Highest Paid City Hall Employees Are Police; Cap On Police Overtime Pay Long Overdue

For the first time in years, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) is placing a “cap” on how much overtime police officers can work in a week.

https://www.krqe.com/news/albuquerque-metro/apd-places-limit-on-hours-of-overtime-officers-can-work-each-week/1724891754?fbclid=IwAR1UMy6HjOrG4YSVsz5ofIs4klWAu1BunYm6fD–417kuSgf9m4k2rN6G_0

Last year, APD spent $11.5 million paying sworn police overtime.

The city budgeted $9 million in police overtime in the 2019 fiscal year, which ends in June 30, 2019.

According to an APD spokesman, there are nearly a dozen different types of overtime programs within the department.

The programs where APD Officers can earn overtime include holiday tac-plan initiatives, checkpoints, extended training, special events like the Balloon Fiesta and security detail for high profile dignitary visits such as the President or Vice President, all where the City pays the overtime worked.

Another overtime program is “chief’s overtime” where private businesses pay to have an officer on site but where the APD Chief selects the APD Officer to do the overtime.

APD charges the business and then pays the officer.

“Chief’s Overtime” has been controversial with arguments made by police oversight civilian advocates that the city is subsidizing private businesses over the best interest of areas of the city with high crime rates.

Last year, more than 100 businesses took part in chief’s overtime, and for the last 16 months APD officers were allowed to work as much chief’s overtime as they wanted.

Not anymore according to an APD Public Information Officer.

According to an APD Spokesperson, through March of 2019, APD police officers will only be allowed to work 25 hours of chief’s overtime per week.

APD will also be increasing what is being charge to private businesses for “Chief’s Overtime” to take into account recent APD pay raises.

The hourly charge for Chief’s Overtime has to be comparable to an APD Officer’s hourly pay working for the department.

It is the first time in nearly a decade APD has increased its rates for its chief’s overtime program.

HIGHEST PAID CITY HALL EMPLOYEES ARE POLICE OFFICERS

APD Patrol Officers First Class earning excessive overtime is nothing new, has been going on for years and has been common knowledge.

There are approximately 5,000 full time city hall employees.

A review of the city’s 250 top earners in 2018 reveals that 140 are sworn police officers working for APD, mostly patrol officers first class and 40 are employed by Albuquerque Fire and Rescue.

The 140 top wage city hall wage earners employed by the Albuquerque Police Department include patrol officers first class, sergeants, lieutenants, commanders the deputy chiefs, and the chief with annual pay ranging from $101,000 a year up to $192,937 a year.

(See City of Albuquerque website for full list of 250 top city wage earners).

Five (5) APD Senior Patrol Officers First Class are listed in the top 250 city wage earners for 2018 as being paid $166,692, $163,223, $160,692, $152,876 and $151,313 respectfully making them the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 10th, and 11th highest paid employees at city hall.

The amounts paid in excess of $100,000 a year to patrol officers first class can be attributed mostly to overtime pay and “time and a half” paid.

The second highest paid individual at city hall in 2018 was Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sarita Nair who was paid $169,556.

Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Rael is the 4th highest paid city hall employee and was paid $165,524 in 2018.

The 9th highest paid city hall employee was APD Chief Michael Geier who was paid $159,513.00 in 2018.

Mayor Tim Keller is paid $125,000 a year and is the 57th highest paid city hall employee, and he works 24/7 as an elected official.

MOST EGREGIOUS OVERTIME PAID

According to the listing of the 250 top paid city hall employees for 2018, APD Sergeant Simon Drobik, one of the many APD Public Information Officers, was paid $192,937 making him the number one top paid city hall employee for 2018.

Drobik’s base pay is $31.50 per hour or $65,520 a year. (40 hour work week X 52 weeks in a year X $31.50 = $65,520.)

APD claims that APD Public Information Officer Simon Drobik works full-time as PIO during weekdays as his primary assignment, working 7 days a week, and he also works as a patrol officer entitling him to be paid for that position as well, holding down and being paid for two positions.

Drobik regularly reports having worked more than 100 hours per week, according to his pay stubs.

The police union contract also entitles a police officer to be paid time and a half when overtime is worked on a given day.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1248553/ot-work-apd-spokesman-duties-lift-officers-pay-to-highest-in-city.html

COURT APPEARANCES SOURCE OF OVERTIME

Historically, APD Patrol Officers First Class and Sergeants who work or are assigned to DWI or issue traffic citations are the ones that get paid extensive amount of overtime.

Under the union contract APD Patrol Offers First Class get paid a minimum of two hours in overtime pay at time and a half when they appear in court on their days off for arraignment or trials, which is usually the case for DWI prosecutions.

DWI’s arrests are usually made during a police officer’s shift at night, but the arraignments and trials occur during the day in Metro Court entitling the officer to bill the hours of overtime per arraignment, plea, or trial.

Arraignments are scheduled in Metro Court in mass and usually take no more than 15 minutes per individual person arraigned on charges.

However, Police officers are required to wait prolong periods of time for cases to be called, most notably DWI cases.

The Traffic Court Arraignment program was established over 16 years ago where Assistant City Attorneys and paralegals are assigned to handle arraignments and plea agreements in traffic citation cases, thereby eliminating APD officers appearing in court on traffic cases.

The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office also has a Metro Court Division with upwards of 22 full time Assistant District Attorneys.

CITY INTERNAL AUDIT FOUND APD OVERTIME ABUSES

A March, 2017 a city internal audit of APD’s overtime spending found police officers taking advantage of a system that allows them to accumulate excessive overtime at the expense of other city departments.

During the last 9 years, the Albuquerque Police Department has consistently gone over its overtime budget by millions.

In fiscal year 2016, APD was funded for $9 million for over time but APD but actually spent $13 million.

A city internal audit report released in March, 2017 revealed that the Albuquerque Police Department spent over $3.9 million over its $9 million “overtime” budget.

https://www.petedinelli.com/2018/03/30/apd-overtime-pay-abuse-and-recruitment-tool/

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

It’s about time and long overdue that APD places a cap on all police overtime and it should be made permanent.

APD Public Information Officer Gilbert Gallegos in announcing APD placing a cap on overtime, had this to say:

“In the past it’s been taken for granted that in the end, we have as much money as we need for overtime, but you know that’s going to change”.

Gallego’s comment reflects the years of sure arrogance and the sense of entitlement to overtime APD has had that ultimately was at the expense of other city departments and city employees.

While APD starts putting caps on overtime for sworn officers, APD needs to do the same with APD Spokesman Sgt. Simon Dolbeck and release him from his duties as an APD Public Information Officer.

Normally, Public Information Officers for APD do not carry any kind of caseload, make no arrests, do not wear an APD uniform and do not appear in court.

APD Public Information Officers do not need to be sworn police officers and should not be paid an hourly wage of a sworn police with the duties assumed by citizen staff under the direction and supervision of the Mayor’s Office and the Mayor’s Public Information Officer.

All Public Information Officers for the City should be made at will employees and paid a set yearly salary with no overtime paid and work out of the office of the Mayor under the direction of the administration.

APD Sergeants and Lieutenants are supervisors and managers and should be removed from the police union bargaining unit and be prevented from being paid time and a half for overtime.

When APD exceeds its overtime budget, it is to the detriment of other city departments and other city employees in that the funding must be found somewhere else, either by taking it from other departments and programs, budget cuts or cost saving measurements.

From a personnel management standpoint, when you have a select few that are taking the lion’s share of overtime, it causes moral problems with the rest.

Excessive overtime paid is a red flag for abuse of the system, mismanagement of police resources and the lack of personnel.

APD has added approximately 100 police officers last year as a result of increases in pay and an aggressive recruitment program.

APD is projected to have upwards of 980 sworn police by July 1, 2019 and overtime should be coming down.

Consecutive shifts or excessive overtime for any police officer can lead to extreme fatigue, emotional burnout and reduce an officer’s alertness and response times and reflexes that can endanger lives and public safety.

A complete restructuring of APD hourly wages to base salaries should be implemented.

