Economy Notable News Public Comments and Testimony Top Issues

RGF leads coalition in opposition to proposed Biden Administration Crew Size Rule

The Rio Grande Foundation recently led a diverse coalition of 19 state policy think tanks in submitting comments in opposition to the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) proposed Train Crew Size Safety Requirements Rule (Docket Number FRA20210032;RIN 2130AC88). You can find the comments here.

As employers across the nation struggle to find enough employees, the Biden Administration wishes to impose a 2 person crew size mandate on railroads. In 2016, the FRA stated that it could not “provide reliable or conclusive statistical data to suggest whether oneperson crew operations are generally safer or less safe than multipleperson crew operations.” And, in 2019, the FRA concluded that, “Accident/incident data does not support a train crew staffing regulation.”

As the letter states:

The proposed rule also ignores technological advances in rail safety made in recent years, including Positive Train Control (PTC). PTC is now operating on tens of thousands of miles of rail line across the country, tracking speed restrictions on a given portion of track, as well as signals and communications, while preventing human error. PTC’s safety advances make it unnecessary for two crew members to be present in the cab of the train.

This proposed rule fails to account for these technological innovations, as well as the safety record of many railroads, including thousands of Amtrak and commuter passenger trains that operate with only one crew member in the train cab.

Economy Notable News Public Comments and Testimony Top Issues

Rio Grande Foundation provides public comment in support of “gig” jobs

The Biden Administration has made its contempt for the so-called “gig” economy clear. The Administration has proposed multiple rules which would force those workers into “employee” status even though being an Uber driver (for example) simply doesn’t fit nicely into that type of employment status.

The Rio Grande Foundation provided public comment in opposition to the following two Biden Administration rules which would force workers into these unnecessary and absurd boxes. You can click on our comments below:

1. National Labor Relations Board RIN 3142-AA21, “Standard for Determining Joint-Employer Status.” Comments Due December 7, 2022.

2. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, RIN 1235-AAA3, “Employee or Independent Contractor Classification Under the Fair Labor Standards Act,”
Comments Due December 14, 2022.

Millions of workers nationwide enjoy the freedom of the “gig” economy while also providing useful services to even larger numbers of Americans. The Biden Administration’s attacks would be harmful to workers and American consumers alike.

Education Local Government Notable News Public Comments and Testimony Top Issues

Parents Rights win at APS school board

The Rio Grande Foundation would like to extend a big THANK YOU to everyone who called, wrote, emailed, and spoke in favor of parental rights in education alongside RGF at last night’s APS school board meeting.

We would also like to thank the five APS School Board members that voted to support parental involvement in the classroom.

In case you missed it, here’s a quick summary of what happened:

KB1, also known as the Parent Rights and Responsibilities policy, passed the APS School Board in a 5-2 vote.  KB1 consolidates education rules into a clear and concise format, making it easier for parents to see exactly what’s going on inside the classroom.

Opposition from special interest groups showed up in force, including numerous paid activists.

Regardless of the heckling and boos from the special interest groups, several brave parents stood up for Parental Rights and bravely took their turn at the mic to show the real local parent support for KB1.

We could not be more proud!

You can read the Albuquerque Journal’s highly biased coverage of the meeting here.

Parental Rights were up for a vote in Albuquerque today, and the clear winners are families.

Education Local Government Notable News Public Comments and Testimony Top Issues

What RGF’s president told the APS School board about new COVID restrictions

As has been widely reported in the media, Albuquerque Public Schools on Wednesday, introduced a whole host of restrictions on various activities at their schools.

Here’s a list of the new rules:

  • Wearing properly fitted masks outdoors as well as indoors
  • Students facing one way in classrooms and the cafeteria
  • Keeping students in cohorts
  • No spectators at school events, including athletics, through Feb. 2
  • Prohibiting large group gatherings, including assemblies
  • Staggering transition times and recesses
  • Closing drinking fountains (though students can still fill water bottles)
  • Restricting locker use.

Needless to say, not only is the RGF not a fan of several of these measures (masking outdoors?) but at the VERY least we believe that the new APS Board should be making these policies, NOT the superintendent  or any unelected bureaucrat.

So, here are RGF president’s Paul Gessing’s comments:

I was very happy to see the changes made to the board in the last election and I hope you will act quickly to wrest control over the District away from the bureaucrats.


