(Albuquerque) Just in time for the first meeting of the Criminal Justice Reform Subcommittee, the Rio Grande Foundation is providing an update on its original, 2009 report, which arguably started the ball rolling on criminal justice reform in the Land of Enchantment.
The new report, “Criminal Justice Policy in New Mexico: Keys to Controlling Costs and Protecting Public Safety (Updated),” which was authored by Marc Levin, Policy Director of Right on Crime with Paul Gessing, President of the Rio Grande Foundation, provides a variety of bi-partisan, but fiscally-conservative ideas for the Subcommittee to consider, including:
• Expanded use of drug courts;
• Introduction of courts similar to Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement Drug (HOPE) Courts where offenders are ordered to treatment and must call in a number every morning to see if they have to report to the court to take a drug test. If they fail, they are jailed for several days, usually weekend jail in order to preserve employment;
• Mandatory Probation, Treatment and Work Requirements for First-Time Drug Offenders: This policy should apply only to individuals caught with small quantities of drugs that are for personal use;
• Graduated Responses for Probationers and Parolees: Research indicates this approach reduces technical revocations to prison because the swift but proportionate responses effectively lay down the law, deterring future violations;
• Performance-Based Probation Funding: Under this incentive-based approach which has not been adopted in New Mexico, probation departments receive a share of the state’s savings from less incarceration when they reduce their revocations to prison without increasing probationers’ convictions for new offenses. The probation departments are required to reinvest the additional funds in victim services, substance abuse treatment, and strategies to improve community supervision and reduce recidivism;
• Modernize Sentencing Laws: New Mexico should revise its sentencing laws to ensure prison space is prioritized for violent and dangerous offenders;
• Utilize Victim-Offender Conferencing: Conferencing is often used in property offense cases, particularly for first-time offenders, and must be chosen by both the victim and the offender, since the offender is required to take responsibility for his conduct. New Mexico Attorney General Gary King recently called for similar efforts; and
• Reduced Barriers for Nonviolent Ex-Offenders to Obtain Occupational Licenses;
Many of these reforms have been introduced with great success in other states that can provide both data and a road map for successful implementation.
The Rio Grande Foundation hosted its latest event on ObamaCare with syndicated columnist and ideas-man Deroy Murdock speaking on the health care law's myriad problems in Albuquerque:
I call Murdock an "ideas man" because unlike so many writers and pundits, he doesn't just focus on the problems with the current system. Instead, he actually brings creative solutions to bear:
-- Approach health care from an individual, not group perspective;
-- Give insurance companies tax breaks for taking on high risk patients and people w/ pre-existing conditions;
-- Give doctors tax benefits for treating charity cases/indigent care;
-- Allow purchase of health insurance across state lines;
-- Provide vouchers (like food stamps for health care) rather than reworking the entire health care system.
How long do you keep spending money on something before you quit and cut your losses? New Mexico's Legislature will soon face some difficult decisions as to how much taxpayer money to spend on two high profile, Richardson-era projects, the Rail Runner and the Spaceport.
Let's start with the RailRunner. The train already costs taxpayers nearly $50 million a year in payments on the initial infrastructure and operations. That doesn't include two balloon payments of $230 million (made in addition to operations costs) which will come due next decade.
Recently, Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing appeared in Silver City on a panel on Western lands issues and federal management alongside Rep. Yvette Herrell, economist Alex Thal, and rancher Hugh B McKeen to discuss what should be done with New Mexico's federal lands (not including Native lands, military installations, and National Parks). See the footage below:
ProgressNowNM, a far-left cookie-cutter (even down to their name) organization financed by George Soros and others is attacking the Rio Grande Foundation and members of the State Policy Network. The new attack campaign focuses primarily on money and where it comes from rather than any honest discussion over the issues and their merits.
Amusingly enough, however, ProgressNow has created alleged "fact sheets" on the Rio Grande Foundation and other SPN groups. To say that there are errors and downright falsehoods in the attack on the Rio Grande Foundation would be an understatement. Let's go through them:
1) ALEC's home in NM: Yes, the Rio Grande Foundation works with a wide variety of organizations including the American Legislative Exchange Council which we have hosted for an event. I once appeared alongside (on the same side) of an issue with Pat Davis of ProgressNowNM at a panel discussion sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance of New Mexico. So what?
