By Senator Howie Morales, Democrat from Silver City
June 13, 2017
Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, is often quoted for saying “Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.” This has been used as motivation in all forms of contests to gain an edge on competitors. Most people do not realize, however, what Coach Lombardi actually meant. It was not about winning at all costs—ignoring the human spirit or looking at the scoreboard as the ultimate measure of success. In an interview late in life, Lombardi said about his winning quote that “I wished I'd never said the thing... I meant the effort. I meant having a goal. I sure didn't mean for people to crush human values and morality."
In the world of corporate-driven education ‘reform', which finds its ultimate goal in free market profits, the human aspect of learning and leading has become equal to “winning” as measured by a standardized test. This is the kind of ‘reform' we see in New Mexico today. But the most effective strategies for educating children are characterized by collaboration, using the best practices available, thoughtful planning, open communication, and especially kindness and a spirit of compassion.
As the Governor considers a permanent secretary of education, the job description ought to focus on an individual who is capable of inspiring students, staff and parental engagement, developing leaders, improving performance, transforming our culture of education, and even love. Yes love, because love is what will allow this individual to recognize that humans thrive when systems of support exist in balance.
The support system must address the mental, physical, spiritual, cultural, and social needs of our teachers and students. It must be centered in a holistic approach to learning and excellence. To ignore the total needs of our educational community is equivalent to treating cancer with a band-aid. Our state can no longer afford an out-of-touch, one-size-fits-all approach to education leadership. It is time we started treating people like people, not as data inputs—only then will New Mexico start winning in education.
New Mexico today ranks 50th in student achievement, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The education policies of the last seven years were wrong, and a new direction is needed.
Secretary Hanna Skandera and Governor Martinez continually pushed data-driven policies that were unproven. There was far too much importance placed on relentless testing with standardized exams. Behind those approaches, coincidentally, stood powerful corporations who stood to profit from tens of millions of taxpayers' dollars.
Skandera blamed teachers for the failure. But New Mexico has deep poverty that is spread broadly across almost every community in our state. The connection between low student achievement and poverty has been known since the 1960s. Yet she and the Governor acted as if it did not exist.
We hope the next secretary will reject the punitive approach to children who are not reading at grade level- particularly at third grade level—and the public shaming of schools that fall short. Yes, we all need accountability in life. But educating the next generation of New Mexicans is not a race in which each teacher is in competition with every other teacher. That approach is driving teachers out of the profession, contributing to the huge shortage of educators our schools face. Successful education should be about collaboration and cooperation.
It would be helpful if the next secretary of education is free of troubling conflicts of interest, such as sitting on the boards of for-profit corporations doing business in New Mexico, as Skandera did. It calls into question the motives behind policy preferences advocated by the Governor's administration.
We hope the next secretary will embrace the real change that many students urgently need, the kind of change that delivers improvement. We know what it looks like: three years of high-quality preschool for all kids beginning at the age of two and half; cutting class sizes in half for all children in elementary school, to create an environment like in expensive private schools; rich curriculum that fires the imagination and creativity of students and their teachers alike, and offering teachers excellent support and professional development rather than threatening and disrespecting them. Those are the policies that would get immediate and lasting results for students in a relatively poor state like ours.
A real love and appreciation for children doing their best to learn - that is what is needed. If New Mexico's future public education executive possesses that, he can do all the photo ops with kids he wants, and I will be perfectly fine with it.
Statement from Norbert Michel, Senior Research Fellow, Financial Regulations and Monetary Policy at The Heritage Foundation:
“The Dodd-Frank repeal bill that passed the House this afternoon is a giant leap forward in reining in out-of-control Washington regulations.
"In 2010, some in Washington tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the American people by claiming that the Dodd-Frank reforms would prevent another financial crisis - that claim was an outright lie.
"Dodd-Frank systemically ignored the actual causes of the last crisis and all but guaranteed a future one while leaving taxpayers on the hook for bailouts. The bill that passed today isn't perfect, but will go a long way to correcting the problems within our financial system, restraining bureaucrat regulators and preventing future bailouts with taxpayer money.”