The 25 hour a week “cap” on the amount overtime a sworn police officer can be paid needs to be made permanent.

APD needs to establish an overtime protocol that is fair and equitable for all sworn personnel to make available overtime to more sworn police officers in the department.

APD should do away with hourly wage and time and a half for overtime for sworn police and implement a salary structure based on steps and years of service.

A system of overtime bonuses to be paid at the end of the year for accumulated increments of overtime can and should be implemented.

Shift time to work would remain the same, but if more time is needed to complete work load, the employee works it for the same salary with no overtime and a modification of shift times for court appearances.

APD Patrol Officers First Class who handle DWI during nighttime shifts should be required to change their shift times to daytime shifts when the arraignments and trials occur to prevent overtime pay.

As an alternative to DWI arraignment, the City Attorney’s Office should explore the possibility of expanding or modifying the Metro Traffic Arraignment Program with the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office assisting to include not just traffic citations but DWI arraignments to eliminate the need for APD officers to appear at such arraignments.

Salaries and step increase take away inflating overtime and motivates employees to get more done within the allotted shift or modification of shift times.

Until the APD salary structure is changed, APD will always have patrol officers first class making two to four times their base salary and emotional burnout will be the norm endangering public safety.

The Roger “Mill” Stone Around Trump’s Neck

“It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea … “ Luke 17:2, New American Standard Bible.

ROGER STONE

Flamboyant Republican political operative Roger Stone is a political strategist known for opposition research.

Stone worked on the campaigns of Republican Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, Bob Dole and Donald Trump where he honed he nefarious talents of political espionage.

Stone is a 30+ year close personal friend and advisor to President Donald Trump and was one of the very first to advocate that Donald Trump run for President.

Roger Stone is a self-described “dirty trickster” and his campaign career began as a Richard Nixon campaign aide and he has a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back.

Roger Stone has spent decades of engaging in political scandal-mongering to help influence American election campaigns.

Stone has long maintained that he had no connection to Russia’s attempts to disrupt the 2016 presidential election to help Donald Trump get elected, but his recent federal indictment says otherwise.

THE ROGER STONE INDICTMENT

On July 27, 2016, while running for President, Donald Trump encouraged Russian hackers to find emails that had been deleted from Hillary Clinton’s private server that she used while serving as secretary of state when he said:

“I will tell you this, Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing … I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” Trump said at a press conference in Florida.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-russia-clinton-hack_us_5b48d9d0e4b0e7c958faf810

On July 27, 2016, Vladimir Putin and Russia were listening and heeded Trump’s call for help to get him elected President.

According to the federal indictment of the 12 Russian intelligence officers for their involvement in hacking the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election, the Russian hacking occurred on July 27, 2016 hours after Trump gave his press conference and encouraged Russian hackers to find Clinton’s emails.

The indictment of the Russian intelligence officers’ states that on July 27, 2016, the same day as Trump’s press conference, Russian hackers, “for the first time,” attempted to break into email accounts, including those used by Clinton’s personal office.

Notably, the indictment is very specific that the hack happened in the evening, meaning the Russian officials could have done it after Trump’s press conference.

Roger Stone has now been charged by Special Counsel Robert Mueller with a federal indictment charging obstruction of justice, making false statements to Congress and witness tampering.

You can read the entire federal grand jury indictment here:

https://www.lawfareblog.com/document-indictment-roger-stone

The Roger Stone indictment reveals and alleges the most direct link yet between the efforts by the Trump Presidential campaign and WikiLeaks to damage Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election using Democratic Party material stolen by the Russians.

The federal indictment does not allege that Roger Stone’s interactions with WikiLeaks were illegal nor does it allege that the Trump campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy.

According to detailed allegations in the Roger Stone indictment, a top Trump campaign official dispatched Roger Stone to get information from WikiLeaks about the thousands of hacked Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence.

The effort to get the WikiLeaks information began within a few weeks after Democratic officials publicly accused Russian intelligence operatives being a part of Russia’s broad campaign to sabotage the 2016 presidential race.

The federal indictment makes no specific mention of whether President Trump played a role in the coordination.

According to the Federal indictment, a senior campaign official “was directed” by an unnamed person to contact Roger Stone about additional WikiLeaks releases obtained by Russia that might damage the Hillary Clinton campaign.

The federal indictment is filled with amazing details about clandestine meetings, text messages and references to “The Godfather: Part II”, about witness tampering, threats of retaliation and lying to congress.

Stone allegedly exchanged heated texts with New York radio host Randy Credico, who has his own contacts with WikiLeaks, pressuring Credico to lie to the Congressional Intelligence Committee so that his story would line up with his own testimony.

The indictment alleges Roger Stone told Randy Credico he should “do a ‘Frank Pentangeli’ before the House congressional committee, a reference to the classic movie “Godfather II” character who lies in congressional hearings about his interactions with the Mafia after his brother is brought from Italy to the hearing as a form of intimidation.

The indictment quotes emails and other forms of communications that clearly suggested that the Trump Presidential campaign knew about additional stolen emails before they were released.

According to the indictment, the Trump campaign asked Roger Stone to find out more about the other emails.

According to the indictment, between June and July 2016, Roger Stone told a “senior Trump campaign officials” about the stolen emails in WikiLeaks’ possession that could be damaging to the Hillary Clinton campaign.

On July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks released its first batch of Democratic emails.

After the July 22, 2016 WikiLeaks release of Democratic emails that, according to the indictment, the Trump campaign sought more.

It was on July 27, 2016 that Trump made his infamous request at a press conference “I will tell you this, Russia, If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing … I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

The Roger Stone indictment states:

“A senior Trump campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information Organization 1 had regarding the Clinton campaign “ referring to WikiLeaks. (Paragraph 12 of Indictment).

The indictment does not mention whether Roger Stone or any other Trump associate knew about the Russian operatives’ plans before they hacked the Democrat Party or the Hillary Clinton private emails.

According to the indictment, in October 2016, Mr. Stone exchanged emails with nefarious Steve Bannon, the right wing firebrand and strategist who became the chief executive of President Trump’s campaign.

In one exchange, Roger Stone wrote that more WikiLeaks disclosures were forthcoming, “a load every week going forward,” according to the indictment.

Steve Bannon appears to be the official described in the court document as “the high-ranking Trump Campaign official,” based on previous disclosures about the email exchange.

A day before Stone and Bannon emailed about WikiLeaks, Donald Trump Junior exchanged messages on Twitter with the WikiLeaks account and asked, “What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about.”

At the end of that week, on October 7, 2016 WikiLeaks released more than 6,000 emails related to John D. Podesta, the chairman of the Hillary Clinton campaign.

The release, 30 minutes after The Washington Post published a recording of Mr. Trump bragging about assaulting women, appeared aimed at redirecting negative attention from Donald Trump to the Hillary Clinton campaign.

The unsealed Stone Federal indictment details how Stone relied on several longtime associates to get information about the timing and content of WikiLeaks’ document releases in the months before the election.

According to a New York Times report, three senior Trump campaign officials told Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team that Roger Stone created the impression that he was a conduit for inside information from WikiLeaks and in turn Russia.

One senior Trump campaign told investigators that Roger Stone not only seemed to predict WikiLeaks’ actions, but also that he took credit afterward for the timing of its disclosures that damaged Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/25/us/politics/roger-stone-trump-mueller.html

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN

Roger Stone is the 7th close advisor, confident or campaign official for Donald Trump charged or convicted of federal offenses in the Mueller probe of Russian interference with the 2016 Presidential election.

All the President’s men indicted include:

Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chairman convicted on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failure to report foreign bank accounts with Manafort pleading guilty in another criminal case.

Michael Cohen, President’ Trump’s long-time private attorney and “fixer” and who has plead guilty to eight counts of tax evasion, making false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations in the criminal investigation in New York and implicated Trump in committing campaign finance felonies.

Cohen is supposedly going to testify before congress before he begins a 5 years federal sentence.

Rick Gates, one of Manafort’s business partners who plead guilty to one charge of lying to investigators and one charge of conspiracy in exchange for becoming a cooperating witness in the Mueller probe. He testified against Manafort as the prosecution’s star witness in its case in Virginia.

