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Mark Boitano, CRS

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Sen. Boitano Archive

Mark served as a State Senator in the N.M. Citizen Legislature from 1997-2012, when he decided not to seek re-election. During his tenure Senator Mark Boitano spoke to over a hundred community, civic, political and advocacy groups, schools and neighborhood associations.

Additionally, he has been interviewed numerous times by the print and broadcast media on various issues and responded to thousands of constituent inquiries. Some of his best ideas for legislation came from people like you!

By scrolling down, you can read various news stories about Senator Mark Boitano, some of his newspaper editorials, browse excerpts from speeches Mark has given, and review his comments to constituents on various legislative issues.

To view Sen. Mark Boitano's legislative website for bills he has introduced, including capital projects for schools, neighborhood parks and quality of life projects like Explora, etc.: Click Here

Senator Mark Boitano in the News --
What? No Mark Boitano Public Building? -- See Video

10-Years of Charter Schools in N.M., from KOB's "Eye on New Mexico" -- See Video

Open Government - Legislature to Webcast Sessions? -- Read More

Legislators Endorse Family Friendly Jury Duty -- Read More

Hispanic Education Act Discriminates Against Non-Hispanic Students -- Read More

Lobbyists and Friends in High Places -- More

From the Fatherhood and Marriage Leadership Institute -- More

Rail Runner to Lose Millions -- More

Marriage Classes? From the UNM Daily Lobo -- More

Can Divorce Be the Exception Not the Rule? -- More

High School Competency Exam - Totally Incompetent -- More

Public School Reform - Now! More

Promoting Financial Literacy - More

Parents and Students Demand School Choice -- More

Spearheading Coalitions on Important Issues --More

 

Honors and Awards --
"Champion for Charters," National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, 2011.

"Distinguished Service Award," N.M. Coalition for Charter Schools, for sponsorship of the 1999 Charter School Act and school choice leadership, 2012

"Leadership Award," Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, 1999 and 2001

"Distinguished Service," N.M. Coalition of Healthy Families, 2012

N.M. Mortgage Lenders Association, for work on housing and lending issues, including licensing for mortgage lenders, 2007

"Business Star," Association of Commerce and Industry

"Distinguished Contribution to N.M. Families Award," N.M. Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, 2003

Budget Bulldog Award, Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, 2010

 

Small Businesses Need Help, Too -- Op-Ed, Albuquerque Journal

Being your own boss is part of the American Dream but our tax policies make that incredibly difficult in New Mexico.  Thom Cole’s recent UpFront Article reports head scratching regarding Governor Martinez’s proposals, HB 189/SB 260, to remove the gross receipts tax on small businesses making under $50,000.  How will this create jobs, preserve them, or help the economy?  We’ll discuss that momentarily.

The bigger problem is that this economy has produced daily head scratching – what’s the future for real estate, public pensions, the Euro?  We’ve learned many lessons from the Great Recession.  One is that we can’t use the past to predict the future.  Today’s technology, demographics, and global competition have changed forecasting forever.

Mark Lautman from the Albuquerque based Community Economics Lab says, “A daunting array of economic and demographic conditions including fewer job prospects, increasing tax and regulatory uncertainty, a dysfunctional commercial banking system, and a growing skills-job mismatch dramatically reduces the return on investment for traditional job creation.“

New Mexico has lost loads of jobs. The state reports 60,897 unemployed, plus contractors ineligible for unemployment and those who’ve stopped looking for work.  In an eye-opening report, UNM economist Dr. Lee Reynis estimates we could lose 20,000 jobs due to Washington downsizing, plus thousands more service related jobs.

New jobs will come from traditional sources like health care, manufacturing, and construction. Economic developers like Lautman are estimating a significant and increasing percentage of new jobs will come from solo entrepreneurs and small companies. We have various incentives for large companies but what are we doing to help small business?

Under these proposals, a business making up to $50,000/year would not pay a gross receipts tax on their goods or services – this totals 7% in Bernalillo County.  So, a small business would have $3,500/year or nearly $300/mo. to invest in technology, marketing or supplies.  This would be a boost to the economy.

