 3:30 to 5:00 PM. The event is another in a series of town halls organized by New Mexico First, and it follows their usual format.

The ticketed event began at 1:00 PM today at the Albuquerque Convention Center with attendees participating in small groups that will conduct discussions to produce a consensus on their top questions for Sen. Bingaman. The Senator will answer those questions in the segment being live-streamed by KNME.

August 24, 2009 at 02:17 PM in Events, Healthcare, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Health Care Reform, Sen. Jeff Bingaman | Permalink | Comments (2)

Center for Civic Policy Launches Radio Ad Urging Bingaman to Stick With Public Option

Today the Center for Civic Policy released a radio ad that highlights Senator Jeff Bingaman’s critical role in the ongoing debate about healthcare reform.

As a member of the “Gang of Six” working on a bipartisan proposal in the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Bingaman is in a very strong position to influence the final provisions included in a Senate bill.

A strong public option would provide a competitive alternative to private insurance, giving New Mexicans a choice in their health care coverage. Currently, insurance companies are negotiating for a provision that would replace the public option with a cooperative proposal. However, co-ops would not have the power to negotiate lower prices for consumers, and therefore would not be able to compete with their larger, private insurance counterparts.

“We appreciate Senator Bingaman’s support for the public option. We want to make sure he continues to negotiate on behalf of New Mexicans who are sick and tired of rising health insurance premiums,” said Matt Brix, Policy Director at the Center for Civic Policy. Brix added, “Over the last decade, premiums have increased by over 100%. Now is not the time to cave in to the demands of health insurance industry.”

August 24, 2009 at 09:56 AM in Healthcare, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Health Care Reform, Sen. Jeff Bingaman | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Should NM Dems Try This? Montana Dem County Leaders Unite to Demand Baucus Support Strong Public Option

What do you say New Mexico Dem SCC members, county party chairs and regular old Dems out there? Should we start organizing a unified push to convince our Congressional Delegation -- Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall, Rep. Martin Heinrich, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan and Rep. Harry Teague -- to publicly commit to voting NO on any health care reform bill that does not include a strong public option? Read on.

You really have to read this post on Firedoglake by a Montana blogger. It's an amazing report on an uprising by Montana Dem central committee chairs from 18 counties aimed at forcing Sen. Max Baucus -- the leader of the infamous Gang of Six -- to come out in clear support of a public option with these parameters:

  • National Coverage
  • Availability to all Americans
  • Portability, which includes maintaining coverage even if one loses his or her job
  • No exclusions for preexisting conditions, denial of coverage if one gets ill, or develops catastrophic costs
  • Publicly run and administered with full transparency and accountability to congress
  • No triggers

The demands came after an unprecedented conference call Baucus made to the Dem county leaders to try to calm an atmosphere of discontent among Montana Dems created by Baucus' Gang of Six actions or -- more accurately -- inaction. Remember, our own Sen. Jeff Bingaman is a member of the Senate Finance Committee's Gang of Six.

The conference call reportedly became rather heated at times and Baucus ultimately had to "admit" that he, too, supported a public option. Local blogger Montana Maven tells the story:

The discussion, which became contentious and rancorous at times, also touched upon the wisdom of creating insurance cooperatives as an alternative to a public option. When several of the county chairs objected, commenting that they did not trust the health insurance companies to police themselves and limit their outrageous corporate profits, Baucus commented, "Neither do I."

In the aftermath of the teleconference, a coalition of eighteen Montana counties in the Senator's home state decided to move forward with their plan to issue a Unified Statement accompanied by a joint press release. The statement sends a loud and clear message to their Senator: Any health care reform package coming out of his Senate Finance Committee must contain, at a minimum, a provision for a strong public option.

The action is a show of unity not previously seen in Montana political history. The statement asserts, "Here in Montana, the need for real health care reform could not be greater. Families, small business, and small ranches and farms are suffering and being crushed by the rising cost of health care. Thousands of Montanans are uninsured, and many more are losing their homes, businesses and ranches due to exorbitant medical bills."