Michael Flynn, Trump’s former National Security Adviser who plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations last December with Russia’s ambassador to the US at the time, Sergey Kislyak. In delaying Michael Flynn’s sentencing, Federal Judge Emmet Sullivan told Flynn “Arguably, this undermines everything this [US] flag over here stands for! Arguably, you sold your country out!”

George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser who plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia. Papadopoulos made at least six attempts to set up a meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian representatives throughout the course of the 2016 presidential campaign.

California businessman Richard Pinedo who plead guilty to one count of identity fraud. The plea deal’s release came immediately after Mueller’s office announced charges against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities accused of interfering in the 2016 US election by mounting an elaborate and multi-faceted social media influence operation meant to sow political discord during and after the race.

Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer tied to Manafort and Gates plead guilty to one count of making false statements to federal investigators. Van der Zwaan represents the interests of numerous Russian oligarchs. He is also the son-in-law of German Khan, the Ukrainian-Russian billionaire who controls Russia’s Alfa Bank.

ALL OF PRESIDENT PUTIN’S MEN AND WOMAN

In addition to Trump associates being indicted, there have been indictments of Russian operatives including:

Thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian companies have also been indicted for allegedly involved in meddling in the US political system.

Twelve Russian intelligence officers indicted have been indicted for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee before the 2016 US presidential election.

The accusations against them include conspiring to interfere with the election by hacking computers, stealing documents, and releasing those documents with intent to interfere.

https://www.businessinsider.com/who-has-been-charged-in-russia-investigation-mueller-trump-2017-12#12-russian-intelligence-officers-8

On October 19, 2018, the Justice Department announced it had charged Elena Khusyaynova, 44, a Russian woman who federal prosecutors alleged conspired to interfere with the 2018 U.S. election, marking the first criminal case that accuses a foreign national of interfering in United States elections.

Khusyaynova, 44, was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States.

You can read the indictment here:

https://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/documents/world/justice-dept-charges-russian-woman-with-interference-in-midterm-elections/3247/

Prosecutors allege Khazanov managed the finances of “Project Lakhta,” a foreign influence operation designed “to sow discord in the U.S. political system” by pushing arguments and misinformation online about a host of divisive political issues, including immigration, the Confederate flag, gun control and National Football League protests during the national anthem.

According to federal prosecutors the sophisticated campaign Khusyaynova was a part of “did not exclusively adopt one ideological viewpoint” but instead tried to push incendiary positions on various political controversies on social media platforms.

The Russians involved, prosecutors said, created fake personas and spread their divisive messages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The Russian group attempted to sow conflict along racial lines and sometimes advocated positions that directly opposed each other, apparently agnostic to whom they supported as long as it turned Americans against one another.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/director-of-national-intelligence-warns-of-ongoing-campaigns-to-interfere-with-elections/2018/10/19/64973a7a-d3b4-11e8-b2d2-f397227b43f0_story.html?utm_term=.66bd4fe58461

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

When Stone was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on seven federal charges, the charges and irony of his arrest are what many called a well-deserved fate or KARMA for his past nefarious actions.

Roger Stone spent much of the 2016 presidential campaign engaging in political scandal mongering against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

His website and social media accounts reveal doctored images that portray Hillary Clinton as old, sick, or in prison.

Stone also frequently posted messages on Twitter calling for Clinton’s imprisonment and even started a petition advocating her prosecution that he shared with the hashtag #lockerherup.

There is a photograph of Roger Stone holding a “Hillary for Prison” T-shirt he was selling.

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/roger-stone-hillary-prison-merch/

Government officials and others familiar with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference have told the media that Mueller is nearing the conclusion of his investigation and is expected to submit a confidential report to the attorney general as early as mid-February, 2019.

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/justice-department/mueller-may-submit-report-attorney-general-soon-mid-february-say-n949961

On January 29, 2019 Acting United States Attorney General Whitaker told news outlets that the Mueller Russian investigation is close to completion.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/28/politics/mueller-report-whitaker/index.html

It is more likely than not that the Russian probe has uncovered evidence of a President “giving aid and comfort” to Russia to influence his election to become President and to hide or stop the Russia investigation to disrupt the 2016 election by firing FBI James Comey or both.

Trump has spent a lifetime being loyal to only two things: himself and his money.

Given the millions and millions of dollars involved with Russian financing of Trump enterprises, Trump’s love of money probably outweighs his love for his country if he really ever had love for the country in the first place.

With the indictment of close personal friends and confidants like Roger Stone, Paul Manford, Michael Cohen and Michael Flynn more than a few very heavy mill stones are now around Donald Trump’s neck for him to be cast into the sea of impeachment and removal or forced resignation.

The testimony of Michael Cohen before congress should be when Trump will be thrown into the sea of impeachment.

If the Cohn testimony does not to the trick to start impeachment, the release of the Mueller Report on the Russian investigation will shove Trump into the deep waters.

However, it may be only wishful thinking that the Russia investigation is coming to and end.

On January 5, 2019, Special Counsel Mueller secured a 6 month extension for the grand jury that was set to expire after 18 months.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/04/politics/mueller-grand-jury/index.html

Federal prosecutors do not seek grand jury extension unless there is more work do be done and perhaps more indictments.

The only sure thing that no doubt would sink Trump to the very bottom would be the indictment of Donald Trump, Jr., and son in law Jared Kushner and the grand jury has time to do just that with the extension.

What appears is unfolding is the inevitable impeachment of a sitting President of the United States for treason against his own country for the first time in its history, and if not, for obstruction of justice.

NM and APS On Verge Transforming Public Education; A “Think New Mexico” Commentary

There are two major political dynamics going on in New Mexico involving the New Mexico Legislature and the Albuquerque Public School System (APS).

The two converging dynamics that complement each other are:

1. The Albuquerque Public School APS property tax levy and bond initiative election for refurbishing, remodeling or replacing aging APS public schools.

2. The dramatic increase in public education funding under consideration by the 2019 New Mexico Legislature.

If both efforts are successful, combined they have the potential of changing the New Mexico public education system for generations and finally ensuring a quality education for New Mexico’s youth.

This article is an attempt to tie in 3 major areas of concern: 1. funding for education, 2. facilities for education and 3. a postscript on the need to get a better handle on APS administration.

THE APS PROPERTY TAX LEVY AND BOND INITIATIVE FOR CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS

The Albuquerque Public School (APS) System is conducting a bonding and property tax levy election for the renovation, refurbishment and construction of new schools to replace old schools.

The election is being conducted by “mail in ballot” and all ballots must be returned to the Bernalillo County Clerk before Tuesday, February 5, 2019, or they will not be counted.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1243802/aps-will-ask-voters-for-property-tax-increase.html

Albuquerque Public Schools (APS) is New Mexico’s largest school district, serving more than a fourth of all New Mexico’s students and nearly 84,000 students.
The ethnicity and composition of the APS 84,000 students is worth noting:

65.8% are Hispanic
22.9% are Caucasian/White
5.5% are American Indian
3.2% are African American
2.3% are Asian American
0.2% are “other”

Of the 84,000 APS students 16.6% are classified as “English Learners”, 17.2% are classified as “Students with Disabilities”, and 5.9% are in gifted programs.
APS operates 142 schools consisting of 4 K-8 schools, 88 elementary schools (K through 8th grade), 27 middle schools (6-8 th grade), 21 high schools (9th to 12th grade) and 2 alternative schools.

The average age of an APS public school is 50 years or more.

APS is seeking a 2-mill levy property tax rate increase and a bond initiative.

There are 3 initiatives on the ballot seeking voter approval.

The first initiative seeks $190 million for continuing maintenance of the public schools and keeps the tax rate as it is.

The other two initiatives seek $510 million and $200 million for construction and instructional equipment, and would increase the APS mill tax rate.

APS is asking voters for funding for 34 projects over six years costing a total of $900 million that are deemed needed throughout the largest school district in New Mexico.

A total of 31 of the 34 projects consist of renovating, repairing and replacing aging schools, including 16 elementary schools, 12 middle schools and 3 high schools.