This tax cut will encourage new business startups and it’s an incentive for consultants, artists, and medical transcribers in other states to relocate their existing businesses. This includes many semi-retirees who are working longer and are contemplating a move to live and work.

One of the bright spots in this economy is historically low interest rates.  Those fortunate enough to qualify for a new home loan or refinance, or a loan to purchase a vehicle or business equipment have seen interest rates that are extraordinarily low.  Unfortunately, the door to these new loans is shut to many small businesses because of how their income is reported.  A tax savings of 7% would be an offset to this.

There are around 56,000 solo entrepreneurs and small businesses facing numerous additional financial and reporting hardships:

  1. Their 1099-MISC income is different than the W-2 wages received by an employee.  Employees and employers split 50/50 the cost of social security.  Many small businesses pay 100% of their social security, which is 15.3% of their income.
  2. An employee contributes only a portion of their health insurance cost, most small businesses pay 100% - that amount can exceed $1,000/month for a family of four.
  3. The tax burden on small businesses is enormous – if you add the state and federal rate, 15.3% social security, plus gross receipts taxes, this equals 52.2%.
  4. Tax compliance on small business can be exceedingly complex and burdensome.  Department guidelines can be confusing and quarterly reporting is required.

Small businesses are fast growing, green and require less infrastructure than traditional economic based jobs.  Removing the gross receipts tax for businesses making $50,000 or less would create and maintain jobs, stimulate the economy, and reduce reporting complexity.

Although our revenue estimates change regularly, we have sufficient dollars to support additional public employee, criminal justice and Medicaid spending, plus add to our reserves. There are many things to scratch our heads about in this economy, but finding compelling reasons to support HB 189/SB 260 is not one of them.

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Sen. Mark Boitano is the ranking member of the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee which deals with many of the business issues.

 

Public Buildings Shouldn't Be a 24/7 Billboard For Sitting Policitians -- Op-Ed, Albuquerque Journal

There has been much discussion recently about naming public buildings after elected officials. A wise man once said, “Excellence is in the details, give attention to the details and excellence will come.” In a political climate when balancing the budget, creating jobs, and improving education necessarily occupy center stage, managing the smaller details of governing – like building name policies – can help restore public confidence in government and elected officials.

In my mind there is not much debate about the merit of immediately removing the names of sitting elected officials from public buildings like the Ben Lujan Gym. There are serious legal questions about whether – under the Campaign Reporting Act – having the name of a current politician on a public building constitutes a “gift or a thing of value,” whether during an election cycle this would constitute advertising, whether this may influence an election, and whether this may be a reportable contribution from the building manager.

Regardless of the answers to these questions, simply, it is not good state policy to allow a public building to serve as a 24/7 billboard for sitting politicians. I will introduce a piece of legislation this session to prohibit this practice.

Further, for future naming, this legislation will formalize a process in place during pre-Richardson administrations for state buildings and extend it to include any building utilizing state funds. A General Services Department memo from the King Administration dictates a procedure for naming buildings. It stated that the secretary had “developed a policy utilizing a committee appointed by the secretary.” The memo instructs the committee to conduct extensive research, solicit input from the community and the state historian, and develop a list of three names for review by the secretary and the Governor.

A 2001 news story about naming five buildings during the Johnson administration mentioned additional criteria, “the individual honored must be dead and must have made a major contribution to New Mexico history, culture, administration or development.”

So, what about the Bill and Barbara Richardson wing at the University Medical Center and other buildings named after former elected officials who are still living? This legislation will be silent about this. If the Governor, the secretary of General Services or a governing body that manages a state funded building chooses to revisit the name under the new guidelines, they may.

