New Mexico News Plus
December 11, 2015
New Mexico unlikely to see big changes under No Child rewrite -- Santa Fe New Mexican
Teachers unions and critics of the federal No Child Left Behind Act are celebrating the passage of the sweeping new Every Student Succeeds Act, which they see as an end to federal mandates for standardized testing and teacher evaluations.
In New Mexico, however, the bill’s passage may lead to very little change in public education.
State Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said the bill — approved by both the U.S. House and Senate and signed into law Thursday by President Barack Obama — is “a good one” that reinforces much of what her department is already doing. -- 12/11/2015
This week President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law, replacing the controversial No Child Left Behind Act. The new law gets rid of many of the standardized testing requirements that had been in place under No Child Left Behind, and gives states more leeway in designing their own education standards.
Public Health New Mexico spoke to U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, who supported the bill, about what the changes mean for our state. -- 12/11/2015
Report: LANL lacks program to track, correct serious problems -- Santa Fe New Mexican
A new report says federal officials lack an effective program for tracking and fixing safety problems, including “high risk deficiencies,” at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The report, released this week by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General, says the National Nuclear Security Administration’s field office that oversees the department’s contract with the lab has not implemented an effective issues management program. Such a program helps identify and correct safety and health deficiencies raised by employees and contractors or in external audits of the office, the report states, so the Department of Energy can “ensure environment, safety, and health concerns.” -- 12/11/2015
State Engineer’s Office ordered to cover court costs in water case -- Santa Fe New Mexican
The New Mexico Court of Appeals this week said the State Engineer’s Office must pay a Santa Fe-based company’s court costs in a dispute over the transfer of water rights from a Socorro farm to a river diversion project on the Rio Grande near Santa Fe.
Wednesday’s ruling could cost the Office of the State Engineer more than $60,000 to pay for expert witnesses, filing and other costs related to the case in which Santa Fe Water Resource Alliance successfully sought to move rights to millions of gallons from the Central New Mexico farm to the Buckman Direct Diversion near Santa Fe. The transfer helped the Rancho Viejo subdivision south of Santa Fe meet Santa Fe County requirements for the developer to provide water rights in order to get approval to build. -- 12/11/2015
Manhattan Project National Park prompts debate over nukes -- Albuquerque Journal
The Manhattan Project National Park, recently established in Los Alamos and at other sites around the country, already is producing some deep debate over the legacy of the creation of nuclear weapons.
In no less than the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists – which describes itself as founded in 1945 by Manhattan Project scientists who “could not remain aloof to the consequences of their work” – dueling essays discuss the national park’s creation and what the Manhattan Project has meant to the world. -- 12/11/2015
Real ID Act won’t affect Los Alamos workers, visitors -- Albuquerque Journal
Workers and visitors at Los Alamos National Laboratory won’t be affected by the looming clampdown on accepting New Mexico driver’s licenses as identification, according to lab officials.
The lab said in a statement that workers have Department of Energy-approved badges for which they’ve already shown a photo ID and a birth certificate; short-term workers are provided generic badges and are escorted at all times; and visitors also are escorted by badged employees. Those measures mitigate Real ID concerns, the statement said.
Motorists on Jemez Road, which cuts through lab property and leads to the Valles Caldera National Preserve and other destinations, can continue to show New Mexico licenses for ID at the security checkpoint because it’s a public road, according to the lab statement.
The situation is different at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque. Almost all of it is located on Kirtland Air Force Base, and it’s accessed through the base gates. -- 12/11/2015
December 9, 2015
The American Middle Class Is Losing Ground -- Pew Research Center
No longer the majority and falling behind financially
After more than four decades of serving as the nation’s economic majority, the American middle class is now matched in number by those in the economic tiers above and below it. In early 2015, 120.8 million adults were in middle-income households, compared with 121.3 million in lower- and upper-income households combined, a demographic shift that could signal a tipping point, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of government data. -- 12/9/2015
December 3, 2015
Judge suspends penalties linked to state’s teacher eval system -- Santa Fe New Mexican
A Santa Fe judge struck a blow against the state’s contentious teacher evaluation system Wednesday, temporarily halting provisions that would punish teachers for poor scores until a trial can determine whether the rating system is valid.