There are targeted capital dollars to provide funding to finish up major rebuilds and upgrades to 23 school campuses.

The capital monies will also provide start-up monies for 11 additional renovation projects targeting aging campuses in historic neighborhoods, like La Mesa Elementary School.

The remaining 3 projects are $20 million for school security upgrades, one project is $1.8 million for long overdue Information Technology (IT) upgrades, and one project is $1.5 million for infrastructure and American With Disabilities Act renovations.

The $20 million for much needed school security upgrades is in response to APS needing to upgrade safety measures in response to the rash of incidences of gun violence on school grounds across the country, including New Mexico.

The $20 million in security funding will provide for new locks for every classroom, security vestibule entrances, upgraded camera security with a district-wide central monitoring center, and build protective perimeter fencing for school campuses.

The IT upgrading technology is for both students and teachers and is necessary to stay competitive education wise in a fast evolving, high-tech world.

In dollars and cents, a 2-mill levy means someone with a home valued at $100,000 will see an annual increase of $67 in property taxes, a home valued at $150,000 will have an annual tax increase of $100, and for a home valued at $220,000, the median home value in the city, it will be a $147 annual increase in property taxes.

DRAMATIC INCREASE IN TEACHER PAY AND PUBLIC EDUCATION FUNDING

Increasing teacher salaries, hiring more teachers and addressing the needs of our kids are the top priority of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s agenda and the New Mexico Legislature in the 2019 legislative session.

At least $500 million in new monies are being proposed for public education over the next fiscal year that begins July 1, 2019.

Governor Michelle Lujan has submitted a proposed total budget of $7.1 billion for consideration by the 2019 New Mexico legislature that started on January 15, 2019.

The $7.1 billion budget increases state spending by $806 million.

The Governor’s budget calls for $3.2 billion to be spent on Public Schools, an 18% increase, and $830.2 million, a 3.3% increase, on higher education.

More than 50% of the proposed $806 million Lujan-Grisham budget increase will go to the public education system.

Lujan Grisham’s budget plan calls for a sharp and dramatic increase in funding for pre-kindergarten programs.

$60 million in new appropriations is being proposed for pre-kindergarten programs serving 3- and 4-year-old children statewide.

The Governor is proposing that the state’s funding formula for public schools be adjusted so more money would flow to districts with large populations of Native American, disabled and low-income students, along with English-language learners.

The New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) for its part released its own budget proposal plan that would increase year to year state spending by $670.8 million, or by 10.6%, as opposed to the Governor’s $806 million, or 12.7% increase or a 2.1% difference between the plans.

The LFC’s budget would earmark more than three-fifths of the additional spending toward public schools statewide.

Both the Governor’s and the LFC budgets call for an increase in the public-school funding formula for at-risk students, including Native Americans, English-language learners and those with disabilities.

Salaries for teachers would go up under both plans.

On January 23, 2019 a Legislative committee voted unanimously to approve a proposal that would incrementally increase minimum salaries for public school teachers and principals.

The proposal calls for the starting salary for Level 1 teachers to rise from $36,000 annually to $45,000 by 2022.

It calls for Level 2 teacher increases from $44,000 to $55,000 by 2022.

Level 3 teacher pay would go from $54,000 to $65,000 by 2022.

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/new-mexico/articles/2019-01-23/bill-on-yearly-new-mexico-teacher-salary-jumps-gets-1st-test

For blog articles on the Governor’s proposed budget and the LFC’s proposed budget see:

https://www.petedinelli.com/…/gov-michelle-lujan…/

https://www.petedinelli.com/2019/01/15/governor-mlgs-budget-plan-vs-lfc-budget-plan/

IMPACT OF STATE DISTRICT COURT RULING ON PUBLIC EDUCATION FUNDING

On Friday, July 20, 2018, Santa Fe District Court Judge Sarah Singleton ruled that the state of New Mexico is violating the constitutional rights of at-risk students by failing to provide them with a sufficient education.

The Judge found that it was clear that many New Mexico students are not receiving the basic education in reading, writing and math they should be receiving in our public-school system.

There is no doubt that the District Court ruling played a major role in making public education funding a top priority of both Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Legislature.

As a matter of law, Judge Singleton wrote the “lack of funds is not a defense to providing constitutional rights” and found:

“[The evidence presented at trial] proves that the vast majority of New Mexico’s at-risk children finish each school year without the basic literacy and math skills needed to pursue post-secondary education or a career. … Indeed, overall New Mexico children rank at the very bottom in the country for educational achievement. … The at-risk students are still not attaining proficiency at the rate of non-at-risk students … and the programs being lauded by [the Public Education Department] are not changing this picture.”

According to the judge’s ruling, in New Mexico, 71.6% of the state’s public-school students come from low-income families, and 14.4% are English-language learners.

Further, 14.8 percent of students have disabilities, and 10.6 percent are Native American.

Judge Singleton addressing proficiency rates for Native American students said that in the past 3 years, those students’ reading proficiency was at 17.6% and their math proficiency was at 10.4%.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1200069/questions-surround-ruling-on-nm-education-funding.html

The Court found that New Mexico does not have enough teachers and that New Mexico teachers are among the lowest paid in the country and stated:

“The evidence shows that school districts do not have the funds to pay for all the teachers they need. … [An example is] Gadsden, one of the better performing school districts in the state, has had to eliminate over 53 classroom positions and 15 essential teachers since 2008.”

NEW MEXICO KIDS IN CRISIS

On Jun 26, 2018, it was reported by the 2018 Kids Count Data Book that for the first time in five years, New Mexico has fallen to last among states when it comes to the economic, educational and medical well-being of its children, according to a nonprofit that tracks the status of children in the United Sates.

The most troubling in the 2018 Kids Count Data Book is New Mexico’s steep drop in ranking for health care measures which previously a bright spot for the state.

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/education/report-new-mexico-ranks-last-in-child-well-being/article_0f6865fc-d34a-5050-9f74-21680e98a2a5.html

According to the 2018 Kids Count Data Book, 30% of New Mexico’s children were living in poverty in 2016, compared to 19% nationwide that year, the earliest figures available.

In educational measures, the report says 75% of the state’s fourth-graders were not proficient in reading in 2017, compared to 65% nationally, and 80% of eighth-graders were not performing up to par in math in 2017, compared to 67% across the U.S.

Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report on United State Public Education systems throughout the nation put New Mexico next to last out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in January, 2018.

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

Governor Mitchell Lujan Grisham’s commitment and the New Mexico Legislature’s commitment to fund our education system to the levels needed to address our public education system is a major step in reversing New Mexico’s last place showing in education rankings.

State funding for public education for programs and teacher salaries can and must go hand in hand with providing a quality education in a safe teaching environment for students.

All the projects that will be funded by the APS property tax levy and bond initiatives are all capital improvement projects meaning they are an investment in tangible assets, brick and mortar projects, not management and personnel.

As is the case with any building, private and publicly owned, APS schools and facilities age and eventually have to be torn down and rebuilt, as was the case with Del Norte High School in the last few years.

Because of the extent of the number of schools that have depreciated and deteriorated, the APS school system and the citizens of Albuquerque are now confronted with a financial dilemma, refurbish or tear down and rebuild many of our public schools.

All too often, remodeling and renovations in the long run are far costlier to bring a building up to code and it is more practical and economically responsible to tear down and rebuild.

A number of the listed for attention, especially the elementary schools, are so old they are falling apart for lack of maintenance, upkeep and age.

Hope springs eternal that the dramatic increase of $500 million dollars or more in public education a year by the State of New Mexico coupled with $900 million expended in capital improvement projects by the Albuquerque Public School System over six years will have a dramatic impact on ensuring that New Mexico’s kids get a quality education in a safe and secure environment.

Let’s hope the New Mexico legislature comes through with the increase in funding for public education and that the voters of Albuquerque recognize that the education of our youth are investments that we have failed to make for too many years.

POSTSCRIPT

“Think New Mexico” is a nonpartisan think tank that does not subscribe to any particular ideology and conducts and publishes independent research focusing on workable solutions to the serious problems facing New Mexico.

www.thinknewmexico.org.