Don’t misinterpret this effort as intended to say that living politicians should not be recognized and thanked for their work to procure funding for a public project. Aside from building name policy – always – the taxpayer should be front and center when it comes to funding these projects. That is why the legislature passed SB 189 which requires any plaque or memorial on a public building that “lists, acknowledges or thanks” elected officials who funded a project “to include a statement of equal size and visibility” thanking the taxpayers for their contribution to it.

A second piece of legislation this session will require the statement thanking the taxpayers to occupy a more prominent position than the name of the officials.
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Sen. Mark Boitano (R-Bernalillo) sits on the Senate Public Affairs Committee in the State Senate. He sponsored SB 189 in 2001 and will pre-file this legislation. All pre-filed legislation is available @ www.nmlegis.gov.

 
 

 

Property Tax Policy Needs Renovating -- Op-Ed, Albuquerque Journal

For years New Mexico has enjoyed a reputation as a state with some of the lowest property taxes. Increasingly, that is not true. Worse, there is an alarming and growing tax disparity among property owners that significantly hurts young upwardly mobile families, immigrants and those seeking affordable housing.

It is time for the Legislature to reconsider HB 366, a measure which enacted some good but also some very unfavorable property tax changes.

Beginning in 2001, with the passage of HB 366, state law began limiting the maximum annual increase in property taxes to 3 percent with several exceptions— this "cap" was good for homeowners. The main exception, however, was that when a property transferred ownership it was to be assessed at the sales price of the home.

This language borrowed a revolutionary concept from California, where voters passed Proposition 13 in 1978. That policy changed the standard for determining value for assessment purposes from a "market value" to the price of the home when the property sold.

Prop 13 was taxpayer-friendly in many ways. It enacted a tax rollback and a property tax limit of 1 percent of the value of the home, policies we haven't implemented in New Mexico. But its method of determining value has resulted in some California homeowners, 28 years later, paying upwards of five times more in property taxes than their neighbors.

In Bernalillo County, and I suspect in the other 32 counties in the state, we are well on our way towards that type of severe inequity in property taxation.

Using public information available at: bernco.gov/property/default.asp, in a small sample of identical home comparisons (the same builder, floor plan and subdivision), one finds properties that have transferred ownership and were assessed after the 2001 law are hit with property taxes that are 23-32 percent higher. This is after adjusting for property condition and special amenities, like upgrades or a view or pool.

In one East Side subdivision in Bernalillo County two identical homes that sold in 2005 pay annual property taxes of $1,913 and $1,893. Matching homes in the subdivision, held to the 3 percent annual cap, have property taxes of $1,317, $1,435 and $1,455. That's a 32 percent discrepancy.

On the West Side, one sees the same thing. Two identical properties that sold in 2005 in Ventana Ranch, a high growth area near Universe and the new Paseo del Norte extension, pay $1,845 and $1,820. Matching homes pay $1,427, $1,434 and $1,457. That's a 23 percent spread. One can expect that nearly 70 percent of all Bernalillo County homeowners are faced with similar inequities. In higher priced neighborhoods than these two, the discrepancy is probably much higher.

Two basic principles of sound tax policy are equity and fairness. Our present property tax policy flunks on both counts.

In California, the present social implications of their 1978 law may foreshadow New Mexico's future. Prop 13 is a disincentive to sell, and there is less turnover among owners in older areas, where prices have appreciated fastest. Young people are forced to live dozens of miles from their workplace in order to afford a home.

Thus, Prop 13 is viewed as a "transfer tax" from the working classes to the retired class, as retirees are subsidized and the young have fewer working hours in their day because of long commutes. Immigrants and first-time buyers are losers under Prop 13 as well, because a higher percentage of their income includes property tax payments.

Property taxes are designed to fund certain governmental agencies and that liability— and the benefit— should be shared uniformly. At first blush a 32 percent discrepancy in taxation, about $50 a month or $600 year, may appear to some an insufficient case for inequity. But these numbers are only after two cycles of biennial reassessment since 2001.

In California, after nearly 28 years of this revolutionary tax policy, the numbers are staggering. At a 500 percent differential, the spread between a $1,750 annual property tax and one at $8,750 is $584 a month!

