To The Point

What He Meant To Say.

The entire New Mexico ag industry was stunned at the news report on December 16 that a Bernalillo County State District Court judge had ruled in favor of the Center for Law & Poverty in a case they had filed against the Workers’ Compensation Administration…

(WCA) alleging that New Mexico’s statute exempting agriculture from workers compensation insurance was unconstitutional.The suit was brought in the names of a few individuals who claimed they had been injured on agricultural operations and had not be properly cared for.

At least one of the individuals had tried to bring a claim through the Workers Comp administrative process and was denied. Word on the street is that he was indeed injured on an ag operation. His employers obtained medical care for him, paid him while he was recovering, and kept a job open for him. Ultimately he decided not to go back to work and to attempt to obtain workers compensation for an injury he had been compensated for.

The suit was defended by the Office of the Attorney General. The attorney assigned to the case decided on a unique and perhaps risky strategy. Instead of replying to or denying the nearly 400 allegations made against the agricultural industry in the suit, the defending counsel on the case determined that the allegations were irrelevant to whether or not the Legislature has the right to exempt an industry from a law. The jury (no pun intended) is still out on the wisdom of that decision and where to go from here.

The one thing Attorney General Gary King is sure about is that his spokesman could have used better wording when he told the press “We believe Judge Huling applied the correct standard of review, and we’re analyzing the remainder of the opinion to determine whether an appeal is appropriate.”

What he meant to say was “The Attorney General’s Office respects the right of the judge to make this decision, but we don’t agree with the decision.”

Stay tuned as we work our way through this mine field.

No Shame

As the economy has choked down, everyone has had to become more and more creative in the way that they find funding and stay afloat. That is especially true if you are a trade association and must be worse if you are an “environmental” non-profit. It seems that for some, the lengths gone to in search of a dollar have not bounds.

In early December the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources held a full committee hearing on the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Act hasn’t be reauthorized by Congress in 20 years, yet continues to kill jobs and economies and has “saved” just a handful of species.

The witness list for the event was interesting at best. Those invested in keeping the ESA just like it is first included the WildEarth Guardians (WEG) John Horning and the Center for Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Kieran Suckling. Apparently shooting for a more suited (literally, Horning hardly ever wears socks, little lone a business suit) panel, the WEG ended up sending their attorney Jay Tutchston.

Almost before the witness list was announced, the CBD started begging for money over the Internet for funds to buy Suckling a plane ticket to send him to Washington. This is the same CBD that collects millions of dollars in litigation and settlement fees from the federal government — YOUR tax dollars. This is the same CBD that an Arizona jury found guilty of publishing false information about a rancher. This is the same Kieran Suckling that has an arrest record for shoplifting, assault, trespassing, disorderly conduct, interference with the peaceful conduct of educational institutions. He pled no contest to the shoplifting and was given six months unsupervised probation for the interference with education.

Not to be outdone, the WEG has now proclaimed themselves as “Guardians of the Endangered Species Act. You’ve seen our work in the field. You’ve witnessed our victories in court. Now watch our General Counsel, Jay Tutchton, testify before Congress in defense of our nation’s strongest environmental law: the Endangered Species Act. And then support our Endangered Species Act protection fund so that we can continue to defend the Act and secure protection for hundreds of species that desperately need this law.”

Then we have the Conservation Voters of New Mexico (CVNM) joining in the act. Their year-end fundraiser says the state has “The most anti-environment Governor in our state’s history: Susana Martinez . . .” The group admits that they might not have the power to stop the Governor, but “we might not be able to stop Martinez’s assaults on our regulatory protections (the rules she can dismantle through her own appointees). But we do have an important check on our Governor’s dangerous anti-environmental agenda: our state legislature. We can help defend against Martinez’s attacks on environmental laws by fighting hard in 2012 to protect our legislative champions and continue building toward a pro-conservation majority. With all 112 seats in the legislature up for grabs next year, our natural heritage and unique way of life hang in the balance. Will you help us counter Martinez’s dirty agenda by making a special year-end gift to CVNM today?”

The Hearing

Back to the ESA hearing. Common sense and rational thinking were witnesses in the form of Cheyenne, Wyoming based private property rights attorney Karen Budd-Falen, who has represented New Mexicans and Westerners on ESA and other issues for longer than she and I would care to admit. And who paid for Karen’s trip to DC? Karen did. She did so quietly with grace and dignity and willingly for the good of all of us.

Given that the majority on the House Resources Committee is conservative, the hearing itself was fairly predictable, with most Republicans giving Sucking and Tutchston what for, while most Democrats were trying to defend them. At one point Suckling was read a statement he made in the press about eliminating ranchers. He was asked if he really felt that way. He blew the statement off, saying he had been carried away in the heat of the moment . . . probably just like he carried off those boots.