The mission of Think New Mexico is to improve the quality of life for all New Mexicans, especially those who lack a strong voice in the political process.

Think New Mexico fulfills its mission by educating the public, the media, and policymakers about some the most serious challenges facing New Mexico and develops and advocates for effective, comprehensive, sustainable solutions.

On Sunday, January 27, 2019, the Albuquerque Journal published the following guest column written by “Think New Mexico” Director Fred Nathan entitled “HB 77 will help make sure all those new millions in funding go to classrooms, where learning happens” :

“As Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Legislature consider a package of bills to transform New Mexico’s public schools, Think New Mexico urges them to include House Bill 77, which will make sure that a greater proportion of New Mexico’s education funding reaches our students and teachers in the classroom.

The education reform bills being considered by lawmakers were developed in response to last year’s landmark Yazzie/Martinez court decision. In that decision, Judge Sarah Singleton directed New Mexico lawmakers to spend more on education for the state’s most vulnerable students. Judge Singleton also made clear that this additional money must be spent on evidence-based “classroom instruction programs such as quality pre-K, K-3 Plus, extended school year, and quality teachers” that have been proven to make a difference for at-risk children.

In order to accomplish this, New Mexico will need to change the way it spends its education dollars. When Think New Mexico analyzed New Mexico’s education spending, we discovered that in the decade between 2006-07 and 2016-17, more than two-thirds of school districts across New Mexico – 61 of 89 – grew their central office administrative spending faster than their classroom spending.

For example, in the Albuquerque Public Schools, classroom spending increased by an average of 0.8 percent per year over the past decade, while administrative spending grew by 1.7 percent per year. That difference adds up with compounding: between 2006-07 and 2016-17, classroom spending in APS increased by 7.4 percent, while administrative spending increased by 17.5 percent.

Think New Mexico’s research is consistent with the findings of the Legislature’s own finance staff, which recently presented research showing that, statewide, spending on school district general and central administration grew by 34 percent over the past decade – more than twice as fast as classroom spending, which increased by 16-17 percent.

As Gov. Lujan Grisham told the Albuquerque Journal last July, “The administrative overhead in our schools is outrageous.”

The disproportionate growth in administration at the expense of the classroom helps explain why New Mexico’s student performance has continued to lag behind the rest of the nation. Several years ago, the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory conducted an extensive study of 1,500 school districts in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico. They concluded that high-performing school districts spend a larger percentage of their budgets on instruction and a lower percentage on general administration than lower-performing districts, and they also tend to employ smaller numbers of administrative staff.

To get more money to New Mexico’s classrooms, Think New Mexico drafted House Bill 77, which has been introduced by Democratic Rep. Bobby Gonzales, former Superintendent of Taos Municipal Schools and vice-chair of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.

House Bill 77 would limit the growth of school district central administrative spending to no faster than the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or the overall growth in the state education budget, whichever is lower. Classroom spending would not be limited. So in years like 2019, when lawmakers are proposing to increase education spending by more than 12 percent and the CPI is about 2 percent, central administration would be limited to 2 percent growth. All the rest of the new money would go to the classroom, where the learning takes place.

Passing House Bill 77 is especially important this year, when lawmakers are proposing to add at least $400 million to the education budget in response to the Yazzie/Martinez ruling. House Bill 77 will greatly enhance the effectiveness of those appropriations by making sure that almost all of the new money will be directed to the classroom.

We encourage parents and families across New Mexico to urge their legislators and Gov. Lujan Grisham to include House Bill 77 in their education reform package. You can learn more about this effort, and email your legislators and the governor from Think New Mexico’s website at: www.thinknewmexico.org.”

Below is the link to the Albuquerque Journal “Think New Mexico” guest commentary:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1273337/hb-77-will-help-make-sure-all-those-new-millions-in-funding-go-to-classrooms-where-learning-happens.html

Brown Grand Babies Have Been Around New Mexico A Very Long Time

My jaw literally dropped when on January 27, 2019, when I heard longtime news reporter Tom Brokaw say on Meet the Press:

“And a lot of this, we don’t want to talk about … But the fact is, on the Republican side, a lot of people see the rise of an extraordinary, important, new constituent in American politics, Hispanics, who will come here and all be Democrats. Also, I hear, when I push people a little harder, ‘Well, I don’t know whether I want brown grandbabies.’ I mean, that’s also a part of it. … It’s the intermarriage that is going on and the cultures that are conflicting with each other. I also happen to believe that the Hispanics should work harder at assimilation. That’s one of the things I’ve been saying for a long time. You know, they ought not to be just codified in their communities but make sure that all their kids are learning to speak English, and that they feel comfortable in the communities. And that’s going to take outreach on both sides, frankly.”

You can see the entire interview here.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tom-brokaw-hispanics-should-work-harder-at-assimilation_us_5c4e2ed3e4b0287e5b8bd250

No one on the Meet the Press panel asked Brokaw to clarify who has told him they didn’t want “brown grandbabies.”

Tom Brokaw has apologized for the remarks, but please give me a break!

I doubt Tom Brokaw and his friends fully understand or appreciate just how much assimilation has gone on in New Mexico for decades, and some would say hundreds of years.

I am half Italian and half Hispanic.

My grandfather Lorenzo Dinelli immigrated from Lucca, Italy in the year 1900 to New Mexico at the age of 19, a full 12 years before New Mexico became a State.

My grandmother Rachaelle, also from Lucca, Italy followed my grandfather Lorenzo and settled in Albuquerque.

My father Paul Dinelli was born in Albuquerque and the first language he learned before English was Italian.

My mother Rose Fresques Dinelli, was born in Chacon, New Mexico in Mora County, New Mexico.

My mother Rose was 100% Hispanic, and the first language she learned before English was Spanish.

The Italian and Spanish languages have many similarities.

I recall growing up when my dad and my mom would speak to each other in both languages to keep us from knowing what they were saying, especially when we knew they were arguing.

I once asked my mother why they did not teach me and my brother and sisters Italian or Spanish and she told me it was important for us to learn English and fully master one language.

Another reason for not teaching us Italian or Spanish was that my grandparents and my mother and father had experienced discrimination because of their ethnicity.

I regret not being taught by my parents and being unable to master Italian and Spanish, but understand fully their rationale for it.

Someone needs to tell Tom Brokaw that at least in New Mexico we have more than a few very successful Hispanic Republican politicians such as former Governor Susana Martinez, former Lt. Governor John Sanchez who were once brown babies not to mention former Congressman Manuel Lujan, all three who can speak fluent Spanish.

Then New Mexico also had former United State Senator Pete Domenici who was first generation Italian, whose parents immigrated from Lucca, Italy and Domenici could speak fluent Italian.

Frankly, my wife Betty and I are extremely excited to have more than a few brown babies seeing as my oldest son is married to an Hispanic!

Background Checks Proposed In “Gun Culture” New Mexico

The 2019 New Mexico Legislature is diving into the national debate on gun control.

Four House bills and one Senate bill are being considered by the 2019 New Mexico Legislative session that many people characterize as unacceptable gun control legislation in total violation of US Constitution Second Amendment Rights to bear arms while others would characterize as a reasonable restrictions on gun sales.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1272402/background-check-bill-advances-in-house.html

The bills being considered by the New Mexico Legislature would expand the requirements for background checks to nearly every kind of firearms sale in New Mexico.

Among the New Mexico House Bills being debated are as follows:

House Bill 8: Would make it a crime to sell a firearm without conducting a background check. Federally licensed firearms dealers already must conduct background checks.

House Bill 40: Require any vendor at a gun show to conduct a background check before transferring a weapon to someone.

House Bill 83: Would allow family members or police officers to seek a court order to take guns temporarily from someone they believe is an immediate threat.

House Bill 87: Would prohibit someone convicted of battery on a household member, among certain other crimes, from having a firearm. People subject to a restraining order, in some circumstances, would also be banned from having a firearm.