For comprehensive colleges and universities (Western, Eastern New Mexico, New Mexico Highlands and Northern New Mexico) the Lottery Scholarship will pay $1,169 toward tuition, fees are not covered. The amount paid by the Lottery Scholarship is based on 60% of the overall average tuition of all comprehensive colleges and universities.
Here is how it affects the various schools:
School.....................Tuition............Not Covered by Scholarship..........Percent of tuition covered
The total amount paid by a student getting the Lottery Scholarship (reduced tuition plus fees):
School Total Paid by Student
From the above, you see that not every school has 60% of the tuition covered some get more and some get less because it's based on the average tuition of all schools. Since Western has the highest tuition its students on the Lottery Scholarship need to pay more than any of the other schools.
However, it appears that this reduction of the Lottery Scholarship will have less effect on Western because Western has only about 150 students on the Lottery Scholarship, about 7% of the undergraduates, the lowest in the state.
Silver City, NM
By Senator Mary Kay Papen, New Mexico Senate President Pro Tem
June 2, 2017
One of the great disappointments that remain since the 2017 legislative session ended is Governor Susana Martinez's veto of bipartisan legislation to protect Medicaid health providers who stand falsely accused of fraud by the State. Known as the Medicaid ‘due process' bill, Senate Bill 217 was killed with a ‘pocket' veto by the Governor. That's a fancy way of saying she never needed to offer an explanation why she chose to veto it - and she didn't. The results may be with us long after the session is forgotten.
Medicaid due process was common sense legislation. It simply would have guaranteed that in the future, any health care provider to Medicaid patients who stand accused of wrong-doing will receive the opportunity to review the allegations made against them, and the chance to respond in an administrative hearing or in district court.
Recent history proves that New Mexico needs those protections: they did not exist in 2013 when 15 non-profits and other behavioral health firms were accused and mostly put out of business by the Governor's administration. All were later cleared of any wrongdoing by the Attorney General, however.
Four years later we still witness the tragic consequences effecting countless at-risk children and adults in serious need of mental health treatment, but who are not receiving care. In many communities, these crucial health services for residents are withering away. Nearly all of the Arizona behavioral providers the Governor brought to New Mexico in the aftermath now have left. It is a terrible situation, and her veto has compounded it.
As citizens, we all have the right to due process if we are accused of wrongdoing. My legislation sought to ensure transparency and independent analysis in those situations when it is needed. What has happened to behavioral health in New Mexico must never occur again - not in behavioral health nor other areas of health care.
More than 30 percent of our residents today are eligible for Medicaid. Yet many healthcare professionals - primary care, general practitioners, nursing homes, dentists, and behavioral health - are reluctant to provide or expand services based on the state's behavioral health experience in the absence of ordinary due process protections. It raises the important question of whether residents will have access to healthcare. And there already are large gaps in access and coverage across our state. Many providers are understandably afraid to speak out about the situation for fear of being punished in some way by the State.
Also, even though the accused behavioral health providers were cleared by the Attorney General, the Governor's administration has never returned millions of dollars owed to them for services they performed. It is not something one would expect in the United States of America.
How many people with mental health disorders are going without treatment for their conditions today because of the disruption of services caused by the 2013 takeover? We don't really know, but you can bet it's a lot. Many of them are turning up in our jails. That is morally wrong.
Five years into the state's mental health care crisis, there is no interest from the Governor's Office to resolve it. All we got was a pocket veto and no explanation for it.
New Mexicans still deserve to know why the state's entire network of treatment for individuals struggling with mental illness was upended without any reasonable basis. We also need to know why the Governor vetoed due process protections that would have ensured it could not happen in the future. Most importantly, we still face the challenge of getting the state's behavioral health system back on its feet, delivering treatment to vulnerable children and adults.
Dr. David Shulkin, Secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, recently talked at a news conference about the challenges facing the VA. He spoke about such important issues as access to care, accountability, and the quality of care. Now I would like to tell you about what is happening within the New Mexico Veterans Affairs Health Care System (NMVAHCS), and what we are doing to improve health care services for our Veterans.