Click to read the entire press release from the county chairs, courtesy of Montana Maven.

So what do you think? Is it time to ramp up the pressure on New Mexico's members of Congress to draw a line in the sand --in no uncertain terms -- FOR the public option? Most of our members of Congress say they support a public option, but not one of them has said they won't vote for a bill without one. We need that reassurance now, don't we?

August 23, 2009 at 09:33 PM in Corporatism, Democratic Party, Healthcare, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Health Care Reform, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, Rep. Harry Teague (NM-02), Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Tom Udall | Permalink | Comments (4)

Guest Blog: The View of One NM-01 Democrat on Rep. Martin Heinrich's Health Care Town Hall

This is a guest blog by JaciCee, a NM-01 Democrat who regularly comments and posts at Daily Kos under that name.

Heritage Foundation comes out strong at New Mexico Town Hall. How will we respond?

Martin Heinrich's health care Town Hall was yesterday. Heinrich is our rep for NM-01. I contributed money to his campaign. I voted for him.

After participating in the Town Hall yesterday, I am not so sure he will be a second termer. I am concerned.

While waiting in line....

The tools for the Heritage Foundation were out in force.

I heard them talking in the two hour line I stood in prior to the event. I had a group of them in front of me and one behind me. I had their talking points down before I even entered the building:

  1. Make it look like Heinrich hadn't read the bill (as if those blockheads read the 1000 plus pages of it) BTW, Heinrich did have a copy of the bill during the meeting. I was very pleased.
  2. Talk about the Constitutionality of health care.
  3. Everyone already has health care.
  4. Medicare is failing and costs much more than private health insurance.

An older woman in front of me got into my face about the sign my sister was carrying. Our conversation went like this:

Tool: Why is she carrying that sign?
Me: Because she believes the system is flawed and needs to be reformed. Do you have Medicare?
Tool: No, but my husband does.

She took out a sheet of paper with a cost breakdown on it. She said she pays $4700.00 a year for health care under Medicare.

Me: Wow. That is much less than I pay for my health insurance. My deductible is 3k and after that I pay 20% of covered medical treatment. If it isn't covered I pay for all of it. And, that doesn't even include the premiums I pay per month for coverage that doesn't actually cover much.
Tool: You are lying.
Me: No, I am not. If you don't like Medicare your husband should reject it and get coverage elsewhere.
Tool: crickets
Me: Why do you not support a public option?
Tool: I don't want to pay for anyone else's medical care.
Me: What if they are uninsured and the only option they have is to go to the emergency room?
Tool: I don't want to pay for them.
Me: I guess that means you don't support a public option because you are greedy.
Tool: I am not greedy.
Me: Yes, you are. If your whole reason for not wanting a public option is because you don't want to pay for people to have health insurance that makes you greedy. Especially since I am paying for your husband's health care.

Her male elderly friend (MEF) chimed in.

MEF: Right before I die I am going to go shoot as many lawyers as I can.
Me: What? You are going to shoot people? You are going to commit murder? Why would you shoot lawyers?
MEF: Because they are all driving up the cost of health insurance.
Me: So you are willing to tell anyone in this line who is a lawyer that you want to KILL them?
MEF: Yep.

He starts motioning with his arms and yelling "come on over lawyers."

A Heinrich staffer walks by. I go over to him and tell him that the elderly guy behind me is making comments about shooting laywers. The staffer looks at me like I have two heads and walks away.

Me: Do you have a gun on you now? Because if you do I am going to call 911.
MEF: No. I didn't bring it.

The group behind us were listening to our debate so they chimed in.

Woman who looked like Tammy Faye Baker (WWLLTFB): My husband is an economist. You don't know anything about the economy.
My sister: My husband is a PhD Economist. I know quite a bit about the economy and economics.
WWLLTFB: Oh she thinks she is sooo smart. Her husband is a PhD. So young and stupid.
My sister: Where do you get your information?
My sister: I get my news from legitimate sources.