HOUSE BILL 8 OPPOSITION

House Bill 8, which would make it a crime to sell a firearm without conducting a background check, is running into severe opposition from firearms instructors, ranchers and US Constitution Second Amendment protectionists.

Elected County Sheriff’s from across New Mexico organized and turned out in force wearing their side arms to argue that House Bill 8 would be impossible for them to enforce.

The Sheriff’s argued against the measure before the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee saying that it would do nothing to keep criminals from buying guns.

Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace went so far as saying “This is a ‘feel good’ piece of legislation that provides no means of enforcement or mechanism to verify [if] a background check is conducted”.

House Bill 8 passed with a 3-2 vote along party lines, with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed.

House Bill 8 now heads to the House Judiciary Committee for further review and debate before it reaches the House floor for a final vote.

Senate Bill 8, another background check bill, has also moved out of the Senate Public Affairs Committee on a 4-3 vote.

WHAT THE FUSS IS ALL ABOUT

The biggest controversy surrounding the “background check” bills is that background checks would be required in the private sale of guns between individuals who know each other or even who don’t but desire to sell and buy a gun after a sale is advertised.

There would be a few exceptions such as sales to law enforcement agencies.

Supporters of background checks for gun sales say it would a step toward keeping guns out of the hands of people prohibited from buying them, such as convicted violent felons or the mentally ill.

Opponents argue background checks are way too big of a burden on people who want to follow the law and entirely ignored by criminals or others who know they wouldn’t pass a background check.

Opponents also argue that law-abiding gun owners would be penalized on private guns sales because they would have to pay federal gun dealers to handle the background checks adding an unreasonable amount to the gun sale.

The approximate cost of a background check by a licensed federal gun dealer is $45.

NM AND ABQ VIOLENT CRIME STATISTICS REFLECT EPIDEMIC

It has been reported that 400 New Mexicans get killed every year to gun violence.

On Monday, September 24, 2018 the FBI released its “Crime in the United States” report providing the statistics on all the crimes reportedly committed in New Mexico and Albuquerque and in 2017.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1224917/fbi-abq-crime-rate-up-in-2017.html

Since 2010, violent felony crime rates and property crime rates have steadily increased in Albuquerque and in New Mexico statewide.

According to the FBI report, the increase in crime in both New Mexico and Albuquerque continued in 2017.

Statewide, New Mexico violent crime rates rose by 12 percent and property crime rates were up by 0.5 percent in 2017.

The FBI reported that New Mexico had 16,359 violent crimes reported and 82,306 property crimes reported in 2017.

All the statistics for New Mexico and Albuquerque are in sharp contrast with national trends that crime is going down in the United States as a whole.

According to the FBI report summary, in 2015 and 2016, violent crime had been increasing across the United States but in 2017, violent crime decreased 0.2% with the overall rate falling 0.9% percent.

In the United States as a whole, the property crime rates dropped for the 15th straight year, decreasing by 3% across the country.

Nationally, the crime rate is 383 violent offenses per 100,000 residents and 2,362 property crimes per 100,000 residents.

Albuquerque’s violent crime and property crime rates are more than triple the national crime rates.

On January 10, 2019, the Albuquerque Journal reported that New Mexico is number one 1 In fatal police shootings reporting:

“For the fourth year in a row, New Mexico placed either first or second in the nation for its rate of deadly shootings by law enforcement officers, according to the Fatal Force database created by The Washington Post.

In 2018, New Mexico ranked first in the nation, finishing the year with 20 fatal shootings by police officers around the state, a rate of 9.59 per 1 million people.

Alaska had 7 total fatal police shootings was a close second, with a rate of 9.5 fatal police shootings per 1 million people.

Connecticut had the smallest number of fatal police shootings with 0 reported.

In 2017, the state came in as No. 2, behind Alaska, but it was first in the nation in 2016.

In 2015 New Mexico was in second place, behind Wyoming.”

https://www.abqjournal.com/1266910/nm-ranks-no-1-for-fatal-police-shootings.html

ABQ’s MURDER RATE

In 2017, the city broke the all-time homicide rate of 70 with 72 murders and in 2018 there were 66 murders.

In 2018, nonfatal shootings went up 4% from 470 to 491 shootings.

There were 6 more murders in the first quarter of 2018 compared with 2017 which was a 50% increase.

Non-fatal shootings for the first quarter of 2018 had a 0% change from 2017, but increased by +5% for the first half of 2018.

A total of 66 homicides occurred in Albuquerque in 2018.

In March of 2018, 5 homicides were reported in just six days.

In December, 2018, 2 police officer deadly force shootings occurred in less than 24 hours.

In 2018, 45 of the killings, or 68% of the homicides, were from gun violence.

The 66 homicides in 2018 were a 12% decrease from 2017’s 75 homicides, but that number is still 8% higher than 2016 where 61 homicides were reported.

The 2018 year-end, although down, is still one of the highest in recent history and does not include the seven fatal shootings by police.

The 2018 murder figure does not include the nine police officer involved shootings that were determined to be justifiable homicides.

Although Albuquerque recorded its first drop in homicides in 2018, it still followed a dramatic spike in homicides over the previous 3 years.

Albuquerque finished 2018 with a homicide rate of 11.82 per 100,000 people.

In comparison, Tucson, Arizona with around 20,000 fewer people, tallied 53 homicides in 2018 for a rate of 8.78 per 100,000.

El Paso, Texas, with around 130,000 more people, had 17 homicides for a rate of 2.46 per 100,000.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1270978/abq-area-homicides-down-slightly-but-concerns-remain.html

GOVERNOR’S AND ABQ’S RESPONSE TO GUN VIOLENCE

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham wants to treat gun violence as an epidemic.

Governor Lujan Grisham has said she wants the New Mexico Department of Health to study it as a health crisis.

During her campaign for Governor, Lujan Grisham suggested eight items, from supporting and passing legislation to strengthen background checks to requiring registered firearm owners to report lost or stolen guns.

https://www.kob.com/politics-news/governor-elect-has-big-plans-to-help-curb-gun-violence/5145438/

During a December 27, 2018 press conference on crime statistics, APD Chief Michael Geier reported that there was also a flood of guns hitting the street as nearly 1,000 firearms were stolen from homes and vehicles from January to November in 2018.

APD is working on a “comprehensive plan” to treat gun violence as a “public health crisis.”

Albuquerque Police Chief Michael Geier said that APD plans to target gun violence by adding resources, investing in new technology and working with communities to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1261926/apd-release-crime-stats-for-2018.html

UNITED STATES MASS SHOOTINGS

Since 1995, the United States has had 98 mass shootings, including seven of the 11 deadliest.

Three of the 11 biggest mass shootings in American history have now taken place in the United States in the last year.

There is no doubt we have a deadly mass shooting epidemic on our hands.

The mass shooting with guns in the last 10 years include: Orlando, Florida (49 killed, 50 injured), Blacksburg, Va. (32 killed), San Ysidro, Cal (21 killed), San Bernardino, (14 killed), Edmond Oklahoma (14 killed), Fort Hood (13 killed), Binghamton, NY (13 killed) Washington, DC (12 killed), Aurora, Colorado (12 killed), Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newtown, Conn (21 children and 6 adult staff members killed) and the largest mass shooting in this country’s history that occurred in Las Vegas, Nevada with at least 59 dead and at least 515 wounded and the Parkland/Stoneridge High School shooting that resulted in 17 children’s deaths.

The difference with the Parkland shooting and all the other mass shootings is that it finally ignited a national discussion on gun control with the March for Our Life’s movement, and it was the children of our county that said enough is enough.

SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS

The “right to bear arms” is not a right embodied or guaranteed in the original United States Constitution.

Second amendment advocates ignore the fact that it just that, an Amendment to our US Constitution that was enacted and can be repealed or substituted by the will of the people.

Our founding fathers knew that for a democracy such as ours to survive, it needed a process to allow government to be able to reflect changing times, grant human rights and allow the US Constitution to conform with changing norms and make corrections.

Otherwise, we would still have slavery, women would not be able to vote and we would not be able to drink alcohol.

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution declares that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction”, it formally abolishing slavery in the United States, it was passed by the Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the states on December 6, 1865.

Passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment granted women the right to vote and it guarantees all American women the right to vote.

The Twenty-first Amendment (Amendment XXI) to the United States Constitution repealed the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which had mandated nationwide prohibition on the production and sale of alcohol on January 16, 1919 and the Twenty-first Amendment was ratified by the states on December 5, 1933.

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

It is likely the biggest motivating factors compelling the New Mexico Legislature to enact some form of background checks is the mass shootings that have occurred over the last few years as well as the states high violent crime rates.

Historically, New Mexico lawmakers have been very resistant to enacting any type of restrictions on gun ownership.

The resistance to restrictions on gun ownership no doubt can be traced to the “gun culture” history that is a part of a Western state such as New Mexico.

The New Mexico Constitution has a specific provision that allows the “open carry” of firearms on your person and includes the vehicle you drive.

The New Mexico Constitutional provision allowing the “open carry” of firearms is an affirmance of the Second Amendment to the United’s States constitution and the right to bear arms.

It is very common in rural New Mexico for people to carry firearms or have rifle gun racks in the back window of their truck.

Hunting is as much of New Mexico’s Culture as is red or green chile.

With New Mexico and Albuquerque soaring crime rates, the time has come for the New Mexico legislature to take reasonable steps and mandate background checks on all sales of guns but they need to go even further.

There are many legislative proposals, albeit too controversial for many who hold office to stomach, that need to be considered on a state level and on the federal level that could be proposed or enacted by our federal and state officials that will have more of an impact.

The New Mexico legislature should consider:

1.Repeal the New Mexico Constitutional provision that allows the “open carry” of firearms. This would require a public vote and no doubt generate heated discussion given New Mexico’s high percentage of gun ownership for hunting, sport or hobby.

2. Prohibit in New Mexico the sale of “ghost guns” parts. Ghost guns are guns that are manufactured and sold in parts without any serial numbers to be assembled by the purchaser and that can be sold to anyone.

3. Requiring in New Mexico the mandatory purchase of “liability insurance” with each gun sold as is required for all operable vehicles bought and driven in New Mexico.

4. Enact a gun violence restraining order and extreme risk protection process to temporarily prohibit an individual deemed by a judge to pose a danger to self or others, from purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition and allow law local law enforcement to remove any firearms or ammunition already in the individual’s possession.

5. Restrict and penalize firearm possession by or transfer to a person subject to a domestic violence protection order or a person, including dating partners, convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor.

6. Mandate the school systems and higher education institutions “harden” their facilities with more security doors, security windows, and security measures and alarm systems and security cameras tied directly to law enforcement 911 emergency operations centers.

7. Enact enhanced mandatory sentencing years of 5 to 10 years upon conviction of a crime using a gun without any provision of suspension of the enhance sentence and mandating the sentence to run consecutive to the sentencing in the underlying crime conviction.

When the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution was enacted, the mode of transportation was horseback, flint locks were used to defend and wage war, no one could fly and all of mankind could only look to the stars in wonder and life expectancy was around 50 years old if you survived childbirth and if you were lucky and did not die of disease.

Today, our mode of transportation are cars and jet airplanes, our country defends itself with nuclear warheads and cruise missiles, the United States has gone to the moon and back more than once, and countries are exploring space and medical advances are allowing people to live into their nineties and organ transplants are common place.

Sooner rather than later, gunpowder will be replaced by technology and no doubt Second Amendment advocates will want to hold a weapon of mass destruction in their hands like seen in Star Trek or Star Wars.

The millions of people who marched in Washington, DC during the 2018 “March for Our Lives” movement and in cities all over the country are clear proof just how upset voters are with the availability of guns.

On a federal level, the United States Congress needs to consider:

1. Implementation of background checks on the sale of all guns.

2. Close the “Charleston loophole” or “delayed denial” where federally licensed dealers can sell guns if three business days pass without FBI clearance.

3. Call for the update and enhancement of the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check system (NCIS).

4. Institute mandatory extended waiting periods for all gun purchases.

5. Implement mandatory handgun licensing, permitting, training, and registration requirements.

6. Ban “bump-fire stocks” as was used in the Las Vegas mass shooting and other dangerous accessories.

7. Ban future manufacture and sale of all assault weapons and regulate existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act of 1934, and initiate a federal gun buyback program.

8. Impose limits on high capacity magazines.

9. Prohibit firearm sale or transfer to and receipt or possession by an individual who has: (1) been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor hate crime, or (2) received from any court an enhanced hate crime misdemeanor sentence.

10. Institute mandatory child access prevention safe storage requirements and prohibit the sales of handguns with “hair triggers”.

11. Provide more resources and treatment for people with mental illness.

12. Enhance accountability of federally licensed firearms dealers.

13. Implement micro stamped code on each bullet that links it to a specific gun.

14. Produce ‘x-mart guns’ with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) or biometric recognition (fingerprint) capability.

15. Limit gun purchases to one gun per month to reduce trafficking and straw purchases.

16. Prohibit open carry of firearms.

17. Digitize Alcohol, Tobacco and Fire (ATF) gun records.

18. Require licensing for ammunition dealer.

19. Call for a constitutional amendment to be enacted by the states to repeal the Second Amendment.

CONCLUSION

With the 2018 elections, it is clear the political landscape has changed in Santa Fe.

Democrats returned to the Roundhouse State Capitol this year with increased strength.

Democrats have increased their majority number in the state House and hold a majority in the Senate.

Democrats gained control of the Governor’s Office with the election of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham a longtime gun control advocate in Congress.

During her State of the State address, Governor Lujan Grisham called on lawmakers to sign off on gun control measures.

The New Mexico legislature needs to step up to plate and take steps to enact responsible gun control legislation, but more is needed to have any affect.

Background checks on all the sales of guns in New Mexico is a good first step.

For further commentary on mass shootings see:

https://www.petedinelli.com/2018/02/15/what-we-hear-is-the-sounds-of-silence/

TACKLING THE NM TAX CODE

A comprehensive tax bill has been introduced in the New Mexico House of Representatives to make major changes to New Mexico’s tax code.

The tax code legislation is sponsored by state Representative Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, the NM House Taxation Committee chairman.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1272109/house-bill-would-raise-gasoline-income-taxes.html

HIGHLIGHTS OF TAX BILL

Following are the major highlights to the house bill:

1. The state’s top personal income tax rate would go from 4.9 percent to 6.5 percent. Under this change, new annual income brackets would be created starting with an increase to 5.2 percent for a single filer making $23,500.

2. The state gross receipts tax rate would be reduced from 5.125% to 4.625% , a 0.5% reduction. The gross receipts tax is considered a highly regressive tax an affects lower income people more so than any other group of taxpayers.

3. Not-for-profit hospital services would be taxed at the same rate as for-profit hospital services.

4. The state’s gasoline tax rate would jump from 17 cents a gallon to 27 cents a gallon. The income generated by this tax is used for highway repairs, paving and expansions.

5. The state’s vehicle excise tax would increase from 3% to 4.625%.

6. Online internet sales, such as AMAZON sales, would be taxed immediately by both the state and local governments.

7. The State hold-harmless subsidies for city and county governments would end in the 2022 budget year, a full seven years early. Lawmakers repealed the gross receipts tax on food and medicine in 2004, and the state currently pays a subsidy to city and county governments to offset the lost revenue. State Senator Carlos Cisneros, a Questa Democrat, is anticipated to introduce legislation that would reinstate the gross receipts on food.

HOLD HARMLESS FUNDING EXPLAINED

In 2004, the Legislature decided to remove gross receipts taxes from food and medicine resulting in a reduction in the amount of tax revenue raised.

Cities and counties are given a share of state gross receipts tax revenues so, to “hold harmless” local governments, the Legislature approved payments or subsidies to the counties to make up for the lost revenue to them.

In 2013, a last-minute tax deal between the Democratic Legislature and Republican Gov. Susana Martinez resulted in a plan to eliminate the hold-harmless payments in a phase-out with 6% or 7% cuts annually over 15 years.