Advocates for the 2001 changes said homeowners shouldn't be taxed on a hypothetical value if they haven't sold their property, municipalities were growing and had increased funding needs, and the changes helped retirees, especially in cities like Santa Fe and Taos.

The fix to this problem is easy: maintain the present 3 percent annual cap on property taxes, but remove the provision changing the assessment basis to "full consideration" when the property is sold. This will make the advantage of an annual cap applicable to every property owner.

The Albuquerque area is benefiting tremendously from out-of-state migration and the increased number of properties on the tax rolls due to new residential and commercial development. Should we enact this very sensible property tax change, we can still sufficiently fund local governments, maintain our reputation as a state with reasonable property taxes and increase the fairness of our law.
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Sen. Mark Boitano owns a real estate business and serves on the Tax Policy and Stabilization Committee.

 
 

 

School Choice Editorial from the Albuquerque Tribune

I think we will proudly remember the 90’s as a time when the delivery of traditional public services, whether it be welfare or medicaid, was debated, then improved through reform. In New Mexico, like most states, the delivery of a public education is guaranteed by the State Constitution. Article 12, Section 1, reads, “A uniform system of free public schools sufficient for the education of, and open to, all the children of school age shall be established and maintained.” But, are our schools “sufficient for the education” of our students?

A recent Albuquerque Journal story highlighted that the Albuquerque Public Schools are not working for 34% of all high school students - they simply drop out. Nearly 10,000 students in New Mexico are taught at home. Another 12% of students in our state attend private schools. For almost half of the students in our State, the public school system is not sufficient. These statistics, when coupled with mediocre test scores, poor discipline and increased remedial courses for college freshmen, signal a trumpet call for reform.

Cities in states from California to Maryland have found that even after doing everything educators claim is needed to increase student achievement - reducing class sizes, lowering teacher workloads and dramatically increasing per pupil spending - results remained stagnant. In Kansas City, under a Federal Judge’s mandate, spending increased to $11,600 per student (roughly 3 times what we spend in New Mexico), yet student performance failed to improve.

Legislators are debating proposals to deregulate the utility and telecommunications industries and create a competitive market. Competition creates choices which, history shows, can produce higher quality and equitable prices. Will the competition resulting from giving parents a greater choice of schools produce a more sufficient school system? Gov. Gary Johnson and forty-three other Governors think so and, according to a recent Gallup poll, so do a majority of Americans. Under a traditional model the system chooses where parents send their children. With school choice, schools compete for the dollars generated by the student.

New Mexico is wisely moving towards more school choice and creating a competitive education marketplace. A first step was taken last year when the Open Enrollment Act was passed, allowing parents the choice, under certain conditions, to transfer their children to schools outside their home district. The Charter School Task Force, a coalition of very diverse parties, recently drafted a bill which revolutionizes the structure of public schools by allowing teachers, parents and community leaders, under rigorous standards of accountability, to create and manage “start-up” charter schools. Charter schools frequently target high risk students. By moving towards a different model of public school structure, this bill would give parents a choice of schools which are more autonomous, innovative and accountable.

Tax credits or school vouchers extend school choice an important step further by allowing tax dollars to follow students outside public to private, even religious schools, following the precedent of the GI Bill which gives veterans tuition for use at public, private and religious schools. In states with voucher programs frequently the benefactors are students with lower grades and who are poorer than average students, dispelling the myth of critics that vouchers benefit the wealthy. A cloud of constitutional uncertainty was lifted recently when the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that school choice programs extended to private and religious schools meet constitutional tests, so long as parents - not government officials - choose the school. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ruling in November.

The Legislature will consider a bill this session to give low-income families, those at the highest risk of failure in schools, a $2,500 “tuition scholarship” or voucher to send their child to any school. These are the top six reasons why vouchers are an excellent idea.