Since I arrived in Albuquerque in December 2014, I have made it a point to travel to every area where we serve Veterans with a community based outpatient clinic and listen to their concerns, ideas and often praises about their VA care. Near the top of our Veterans' issue list at every town hall has been patient appointment wait times. We take those concerns to heart, and have made significant investments in training, field reviews and enhanced scheduling practices to ensure improvement. We aggressively train and retrain all of our personnel responsible for scheduling patients to ensure that there is no confusion in scheduling procedures. We are the only VA medical center in New Mexico, a state with vast rural areas. We know that we will always face the challenges of recruiting and retaining qualified medical providers. Our human resources staff is working diligently to fill openings as soon as possible in specific areas such as Podiatry, Orthopedics, Dermatology, and the Behavioral Health Care Line. For those of you who have required services in our Emergency Room, I want you to know that the cavalry is on the way. We recently hired five physicians and four advanced practitioners to beef up that staff.
We examine the quality of care in every area within our system, and we have made tremendous progress. In Ambulatory Care, for example, we have improved access in rural clinics through the use of telemedicine. In our Surgical Service, we have improved the surgical and post-operative management of cancer patients with the addition of cancer care nurse-coordinators. We also recently added a surgical uro-gynecology program, and expanded our cochlear implant program for profound hearing loss. Our Anesthesia Service is starting an Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) program this summer.
NMVAHCS' Research Service works hard to improve future health for New Mexico Veterans. Our new clinical trials unit and the VA Cooperative Studies Pharmacy bustle with studies that improve personalized medicine, PTSD treatments, pain, depression/suicide treatments, spinal cord injury treatments, Parkinson's disease treatments, heart disease treatments, and many of the other disorders. The Million Veteran Program (MVP) enrollment of nearly 10,000 New Mexico Veterans to date will help provide VA researchers with a rich resource of genetic, health, lifestyle, and military-exposure data collected from questionnaires, medical records, and genetic analyses.
I would like to offer more hope for the future with mention of some new construction projects. Our new, 15-bed, Community Living Center is nearing completion at our medical center's San Mateo entrance. A new Sleep Disorder Center, which is a Joint Incentive Fund Project with the U.S. Air Force, will house an eight-room, Sleep Study Lab near our Spinal Cord Injury Unit. Our new Acute Psychiatric Unit on the main hospital's sixth floor will have 10 beds, with the ability to convert six more rooms to private bed spaces a year after completion.
The VA is on a path to rebuilding trust with Veterans and other stakeholders, improving service delivery, focusing on Veteran outcomes, and setting the course for longer-term excellence and reform. We know we cannot reach that goal without the unfailing support we receive every day from the employees, volunteers and our community. Speaking of staff, throughout our system it is often a case of Veterans helping Veterans, because one third of our employees are Veterans. We are grateful for your support!
Andrew Welch, Director, New Mexico VA Health Care System
Today, Memorial Day 2017, Americans need to understand exactly what is happening in the world and especially in America right before our eyes.
Millions of Americans have fought and died and continue to do so to protect the America that was founded on the U.S. Constitution. That their sacrifice must not have been in vain every American must read and understand this link by Michele Malkin and especially the COMMENTS SECTION by our own retired Border Patrol Officer John Slagle.
There is no force greater in a free society than the truth and that is being cleverly concealed with the obvious purpose of fundamentally transforming America.
This is a fight to be won by American Citizens at home in support of our military. We must not fail them.
Zack Taylor, Chairman and Border Security Expert
National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers
I appreciated the opportunity given to me to attend the community forum sponsored by Commissioners Billy Billings and Alicia Edwards regarding the Gila Regional Cancer Center (GRCC), and the process in which Gila Regional Medical Center (GRMC) is engaged to keep cancer services in the community. One of the key issues prevailing in a majority of the presentations at the May 16, 2017 forum was the high quality compassionate care that New Mexico Cancer Center (NMCC) caregivers provide each GRCC patient and families that they serve. This is not an issue and never has been an issue. In fact, the GRMC Board is in favor of the current staff remaining at the GRCC after conclusion of the current agreement, including Karen DeGenevieve and Michael Torres. In addition, GRMC will also consider hiring the staff to support cancer services if GRMC and UNMCCC cannot reach an agreement. However, Dr. Willman, UNMCCC, CEO, does not think this will be a problem as long as there aren't any hurdles with the current staff's employment relationship with Dr. McAneny's group or with any NMCC staff hired by UNM following UNM standards.