At this time a hostile woman who claimed to be a nurse got into both of our faces. Everytime my sister would make a comment, to me, from that point forward, the alleged "nurse" would yell, "BLAH, BLAH, BLAH."

In the auditorium...

We finally got into the auditorium and found some seats. The Heritage Foundation folks disbursed themselves in little pockets all over the auditorium. Some of the same group who was behind us in line sat behind us at the Town Hall. The bating started immediately. As soon as we sat down a middle aged guy (MAG) behind us called my sister a "Socialist." She engaged him and she kicked his ass with the truth.

MAG: You are a socialist.
My sister: No. I am not a Socialist.
MAG's wife: He didn't call you a Socialist. He was just commenting...
Me: Yeah, he called her a Socialist. I heard him as clear as day.
MAG: I didn't call you a Socialist.
Me: Yeah, you did. Now back up your name calling.
My sister: I am actually a Capitalist who believes in a mixed system. I happen to like my fire department, police department, the FBI, DEA, the librarians and the roads I drive on. Why don't you like the police department?
MAG: crickets
My sister to MAG's wife: Where do you get your information about health care reform?
MAG's wife: The Heritage Foundation. Don't you get your information from them?
My sister: No, I get my information from the people who actually wrote the bill.
MAG's wife: Well, I home schooled my kids.

WTF? Where that last comment came from I have no clue.

I was hopeful that once the Town Hall got going legitimate information would be passed onto the audience. If you wanted to ask a question, you had to put your name in a box that was being walked around. There were roughly 600 people in the audience. There were more health care reform advocates in the audience than there were Heritage Foundation folks.

The absolute lowest part of the meeting came when a physician, who works in a small New Mexican community, was commenting about his treatment of a young boy with leukemia. He was booed. Those heartless tools booed a doctor. A doctor who wasn't an oncologist yet was treating a boy with leukemia because he was the only doctor in his town.

Heinrich came out strong on many issues. I certainly didn't question his desire for much needed reform. He answered questions posed by some members of the audience but, unfortunately, his panel answered most. I wanted to hear more from him.

There were no women on his panel. His panel was composed of an ER Doctor from the University of New Mexico Hospital, the director of a local clinic (who stated he does not treat Medicare patients and was a strong advocate for tort reform) and a lobbyist. Yep, a lobbyist.

The ER Doc was the most informing on the panel. I didn't get much from the clinic director other than he wanted tort reform.

Then there was the conservative lobbyist....

The lobbyist is from one of the most conservative alleged "research institutes" in New Mexico. I was absolutely disappointed pissed off that he put Paul Gessing on a panel discussing health care reform. Gessing brought nothing to the table except to rile up those in attendance who were shills for the Heritage Foundation.

He wasn't a doctor, he wasn't a nurse, he wasn't even a health insurance administrator. He was a lobbyist who regurgitating the same talking points I had heard in line, and, while sitting in the auditorium.

Why was Gessing asked to be on the panel? What legitimacy did he bring to the debate? I have heard Heinrich wanted some "balance." Bad choice. Lobbyists don't bring balance. They only bring talking points from those that pay them. If balance was needed then put an insurance executive on the panel.

I'll borrow a question from a blogger friend of mine,

... was Heinrich punked?

I wonder.

Why are we continuing to pander to these people? The health care reform we all want, whether it be a single payer system or a strong public option, won't be accomplished this way. And when Progressive candidates have conservative industry hacks/shills/lobbyists answering questions at a Town Hall meeting, how will we respond?

Hopefully we won't respond by sitting on our thumbs and biting our lower lips. I saw way too much of that yesterday.

This is a guest blog by JaciCee, a NM-01 Democrat who regularly comments and posts at Daily Kos under that name. This piece is cross-posted at Daily Kos.