I am the parent of three children who, up until the end of the abbreviated 2019-2020 school year, attended Chaparral Elementary on Albuquerque’s west side. We pulled our children out of APS for the 2020-2021 “virtual” school year and home schooled them because we knew that they would receive a vastly inferior education. Numerous studies have proven us correct.


Now our three kids go to a charter school OR Catholic school because APS has been completely inept in managing COVID and balancing the learning and socialization needs of children with a virus that has minimal impacts on children and has for the past two years.


The new COVID protocols at APS, adopted (so far as I can tell) without a vote of the Board, are unfair, unnecessary, and unscientific. I urge the board to take a public vote to overturn them and I urge ALL board members to vote to do so. Furthermore, in addition to overturning the new, unnecessary protocols, I urge the NEW APS board to eliminate the unnecessary mask mandate on children in the classroom.


Education Notable News Public Comments and Testimony Top Issues

Comment on Critical Race Theory in MLG’s proposed social studies curriculum

Gov. Lujan Grisham’s Education Department just released its new social studies standards. You can find all 122 pages here. As described below the standards are rife with Critical Race Theory (CRT) themes and other questionable material that may not fit squarely within CRT (read more on what that means here).

Before getting into some of the specific problems with the proposed standards, PED is NOW accepting public comments and will do so until November 12, 2021 at 5 p.m. (MDT). There will be a public hearing  Friday, November 12 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. (MDT) at Mabry Hall in Santa Fe.

All written rule feedback should be submitted to:

  • Fax505-827-6520
  • Mail: Policy Division, Public Education Department, 300 Don Gaspar Ave., Santa Fe, NM 87501

Here is a rundown of SOME of the problems with the proposed standards:

  1. In Ethics, Cultural and Identity Studies there is a requirement that students assess how social policies and economic forces “offer privilege or systemic inequity in accessing social, political, and economic opportunity.” This is classic CRT theology.
  2. Throughout the entire social studies curriculum for K-8 grades, there is a continue focus on the differences, rather than the similarities, among various groups of people.  This, too, is classic CRT as the purpose is to divide people among various minority groups, which can quickly lead to victimhood.
  3. There are also numerous example where a teacher can impose the notion of “justice and fairness,”  unequal power relations, “past and current injustices”, although those terms are open to many interpretations.  These phrases are also classic CRT as it perpetrates the sense of inequity in our society along racial lines. and and
  4. Within High School U.S. History, a requirement that students “evaluate what an efficient, equitable, and just economic system would look like in the U.S.”  This is again classic CRT as it imposes the belief on students that our current capitalistic system must be eliminated in order to eliminate racism.
  5. Within High School U.S. History, students are required to create an action plan for a more just and equitable America for diverse groups of people including Native Americans and African Americans.  This is another CRT theology component in that America is automatically unjust and inequitable to various minority groups.
  6. Within High School U.S. History, students are required to examine the past, present, and future of gun violence in the U.S.  Of course, there are no standards provided to discuss the constitutional rights of gun owners, or that individuals, not an inanimate object, are responsible for gun violence in America or how gangs, drug cartels, etc. have resulted in greater gun violence in our society. No positives regarding gun usage by women or minority groups are put forth.
  7. In the 5th Grade, students are  required to describe how inequity in the U.S. laid the foundation for conflict that continues today.  Another classic example of CRT as it stresses racial disparity in terms of inequality.
  8. Within High school U.S. History, students must examine the short-and long-term effects of CIA involvement in Latin America. How about pairing this with a discussion of Communism and the negative impact it has had in Cuba and other Latin American nations.
  9. In the 7thGrade, students must compare the patterns of exploration, destruction and occupation of the Americas by the Spaniards.
  10. Within High School U.S. History, students must explore the movement against police brutality.

RGF will be formulating its own comments in a subsequent post, but you are encouraged to submit your own and highlight this.

Economy Notable News Public Comments and Testimony Top Issues

With record economic strength Rio Grande Foundation files comments in support of able-bodied w/o children SNAP work requirement (and you can too)

Please click here to file your own comments in support of the Trump Administration’s proposal to end the abuse of SNAP time limit waivers for able-bodied adults without children. The deadline is April 2nd. The Rio Grande Foundation’s comments (including a link to an important study from the Foundation for Government Accountability) follow:

The Rio Grande Foundation is a free market public policy research organization based in Albuquerque. It is a non-profit, 501c3 organization and non-partisan in nature.