Giving tax credits or school vouchers to parents can:
1. Improve the public schools. Critics say vouchers will destroy public schools but competition will make them better.
2. Create true educational equity and opportunity for all students, by giving them a full range of school choices.
3. Generate more dollars for public education. Presently, 34 of every 100 high school freshmen in APS drops out. Improved school quality increases the likelihood that some students will return.
4. Facilitate greater ethnic and cultural diversity for students. The U.S. Department of Education says that charter and private schools are more diverse than traditional public schools. More importantly, there is greater tolerance, an important fact in light of new concerns about growing racial tensions.
5. Improve academic quality and student safety, according to a Harvard University study of the Cleveland voucher program.
6. Reduce the drop-out rate and promote college enrollment, according to the same Harvard study.

Millions of parents like myself anguish over what the 21st century holds for our children. A sufficient education is one of their best guarantees of a bright future. Giving parents the greatest range of school choices will assure that guarantee.
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Sen. Mark Boitano is the ranking minority member on the Senate Education Committee and has spent the majority of his time in the Legislature on the Legislative Education Study Committee. He helped craft the 1999 Charter Schools Act.

 
 

 

No Knot? That's Hot! Published in the Albuquerque Tribune

I’ve become a Paris Hilton fan. No, it’s not after viewing a provocative photo or a steamy video. It’s after hearing Paris make an expectedly wise statement about breaking her engagement because she’s not ready to get married and wants to avoid a divorce. “I have seen the breakups between people who love each other and rush into getting married too quickly. I do not want to make that mistake," Ms. Hilton said recently. The two million plus Americans who will marry in the next year can learn something from Paris’ decision.

Her great-grandfather – hotelier and philanthropist Conrad Hilton – was born in New Mexico, served in the state legislature and was known to have deep affection for his family and country. He would be proud of her, as should state lawmakers, social scientists and anyone worried about the future of marriage, family and society in America.

A newlywed told me recently, if my marriage doesn’t work I can always get a divorce. The nuclear option in relationships – breakup and divorce – is the rule, not the exception today. Not every marriage will work, and those involving violence, abandonment, or substance abuse, generally, should be terminated quickly. But the divorce rate has nearly tripled since the 1960’s. There are far too many broken hearts, empty beds and divided assets in our society, and that’s unacceptable.

Paris said she was not ready for marriage, and she’s not alone. W.C. Fields once quipped that marriage is a constant state of incompatibility, and author John Gray has written that men are from Mars and women from Venus. Given these factors, can anyone considering marriage be hopeful for its success?

According to research from the National Marriage Project, a bi-partisan think tank of prominent sociologists, there are several puzzle pieces to a healthy marriage and one that avoids breakup. Paris and others contemplating tying the knot should take notice.

State lawmakers should pay attention too, because happily married couples save us money – bundles of it. Research shows that across race, culture and household income lines, couples with good – or even fair marriages – are healthier, wealthier, emotionally more secure and, interestingly, they have more satisfying sex. The situation for divorced adults is such that Harold Morowitz of Yale University argues, “Being divorced and a non-smoker is slightly less dangerous than smoking a pack or more a day and staying married."

Hilton, the elder, learned the hotel business in New Mexico, then moved to Texas and married at thirty-eight. In his decision lies one puzzle piece – the longer you delay marriage, the higher the likelihood of its success. Another piece to the puzzle can be found in the results of a University of Minnesota study which concluded that fewer, longer, and deeper relationships is better preparation for successful adult partnerships, helping equip teens and young adults with the intimacy skills needed to form stable marriages.

Financial problems are often citied as the cause of marital distress. You would think that an heiress to an estimated $300 million dollar fortune would be light years ahead of her peers in finding marital bliss. But money is only one of the causes of marital failure – poor communication, a lack of commitment, a dramatic change in priorities, and infidelity are other primary factors according to experts. And the number one predictor of divorce? The habitual avoidance of conflict.

An essential puzzle piece – and the variable most likely to predict marital success – is the ability of couples to manage the conflict and disagreements in their relationship, according to SmartMarriages.com. Recent groundbreaking studies show that conflict management and communication skills training can help immensely in a marriage. We have fitness, diet and financial management coaches, why not relationship coaches?