To make up for the phase-out, cities and counties were granted authority, on their own and without approval by voters, to increase the gross receipts tax in their jurisdictions by up to three-eighths of 1% which translates to about 38 additional cents on a $100 purchase.

The new taxing authority given to cities and counties can exceed by millions the loss of hold-harmless payments.

https://www.abqjournal.com/554639/holdharmless-replacement-tax-would-mean-revenue-boost.html

INTENT OF 2019 TAX CODE CHANGES

All the proposed changes to the tax code will result in a change to the state’s base gross receipts tax rate and is projected to increase state and local revenue levels by an estimated $333 million by the 2022 budget year.

State Representative Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, the House tax committee’s chairman and the tax code change sponsor, said the changes are intended to generate more revenue for the state so that teacher salary raises and other major priorities requiring a recurring revenue source can be paid for in the future.

A key Legislative committee voted unanimously to approve a proposal that would incrementally increase minimum salaries for public school teachers and principals.

The proposal calls for the starting salary for Level 1 teachers to rise from $36,000 annually to $45,000 by 2022.

It calls for Level 2 teacher increases from $44,000 to $55,000 by 2022. Level 3 teacher pay would go from $54,000 to $65,000 by 2022.

https://www.lcsun-news.com/story/news/local/new-mexico/legislature/2019/01/23/teacher-pay-increase-new-mexico-legislative-panel/2659924002/

GROSS RECEIPTS TAX RATES VARY THROUGHOUT STATE

The state’s base gross receipts tax rate is 5.125%.

Cities and counties are granted taxing authority by the legislature.

Despite the states base rate being 5.125%, there are numerous varying tax rates in cities and counties throughout New Mexico because of gross receipts tax “local add on” such as the “hold harmless” taxation.

Some gross receipts tax rates surpass 8% in some cities, such as Las Cruces (8.3125%), Santa Fe (8.4375%), Clovis (8.1875%), Gallup (8.3125%), Portales (8.1875%).

Albuquerque’s tax rate is 7.850%, Artesia is 7.895%, Hobbs is 6.8125%, Alamogordo’s is 8% and Silver City is 8%

Taos Ski Valley has the highest gross receipts tax rate in the state at 9.25%.

In 2003, Democrat Governor Bill Richardson successfully advocated for the reduction of the state’s top personal income tax rate.

In 2013, Republican Governor Susana Martinez signed off on a tax package that cut the state’s corporate income tax rate.

The 2013 tax package authorized city and county governments to raise their local gross receipts tax rates in exchange for a gradual phaseout of the state subsidy to replace the food tax revenues lost.

Because of previous income and corporate tax deductions, the state has a tax base that has a tremendous reliance on the oil and gas industry.

The New Mexico oil and gas industry is a volatile revenue source for royalties to the state.

During the last 8 years, New Mexico oil and gas industry production faltered leading to significant revenue shortfalls.

The number of existing tax breaks have also made the state more reliant on money from oil and natural gas taxes and royalties.

New Mexico’s revenue increased in 2018 because of the dramatic spike in oil and gas production and as a result this year the New Mexico Legislature has at least $1.1 Billion and as much as $2 Billion in additional revenue.

NEW MEXICO’S 2019-2020 BUDGET PROPOSALS

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has submitted a proposed total budget for New Mexico of $7.1 billion.

The $7.1 billion budget increases state spending by $806 million.

You can review the entire 115 page “EXECUTIVE BUDGET RECOMMENDATION Fiscal Year 2020 July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020” at the below link:

http://www.nmdfa.state.nm.us/uploads/files/SBD/FY%2020/Executive%20Budget%20Recommendation%20FY2020%20FINAL.pdf

The $806 million increase is a 12.7% increase over current levels.

The additional $806 million in new spending comes from the dramatic increase in oil and gas revenues in southern New Mexico and the Permian basin drilling.

Under Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s proposed budget state spending will hit an all-time high.

The Lujan-Grisham 2019-2020 proposed budget includes increasing spending levels in the following areas:

Public schools: $3.2 billion, a 18% increase.
Higher education: $830.2 million, a 3.3% increase.
Medicaid: $1.01 billion a 6.7% increase.
Courts, district attorneys and public defenders: $306.3 million, a 3.5% increase.
Prisons: $321.4 million a 5.2 percent increase.
The overall spending increases included in Lujan Grisham’s budget are larger than the cumulative state spending growth during the 8 years that former Governor Susana Martinez was in office.

https://www.abqjournal.com/1266876/lujan-grisham-unveils-7-1-billion-spending-plan.html

The biggest reason for the sharp contrast between the Republican Governor Martinez budgets and the Democrat Governor Lujan-Grisham budget is that New Mexico had two economic downturns during Martinez’s tenure that mandated spending cuts, reduced take-home pay for state employees and budget-balancing maneuvers.

On January 14, 2019, the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) released its own budget plan.

The budget plan would increase year-over-year state spending by $670.8 million, or by 10.6%, as opposed to the Governor’s $806 million, or 12.7% increase or a 2.1% difference between the plans.

The LFC’s budget would earmark more than three-fifths of the additional spending toward public schools statewide.

A budget compromise between the Governor’s proposed budget and the LFC’s the proposed budget will now be negotiated with the Legislature and the Governor’s Office for final enactment by the New Mexico legislature.

For more analysis and commentary, the Governor’s budget and the LFC budget see:

https://www.petedinelli.com/2019/01/14/gov-michelle-lujan-grishams-budget-a-dawn-of-a-new-day/

https://www.petedinelli.com/2019/01/15/governor-mlgs-budget-plan-vs-lfc-budget-plan/

ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY

Much of the increase in spending under consideration will require recurring revenue sources, especially for public education and teacher salaries, and therefore it is not at all surprising that the New Mexico Legislature is considering tax reform legislation and increasing taxes to some extent.

Both New Mexico Senate and House legislative leadership have said for some time there is a need to overhauling New Mexico’s tax code because of so many different tax rates.

During the last 8 years, former Republican Governor Susana Martinez resisted and opposed any and all tax increases, no matter the need or justification, to avoid any and all tax increases at all costs, the result which is a major decline in the delivery of essential government services.

Instead of supporting tax increases, Governor Susana Martinez was more concerned about following Republican dogma of “no tax increases” and “reducing the size of government” by ordering spending cuts, reduced take-home pay for state employees, budget-balancing maneuvers and a downsizing of state government.

There are some 3,000 positions that are vacant or that have been lost in state government with government employees required to do more work for the same pay to fill the void of lost personnel.

The proposed changes to the tax code without a doubt will be strongly opposed by numerous business organizations, chambers of commerce throughout the state, especially the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, airline companies, health insurance providers, car dealers and gas production companies.

The Municipal League no doubt will weigh in and object to a few of the tax code changes.

House Republicans are already severely criticizing the Democrat proposed tax code changes saying “I told you so” and that this would happen with the election of Democrats saying the changes would raise taxes on small businesses and many state residents who cannot afford to pay any more taxes.

With the election of Democrat Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, it makes it more likely than not that tax code changes will happen in one form or another during this legislative session and if not in the 2020 legislative session.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has indicated she would consider supporting tax overhaul legislation but has said she would closely scrutinize the impact of any such legislation on New Mexico families and local governments.

Lujan Grisham’s own budget plan submitted to the legislature calls for several tax-related changes including tax collection on internet sales, imposing the state gross receipts tax on not-for-profit hospital services and imposing a state tax on electronic cigarettes.

Lujan-Grisham is also proposed reinstating an expired solar tax credit and expanding an existing tax break for working families.

If all the tax code charges suggested by the Governor were enacted, they would represent a net tax increase of $35 million in the coming year.

The biggest problem confronting Democrat Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Democratic Controlled legislature is “overreaching”.

Calling for increasing taxes when the state is experiencing at least a $1.1 billion in additional revenues from the oil and gas production is going to be a very difficult sell.

Tax increases may be necessary because the $1.1 billion surplus is not the guaranteed continuing revenue flow source needed to support our public education system and the massive amount of education funding being called for by both the Governor and the New Mexico Legislature.