2) I am indeed on the board of New Mexico Connections Academy, an online charter school here in NM. Much like other schools contract with private, for-profit providers for textbooks, bus service, and technology, we contract with Connections. I am proud to play a direct role in increasing educational choice here in New Mexico!
3) My credentials in publishing in a wide variety of media outlets are strong. This accusation is just a rehashing of a blogger's rantings from a few years ago. The original has been taken down. Wall Street Journal: here, here, here, and here.
US News & World Report: here.
If you take a look at these press clips, you'll notice that I have been advocating for free markets and limited government for well over a decade since my days at the National Taxpayers Union in Washington, DC. I'm clearly in this work because I believe in free markets and limited government, not because some big $$ donors are paying us off...and you know what, I believe that the folks at ProgressNow are principled in believing that government has all the answers for society's woes.
4) Regarding our supposedly "extreme" agenda for New Mexico, again I'll take it point by point:
a) Defund and privatize New Mexico’s public schools with voucher programs and virtual schools: We support the rights of parents and children to choose the education that makes the most sense for them. Funding for education should flow through the child, not through the bureaucracy.
b) Block access to affordable healthcare for New Mexican families: We oppose the health care law known as ObamaCare and expansions of government programs like Medicaid. Rather, we support reducing government-imposed regulatory and tax barriers to health care that come between patients and their doctors.
c) Oppose environmental and pollution protections: Simply not true, but we do support cost-benefit analyses of all government regulations and weighing them against the economic benefits of industries such as oil and gas that support New Mexico's economy.
d) Destroy public pensions: This is another false statement. Rio Grande Foundation supports reforms such as "defined contribution" retirement plans that give government workers control over their own retirements (much like private-sector workers) and removes control over government pension investments from politicians who have proved repeatedly to be poor stewards of these resources.
e) Attack workers’ right to organize and bargain by pushing so-called “Right to Work” legislation: Right to Work does nothing to prevent workers from organizing. It simply makes it illegal to force a worker to join a union as a condition of employment.
f) Cut off funding and revenue for essential government services: This is so general as to be utterly meaningless. RGF has never urged the elimination or dramatic reduction of government funding for police, fire, or roads.
There has been an incredible amount of angst among the education establishment over New Mexico’s newly-enacted system of teacher evaluations. Unlike other aspects of Gov. Martinez’s education agenda including the A-F grading system, elimination of 3rd grade social promotion, and an emphasis on digital learning, these evaluations were not based on Jeb Bush’s successful reforms in Florida.
In fact, New Mexico’s educators might be surprised to know that these hated evaluations came to our state via the Obama Administration. A few years ago, the National Education Association gave $60 million to candidate Obama to re-elect him to the White House. Ironically, these angry union members funded the very source of their considerable angst.
(Albuquerque) Reports of a higher education bubble have become commonplace in recent years. And, while recent data indicate that the trend is slowing, there is a growing belief that higher education in the United States is in need of a new, more cost-effective model.
In a new policy brief which is available here, Rio Grande Foundation Senior Fellow and higher education expert Pat Leonard outlines a new, “lean model” for higher education. Notes Leonard, “Not only has the price of higher education increased rapidly in recent years, but the quality of that education has declined as well.”
The solution, argues Leonard, is to create new, four year streamlined institutions, similar in many ways to K-12 charter schools, which would compete on the basis of value-added and rigorous cost control. Traditional budget formulation in higher education tends to view the bulk of institutional costs as fixed. The Lean College’s budget formulation will regard few if any as fixed. It will provide quality baccalaureate instruction at a minimum cost.
The idea of the “Lean College” is to cut out some of the unnecessary frills like fancy buildings, professors forced to split their time between teaching and research, and the need for expensive sports teams and facilities.
The concept is meant to re-focus higher education on its core and restore the high-quality, low-cost option to American higher education.
Author and historian Amity Shlaes spoke recently in Albuquerque (and Tularosa) about our nation's 30th president, Calvin Coolidge and her biography of him. Video of Shlaes' talk is available below:
Also, if you are interested in purchasing an autographed copy of Shlaes' book on Coolidge, they can be purchased online here for the cover price of $35 which includes shipping or by phone at: 505-264-6090.