I believe Government is a party to the prevalence of marital breakup. Some States have tried to address this with laws providing marriage education for students, with marriage licensing and no-fault divorce reform, and with increased funding for the family formation goals of welfare reform. (In New Mexico, we’ve introduced variations of these ideas with lukewarm response). Other states have funded university research on marital best practices and some have created sub-agencies on healthy marriages within cabinet departments.

Paris has said, “I want to have kids…because I know that completes your life.” Fewer couples today are having children, but for those who do, a stable two-parent home best contributes to child well being. Although politically incorrect to say so, it’s common knowledge among conservatives and liberals alike that children in this home environment do better in school and are less likely to get pregnant as teens, do drugs or exhibit violent behavior.

Marriage and family are the basic building blocks of our society and we must continually think of creative ways to strengthen these institutions. Some think Paris Hilton is overexposed (in more ways than one); but regardless of what you think about her, when people like Paris think twice about better marriage preparation that can result in improved marital unions and less use of the nuclear option of breakup and divorce. There may be a ray of hope for this storied institution after all, and as Paris is fond of saying, “that’s hot!”
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New Mexico State Senator Mark Boitano co-chaired the Governor’s Summit on Marriage, Parenting and Family Strengthening in 2000 and 2002, and chairs the N.M. Parents’ of the Year Event. He has sponsored several pieces of legislation mentioned in this article.

 
 

 

Editorial in the Albuquerque Journal Supporting Increased Math and Science Graduation Requirements

I was saddened to read comments from the Chairman of the House Education Committee who said he didn’t expect lawmakers to change high school graduation requirements in the coming legislative session and that he, along with administrators and union officials, feels the issue requires further study.

I hope Governor Bill Richardson is closely following this debate and that he listened very carefully to Intel CEO Craig Barrett and other Silicon Valley business leaders recently - where he traveled, admirably, to try and woo some tech companies into moving to or expanding in New Mexico - and heard them say, in effect, we need to improve our graduation requirements in order to be more competitive.

Contrary to those who wished to further study the issues, the Legislature passed the Charter School Act, annual testing and a state wide accountability system, in part because Governor Johnson used his bully pulpit to advocate for education reform. Since 1999 Senate lawmakers, business leaders and the State Board of Education have been studying the issue of graduation requirements. Now, with a long 60-day session ahead of us, and a new Governor who has promised continued education reform and committed to spend 25% of his time promoting economic development, it is time to act.

There are several areas of debate around the issue of changing – and improving –graduation requirements, but first let’s glance at where we are. In New Mexico high school students need core content - 4 units in English, 3 units in math and social science and 2 units in science in order to graduate. Additionally, 1 unit in physical fitness and another in communications skills are required, as are 9 electives, in areas like fine arts, language, vocational ed, or other areas approved by the State Board of Education.

New Mexico requires a total of 23 units to graduate, this puts us in the TOP 10% nationally in terms of graduation requirements. Only 3 states - Alabama, Florida and Utah - require more units.

There is a trend among the states to increase the required units in math and science because doing so enables students, regardless of ethnic background or family income, to test better, and be more successful in post-secondary studies and the world of technology.

Unfortunately, much of the discussion in the media about graduation requirements has focused on two auxiliary issues - removing physical fitness as a requirement of graduation and reducing the number of credits needed to graduate. Both are a very easy fix. Why mandate PE, especially for those with on or off campus athletic activities? We can keep it as an elective and let the students decide. Regarding reducing the number of credits, since 1986 the 23 unit requirement has served us well, let’s not lower the bar. But neither of these issues are the centerpiece of the debate over changing graduation requirements.

Silicon Valley officials told Governor Richardson that creating higher wage jobs in New Mexico would depend largely on what the state does to improve public education. Thomas Lavelle, a Xilinx vice president, told Richardson efforts should focus on bolstering math and science education.

