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Monday, May 20, 2024

Overlapping issues in 23-24

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As intense as this year has been, next year promises to be even more so.

For one thing, 2024 is a presidential election year, even though 2023 almost felt like one. This year will go down in history as the year when 91 felony charges were leveled against a former president, stemming from four major cases against him — and with each set of indictments making him an even stronger presidential contender, at least in his own party.

In next year’s general election, however, he’ll be facing Joe Biden, who contends — perhaps rightly so — he’s the only one who can beat Trump. Most likely, it’ll be a rerun of 2020, with Biden winning in the end and Trump denying reality once again. Oh joy.

Here in New Mexico, it’s not really a race. The eastern side will make it competitive, with Trump winning handily in most of the region of the state, but over in the Rio Grande Corridor and in Norteño country, far more will vote for Biden and the Land of Enchantment will again be blue.

Overall, 2023 wasn’t and 2024 won’t be hot election years in New Mexico. Instead, we’ll be fighting over issues that hit closer to home. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s executive orders to crack down on urban firearms in public caused quite a stir earlier this year, with some of the more fervent Second Amendment protectors holding armed demonstrations, while even some of her fervent supporters questioned the wisdom, if not the legality, of her actions.

But none of the opposition could sway the governor, and she double-downed on her controversial actions to combat the rise in violence crime, especially in Albuquerque. And you can expect it to be part of her legislative call in January.

The 2024 legislative assembly is a “short” 30-day session, expressly dedicated to budgetary matters only — and whatever the governor calls up. She’s already signaled she’s making guns and violent crime a priority concern.

Another overlapping issue for these years ‘23-‘24 is a proposed Public Education Department rule change that will force all school districts in the state to return to five days of classroom instruction, instead of the four-day week that about a third of the state’s school districts operate under.

Rural districts in particular are in an uproar over this proposed rule change. Some are even accusing Lujan Grisham’s administration of trying to styme the migration of urban teachers to urban schools. PED, on the other hand, contends the four-day week is cutting into overall academic performance.

We’ll see if the governor bends on this one. Her base is more urban than rural, and she’s not up for re-election (she’ll be term-limited out in 2026). Hopes aren’t high that she’ll reverse course.

Meanwhile, on the world stage, New Mexico will continue to invest in clean energy, while climate change gets more and more intense. Drought is New Mexico’s most lingering climate problem, but so is an increase in extreme superstorm events.

If my memory is correct, we were deluged with rain last May, then had a disappointing “nonsoon” of a rainy season, followed by a particularly hot summer all around. Seems that more and more our weather is coming in extremes, and not just in New Mexico, but worldwide. Turns out, climate change is just real, it’s here.

The just-ended United Nation climate conference COP28 produced a lot of progress in talks about fighting climate change. Whether there’s any real action behind the words to come out of the conference remains to be seen — in 2024. And real action to combat climate change would not only be a sign of hope for our collective future, but refreshing in a year that promises, mostly, more divisions.

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Tom McDonald is founder of the New Mexico Community News Exchange and editor/publisher of the Guadalupe County Communicator in Santa Rosa. He can be reached at tmcdonald.srnm@gmail.com.

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