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

August 23, 2009 at 06:24 PM in Democratic Party, Events, Guest Blogger, Healthcare, NM Congressional Delegation, Obama Health Care Reform, Rep. Martin Heinrich (NM-01), Republican Party | Permalink | Comments (11)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Guest Blog by Lt. Gov. Diane Denish: Creating A Culture of Responsbility


This is a guest commentary by Diane Denish, New Mexico Lieutenant Governor.

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” --Dwight D. Eisenhower

There may be those who believe that New Mexico state government has come close to losing both. There is no doubt that we have seen instances where some elected officials and state employees have valued privileges above principles in the past few years. It must stop. These individuals have weakened the public trust and that is unacceptable. The question is what’s to be done?

There is no doubt that some New Mexicans have lost faith in their state government and the burden is on all of us in elected office to earn it back. We must create in Santa Fe a culture of duty, a culture of transparency. A culture of responsibility.

First, we must establish a Governmental Standards Commission. This will be an independent commission, similar to the judiciary’s Judicial Standards Commission. The Governmental Standards Commission will have the authority to investigate ethics complaints and will be armed with subpoena power to get straight answers from government officials. It will have the authority to impose stiff penalties on those found guilty of wrongdoing.

But in addition to investigating complaints and punishing those who abuse the public’s trust, we must also make sure that everyone who works on the taxpayers’ dime understands the responsibility they assume as a public servant. New Mexico state employees must agree not only to always obey the law – but to always conduct themselves in an open, honest and transparent manner. In order to earn the trust of the people they serve, public employees must be held to the highest standard.

Second, this Governmental Standards Commission will be responsible for establishing a Uniform Code of Governmental Standards that will apply to all state officials, state employees and appointees. The Commission will develop a mandatory training programs on the Governmental Standards so all state employees understand these ethical standards.

The great majority of people in government want to do the right thing but there may be times when they are unsure of what is the right thing. Education and training can help provide the foundation needed to deal with difficult situations.

The New Mexico Supreme Court will nominate a pool of candidates from which members of the Commission will be selected by the Executive and Legislative branches. This non-partisan pool of candidates, selected by the Court, will help take politics out of the selection process – and eliminate some the problems confronted by establishing such a commission in the past.

The third step in the process is to establish a state Sunshine Portal, an online command center to ensure that state government is open and transparent. The Sunshine Portal will:

  • Allow the press and public to see how tax dollars are spent by agencies;
  • Track capital outlay projects from appropriation to expenditure;
  • List all scheduled open meetings;
  • Include an accessible contractor database;
  • Allow the press and public to review all state issued contracts;
  • Include a Statebook networking site where all state employees with decision making capacity will have a page including their responsibilities and contact information;
  • Include a salary database for exempt employee salary database;
  • Include a section for constituents to voice opinions.

Justice Lewis Brandeis said Sunshine is the best disinfectant and I believe we need to take that statement to heart and apply it here in the land of enchantment.

Like most New Mexico families, our state government is experiencing challenging economic times, and some may say now is not the time to consider such new initiatives. But in order for the Government to effectively create new jobs, reduce the cost of health care, strengthen our education system – or provide any of the services we count on government to provide – it must have the trust of New Mexicans.

Public service is a high calling. It’s time for those who share that belief to stand up and demand the culture of responsibility in Santa Fe that New Mexicans deserve.

This is a guest blog providing commentary submitted by New Mexico Lt. Governor Diane Denish. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, please contact me by clicking on the Email Me link on the upper left-hand corner of the page.

August 22, 2009 at 05:48 PM in 2010 NM Governor's Race, Ethics & Campaign Reform, Government, Guest Blogger, Local Politics, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish | Permalink | Comments (7)

Brian Colón for Lt. Governor Celebration and Fundraising Kickoff Set for August 31

Click image for larger version or click for pdf version

To RSVP, please send an email to info@electcolon.com. Also, be sure to visit Brian's campaign website at www.electcolon.com.

August 22, 2009 at 05:19 PM in 2010 NM Lt. Governor Race, Democratic Party, Events, Local Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

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