At the heart of the debate over graduation requirements is moving toward a core – or college prepatory - curriculum, like some school districts and high schools in New Mexico have already done. This is accomplished by enhancing our 3 math units to require Algebra I, and adding a unit of science and possibly a unit of social studies. The national trend to increase math and science content seems to resonate with business leaders. And it makes sense in a state with three national laboratories that provide tremendous career opportunities for students with a strong background in math and science, but who consistently score among the lowest in the nation in these areas.

An important final piece of the debate focuses on creating career pathways for students, leading to tough decisions for education leaders and lawmakers about costs, what electives to offer, and the ways these tracks will ultimately benefit students.

Unfortunately, it appears that some leaders have already decided for us about the urgency of action on this important issue. I hope the business community will use their influence and the Governor his bully pulpit to ensure this debate begins now, so that New Mexico can increase its economic development competitiveness and offer its children the best chance to succeed.
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Mark Boitano is the ranking minority member on the Senate Education Committee and has spent the majority of his time in the Legislature on the Legislative Education Study Committee. He helped craft the 1999 Charter Schools Act.

 
 

Rough Notes from Speech to Teenager of the Year Dinner sponsored by the Optimist Club

I don’t know how many of you watched the World Series between the Yankees and the Marlins, but one of the interesting sidelines of every World Series is the inevitable discussion about who are the great teams of the game, the Yankees in the 50’s and the 90's, the Giants and Dodgers in the 60’s, the A’s in the 70’s, and the great players like Williams, Mays, Mantle.

Regardless of who is considered the “best” team, or player, in history – that team or player had well-rounded skills, and they mastered the fundamentals. They could hit, field, etc.

Life is life that, a successful person is well-rounded and masters the fundamentals. There is more to life than grades, preparation for a profession, money and social status because those things don’t necessarily make you happy. A true life should lead to the road of happiness, because, as a wise man once said – the purpose of life is to be happy.

Athletes research the fundamentals and excel at them and we should know the fundamentals of life to be successful. I want to share three fundamentals I have learned that might help you successfully walk the path of life.

1. Always work a little harder and go the extra mile, pursue excellence – “Excellence is in the details, give attention to the details and excellence will come” – Perry Paxton. Share examples of Martin Luther King’s intense preparation for his “I Have a Dream Speech,” Brian Boitano’s “Murphy” discussions before competitions.

2. Always check your gut, your heart – the little voice inside. You will make many friends in your life but your best friend is your conscience. Share example of Suzy Orman’s advice to female investors.

3. Learn how to love – "love is the will to extend yourself to another for their benefit as well as theirs" – Scott Peck. Practice love with your family, your friends, your neighbors, the community. Community service is an act of love.

Being a Teenager of the Year is a great honor. You have a very bright future. You future will remain bright if you take time to reflect on the fundamentals of life – like pursuing excellence, listening to the little voice inside, and practicing love - that can help you succeed. Congratulations, again.

 
 

 

Rough Notes from Panel “Religion, Civil Rights and Individual Liberty” at the TVI Main Campus

Question to Panelists: Should religious groups help set the moral tone for our society? Is it appropriate for religious groups to influence lawmaking and for state government to use public money to support religion?

People of faith are not the bogey man that some would make them out to be. Faith and religious practice played a central role in the founding of America and New Mexico, and religion has and will always play an important role in the civic life of Americans. (Read N.M. Constitution – “We, the people of New Mexico, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of liberty, in order to secure the advantages of a state government, do ordain and establish this constitution”).

In a diverse society like ours tolerance (I don’t like that word, I like respect and embrace much better) is imperative, not only with regards to race, ethnicity and culture, but with regards to religion, as well. (Share examples of the religiousity of current immigrants).

Further, the morality, ethics and character development that results from religious practice should be encouraged. Within the family, or an institution like a faith community, if rules and codes of conduct are established and practiced, there is a higher likelihood of a law abiding culture. After 9 years in the state legislature I can say without any reservation, that healthy families and strong communities of faith mean more freedom and less government interference. I’d like to make two points in support of this statement.