I feel I need to address another item that was presented by either a patient or supporter. In Commissioner Billing's opening remarks he laid out the "rules" for the presentations. The presenter in question made some remarks regarding Holley Hudgins and didn't say what the issue was. She merely gave Mrs. Hudgins salary and made inference that Mrs. Hudgins was provided employment at GRMC because she is Representative Rudy Martinez's spouse. I believe this was against the "rules" and the presenter should've been admonished by Commissioner Billings for not following the rules. I failed in not jumping up and calling a point of order. Shame on me!
Mrs. Hudgins was a GRMC caregiver long before her marriage to Representative Martinez. I understand she did an excellent job as the Marketing Director. Mrs. Hudgins requested to be given the opportunity to manage and direct the GRMC Cardiology Clinic and was also given the task of acting as the liaison with the NMCC. In addition, one of the tasks given to me by the Board of Trustees was to do a top to bottom review of staff in all departments. Mrs. Hudgins position was reviewed and I determined it was required for the continued success of the clinics assigned to her.
Chief Executive Officer (Interim)
Funding for New Mexico's colleges and universities, which was vetoed by the governor following this year's regular legislative session, will soon be restored, ending the confusion and consternation that has bedeviled students and faculty for months. The Legislature, which will either restore funding for higher education in the special session or win in court to overturn the governor's veto of its funding, will return its attention to creating jobs and repairing New Mexico's ailing economy.
As a retired college president and, before that, a public school superintendent, I understand the problems our colleges and universities are facing with absolutely no funding as of July 1. Students are reconsidering plans to enroll; professors, instructors and support staff have no assurance that they will have jobs after July 1; and the reputation of New Mexico's higher education system suffers across the country.
The only good news is that the Legislature is committed to restoring funding for our colleges and universities - without any strings attached.
The governor's demand that comprehensive tax reform be approved before funding for higher education is restored is neither prudent nor possible. There is virtually no disagreement that tax reform is necessary, but to do it in a matter of a few days without any reliable data on the likely or even possible effects it will have months from now would be irresponsible. We must proceed cautiously, remembering that predicted outcomes of some past tax reform efforts proved completely wrong, and seek reforms that stabilize the state's revenue streams to ensure that essential public services - education, public safety and health programs - continue uninterrupted.
We will consider, and should approve, several tax measures to modernize our system and close loopholes. Chief among those is the internet sales tax loophole that puts our community stores at a disadvantage when selling the same goods as online retailers. Although legislation to close this loophole was vetoed during the regular session, there is reason to believe that the governor will look more favorably upon it now.
There is more disagreement, deservedly so, surrounding other tax proposals. Reimposing the "food tax", which the governor has said she is open to considering, should be rejected. Every New Mexican would pay the food tax, and it would hurt middle-class and lower-income New Mexicans because a greater percentage of their income each month goes to pay for groceries.
Taxing nonprofit hospitals at the same rate as their for-profit competitors could be considered, but we must look carefully at the effect that would have on rural health care clinics, where many of the most economically vulnerable New Mexicans receive care. There's a reason we tax nonprofit hospitals and clinics differently than for-profit hospitals, and we should not change that policy quickly. We cannot afford to lose medical, dental and behavioral health services, as well as the jobs that go along with providing those services, in our rural areas.
Last year alone, 343,000 New Mexicans received care at nonprofit primary care clinics. Their voices need to be heard as we debate this issue.
Reforming our tax system cannot be done quickly and without legitimate data on the effects of changes. Tax reform will be an appropriate topic for the next regular session, which is only seven months away.
Instead, we can restore funding for our colleges and universities with commonsense tax reform (closing the internet sales tax loophole) and sweeping and diverting other state funds, including money earmarked for legislative retirement, to the state's General Fund.
The special session is a great opportunity to work together to improve our economy without burdening taxpayers. We are seeing early signs of an improving economy. We must take advantage of that to restore funding for our colleges and universities, rebuild the state's cash reserves and work to create jobs in New Mexico.
We are public servants, and we should always focus on the benefit for all New Mexicans.
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