The 70-page ruling by state District Judge David Thomson focused primarily on the complicated combination of student test scores used to judge teachers. The ruling prevents the Public Education Department from denying teachers licensure advancement or renewal, and it strikes down a requirement that poorly performing teachers be placed on growth plans. -- 12/3/2015
Governor proposes ‘rapid workforce development fund’ -- Albuquerque Journal
Gov. Susana Martinez announced a new legislative initiative on Tuesday to create a $1.25 million rapid workforce development fund for companies to quickly find trained employees in specialized areas.
The money, which Martinez will request in the legislative session that starts in January, would finance training for workers in targeted fields to help new companies and existing ones that want to grow.
“The fund would help create technology certificate programs and other training to quickly provide employees for a company looking to grow or expand in New Mexico or to come here to set up operations,” Martinez said at a news conference at Central New Mexico Community College’s Workforce Development Training Center in Albuquerque. -- 12/1/2015
December 8, 2015
Oil slump further cuts state revenue forecast -- Albuquerque Journal
New Mexico lawmakers could have less money available to spend next year than previously projected, as plummeting oil prices have led to the amount of “new” money estimated for the coming year to be pared back to $232 million – down more than $60 million from four months ago.
Finance and Administration Secretary Tom Clifford also spoke against across-the-board pay raises for state workers, indicating the Martinez administration will instead push for targeted salary increases for certain job positions that have been difficult to fill and keep filled, such as social workers, State Police officers, corrections officers and computer specialists.
The new revenue estimates were unveiled Monday at a Legislative Finance Committee hearing at the state Capitol. The estimates, which are compiled by a team of executive and legislative branch economists, are key in lawmakers’ annual task of approving a balanced budget.
Both the Legislature and the Martinez administration will roll out spending plans in advance of next year’s 30-day legislative session, which begins Jan. 19.-- revised 12/8/2015
Governor orders crackdown on drunken driving -- Albuquerque Journal
State Police will flood New Mexico’s deadliest highways in coming months to catch drunken drivers and will work with other officers to round up DWI offenders who fail to show up in court or violate their conditions of release.
Gov. Susana Martinez also plans a new tack – hiring people willing to sit in courtrooms to watch how New Mexico judges handle drunken drivers. The “court monitors” will issue public reports on sentencing, plea agreements and other matters.
State Police also will track down which bars and restaurants, if any, served people caught driving drunk, she said.
The efforts are part of a series of initiatives Martinez announced Monday to combat DWI deaths – something the state secretary of public safety described as a “bloodstain” on New Mexico’s reputation. -- 12/7/2015
State again seeks to tie food stamps to work -- Santa Fe New Mexican
The New Mexico Human Services Department is again seeking to change state rules that tie food stamp benefits to work requirements.
Elements of the department’s latest proposal are less strict than previous plans. Yet community groups that have long opposed changes still argue the proposed rules would cause the administration of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez to deny more New Mexicans on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits in a state that suffers from some of the highest poverty rates in the nation. -- 12/7/2015
December 2, 2015
Feds want New Mexico to repay $16M to child insurance program -- Santa Fe New Mexican
Investigators recommended Tuesday that New Mexico repay the federal government nearly $16 million they say the state should not have received under a health insurance program for low-income children.
The U.S. Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General made the recommendation following a review of enrollment over a five-year period beginning in fiscal year 2009.
According to the findings, New Mexico overstated the number of children in the program when compared to enrollment data maintained by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. -- 12/1/2015
Senator renews push to allocate land grant funds for early ed programs -- Santa Fe New Mexican