Point 1: There should never be any doubt that the founders placed value in religion and the morality and character that resulted from religious practice. They were not lukewarm about this issue – they were raving fans of faith in God and religious practice. For their age, they were an extremely diverse group of religious practitioners - (share examples of Protestants and Catholics, Quakers and Shakers). They were aware of the intolerance many colonists had experienced in Europe and that various religious groups immigrated to America seeking religious freedom. The founders sought common ground around their shared faith in God and celebrated it.

Ben Franklin, for instance, was not a churchgoer, but wrote and spoke liberally about his faith in God and His Providence. He was personally interested in the moral code that religion enlisted and, in 1733 (while publishing Poor Richards Almanac, serving in the Penn legislature, inventing the Franklin stove and founding the American Philosophical Society), set for himself a personal goal to achieve moral perfection. He was raised Presbyterian but found his local pastor “very dry, uninteresting and unedifying, since not a single moral principle was enforced, his aim seeming to be rather to make us Presbyterians rather than good citizens.” Letter to Josiah Franklin, 1738.

Interestingly, both Franklin and Thomas Jefferson believed religious ideas should be taught in the public schools and each enumerated on several universal principles that should be taught - principles like the recognition of a Creator, an examination of the Bible as a code of conduct, and the idea that the Creator holds individuals responsible for the way we treat each other.

George Washington (the “Indispensible Man”) filled nearly 1/3 of his first inaugural address to a joint session of Congress with religious passages using phrases like, “every step the United States has taken towards becoming an independent nation has been guided by some token of Providential agency.” In his farewell address he said, “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail to the exclusion of religious principle.”

Point 2: The myth of a hostility towards religion behind the establishment clause, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise therof” and Jefferson’s statement of “a wall of separation between church and state.”

When the Constitution was adopted at least seven states had established official religions or denominations. The founders expressed anxiety that all religions be encouraged and that all churches or religions assigned preferential treatment should be disestablished from such treatment.

As an assemblyman, Jefferson, on the one hand, introduced a resolution for disestablishing the Church of England in Virginia, but also introduced resolutions to have a day of prayer and fasting. As a citizen, Jefferson proposed using the County Courthouse to be the common temple for the four “sects” in Charlottesville, his home town, and urged the University of Virginia to extend its facilities to the various denominations so that each student could worship and study in the church of his choice. But, as President, he felt it was not the role of the federal government to proclaim religious holidays and that was the spirit of his letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 when he said the constitution had created a “wall of separation between church and state.”

While Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution lumps together five different rights, including freedom of religion, Section 11 of the N.M. Constitution speaks specifically about every person being free to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience. As you may know, each day the state legislature is conveyed with a prayer, and in past years, we have had a small budget for a Senate chaplain, who is a Jewish rabbi.

So, do I think religious groups have a role in setting the moral tone and is it appropriate for religious groups to influence lawmaking? Absolutely!

Interest groups do have an important role in public policy. Although the sponsoring group of this panel tries to imply it, the religious right is not the only interest group seeking to limit individual freedoms. The religious left tries to do so through initiatives like universal sex education, opposition to gambling, and limits on lending practices. Interestingly, every lawmaker and interest group loves the libertarian argument about individual liberty – we each use it to advocate the causes we believe in. There are natural tensions that make government and society operate – conflict and disagreement is normal.

In conclusion:
- Religious faith and practice is an essential civil right and religious groups are important advocates in a pluralistic society.
- It’s interesting that the conflict between communities of faith - generally - is over what society should NOT do (gambling, lending practices, gay marriage), there is little discussion or agreement about what we SHOULD do. There is much common ground: belief in God and a moral code, strong marriages and families, divorce not the rule but the exception, love your neighbor, building a culture of community service.
- Labels are for envelopes and canned foods, not people. Stop demonizing our opponents - keep an open mind, practice good communication skills, love and respect one another, learn to lose gracefully.

 

 

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