There will be more of these hearings in the months to come and there might even be legislation passed to address the flaws in the ESA in the House. But don’t hold your breath, the outcome of the 2012 general elections will dictate whether or not we can look for real change.

The Natives Are Getting Restless

Montanans have announced the launch of recall campaigns against Senators Max Baucus and Jonathan Tester, who voted to pass the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 (NDAA) which allows for the indefinite military detention of American citizens without charge or trial. Montana is one of nine states with provisions that say that the right of recall extends to recalling members of its federal congressional delegation, pursuant to Montana Code 2-16-603, on the grounds of physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, violation of oath of office, official misconduct, or conviction of certain felony offenses.

This action falls on the heels of states like Arizona and Utah who are passing state legislation in an attempt to take back authority they believe the federal government has seized or is improperly using. Lawyers and bill drafters will tell you that states cannot dictate to the federal government, and they may be right. But when enough people get fed up with the over-regulation and oppression segments of the American population are facing and start calling their federal elected officials home, there might be a change.

I know that in this economy, I may be called just a little nuts (but what else is new), another avenue to take would be to stop taking federal funding. If states don’t take federal money and make themselves the agents for the feds, the federal government would be forced to take at least take a look at what is going on. The feds don’t have the money to carry out their programs within the states and I bet they are paying states a fraction of what it would cost to have enough federal agents in every state to implement every regulation. Just food for thought.

And I Was Afraid of Black Helicopters

It seems that the federal government has taken the “Big Brother” hovering to a whole new level. We have become used to the “drone” as in predator drone to monitor the enemy in foreign countries or as international border monitors.

Surprisingly, apparently they are available to your local county sheriff as well. At least they are in North Dakota. According to the Daily Mill Reporter, a family from that state was “deemed so dangerous that the local sheriff unleashed an unmanned Predator drone to help bring them in. The Brossart’s alleged crime? They wouldn’t give back three cows and their calves that wandered onto their 3,000-acre farm this summer.

“The same aerial vehicles used by the CIA to track down and assassinate terrorists and militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan are now being deployed by cops to spy on Americans in their own backyards.

The head of the anti-government Brossart family are Susan and husband Rodney, who live with seven of their eight adult children in a compound which includes a house, trailer and two RVs.

“The Brossarts are the first known subjects of the high-flying new surveillance technology that the federal government has made available to some local sheriffs and police chiefs — all without Congressional approval or search warrants.

“Local authorities say the Brossarts are known for being armed, anti-government separatists whose sprawling farm is used as a compound. When the cattle (six of them) wandered onto the Brossarts’ land, Sheriff Kelly Janke, who patrols a county of just 3,000 people, rounded up some sheriff’s deputies and arrested Mr. Brossart for failing to report the stray livestock.

“When cops returned to collect the lost cattle, three of Brossar’s sons confronted Sheriff Janke with rifles and shotguns and would not allow officers on the farm. That’s when the sheriff summoned a $154 million MQ-9 Predator B drone from nearby Grand Forks Air Force Base, where it was patrolling the US-Canada border for the US Department of Homeland Security. Using a handheld device that picked up the video camera footage from the spy plane, Sheriff Janke was able to watch the movements of everyone on the farm.

During an 16-hour standoff, the sheriff and his deputies waited until they could see the remaining Brossarts put down their weapons. Then, dressed in SWAT gear, they stormed the compound and arrested the three Brossart sons. No shots were fired. The sheriff says that might not have been possible without the intelligence from the Predators.

“We don’t have to go in guns blazing. We can take our time and methodically plan out what our approach should be,” Sheriff Janke told the Times.

“All of the surveillance occurred without a search warrant because the Supreme Court has long ruled that anything visible from the air, even if it’s on private property, can be subject to police spying.

However, privacy experts say that predator drones, which can silently fly for 20 hours nonstop, dramatically surpasses the spying power that any police helicopter or airplane can achieve.

US Customs and Border Protection agents fly eight Predator remote-controlled aircraft to patrol the American borders with Canada and Mexico, searching for smugglers and illegal immigrants.”

Hay Hauling

It appears that a fix for New Mexico’s wide-load permitting statutes and regulations is on the horizon. With the current drought, hay supplies from out of state, far out of state, have been necessary to sustain livestock. Unfortunately some glitches have made the process of getting that hay into the state dicy.

Although the Secretary of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) issued an order in late August to allow oversized loads of hay into New Mexico, there have remained questions at some ports of entry.

The New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association staff has been happy to assist truckers to get a permit to enter the state and appreciate the cooperation of those within the DPS to keep the feed moving. We are hoping soon that we can take a trip to erase the 505-247-0584 number along with the names of “Melissa” and “Karen” from truck stop restrooms near border crossing.