New Mexico is a state that has traditionally struggled economically, but even at a time like now of near record-low unemployment nationally and a relatively healthy New Mexico economy with abundant job openings there are too many able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD’s) on the federal food stamps (SNAP) program.

According to the Foundation for Government Accountability, there are 27,244 ABAWD’s in New Mexico that are currently exempt from the SNAP work requirement. This is not a healthy situation for them and their self-worth, job skills, and ultimately their mental and physical health. The compassionate thing to do is for federal and state policies to push these people to get back in the work force.

This happens to be best for both the New Mexico and national economy as well where these productive, engaged members of society can be active participants in the economy and thus tax-paying citizens as opposed to recipients of welfare provided at taxpayer expense. More importantly, even in areas of relatively high unemployment the ABAWD time limit waiver slows state and national economic growth by decreasing the chance that New Mexicans receiving welfare benefits will search out the jobs that are being created as our state’s economy improves.

We strongly support the Administration’s efforts to end the abuse of SNAP time limit waivers and further call on them to prohibit waivers in any area that does not have unemployment above the 10 percent the statutory threshold and to end the unlimited carryover of ABAWD percentage exemptions in order to encourage broader application of the statutory ABAWD work requirement

These waivers are counterproductive policies that have the unintended effect of trapping SNAP participants in the cycle of dependency and poverty while stressing resources intended for the truly needy. They increase the likelihood that a participant and their family will remain on assistance, making them more likely to live in poverty.


Economy Notable News Public Comments and Testimony Tax and Budget Taxes Top Issues

Holtec could bring high-paying jobs, tax benefits

New Mexico’s elected leaders and many citizens often claim to be interested in “diversifying the economy” and attracting good-paying new jobs to our state. When push comes to shove, however, schizophrenia reigns.

Policymakers often outdo themselves throwing subsidies and tax exemptions at businesses while they enact policies or restrictions that make doing business in New Mexico unattractive.

As has been reported in the media, Holtec International has proposed the construction of an “intermediate” storage facility for spent nuclear fuel to be located between Carlsbad and Hobbs. The facility would create as many as 135 jobs, including the construction and operating workforce. Operating jobs would pay between $60,000 and $80,000 annually. The state would experience a total increase in income from direct jobs of about $7.9 million and approximately $820,000 in personal income tax and New Mexico Gross Receipts Tax. This facility represents a major investment in New Mexico’s economy.

This facility received overwhelming bipartisan support from both houses of the Legislature during the 2016 session when both houses passed memorials supporting the proposed Holtec facility.

Economically speaking, Holtec’s plan resembles the Facebook facility in Valencia County that has generated so many positive news stories and resulted in tens of millions of dollars in subsidies from state and local governments.

The biggest difference – aside from Holtec not having asked for subsidies – is the public’s sympathy toward Facebook and its antipathy toward nuclear storage. Holtec’s proposed facility is extremely safe. Safeguard upon safeguard will be implemented to ensure against accidents both in transit and at its final destination.

The issue of nuclear storage transcends New Mexico’s economy, but if it is approved and becomes operational, Holtec’s facility could go a long way toward resolving America’s near-term nuclear storage challenges.

Currently, spent nuclear fuel is stored on-site at nuclear power facilities across the nation. This situation is viewed as sub-optimal by supporters and detractors of nuclear power alike. One or more secure central storage facilities are needed to ensure the spent nuclear fuel is stored safely.

The long-term solution proposed by the federal government is the politically-challenged Yucca Mountain facility in Nevada, which has cost taxpayers billions of dollars and may never be used for its intended purpose. Holtec’s proposed facility provides at least a starting point for a solution that will save federal taxpayers a great deal of money due to fact that federal taxpayers have been paying tens of billions of dollars in fines to utilities in recent decades due to the federal government’s failure to come up with a nuclear storage solution.

And, while nuclear energy is unlikely to grow dramatically in the near-term due to the rise of inexpensive natural gas and increased energy efficiency of the U.S. economy, solving the nuclear storage problem would remove a major obstacle to the industry’s resurgence. As concerns about CO2 emissions and man-made climate change intensify, an increasing number of pro-nuclear environmentalists including, but not limited to, NASA scientist James Hansen and Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore may cause nuclear to gain market share once again.

All of this means that by resolving a certain important aspect of the nuclear storage problem, this Holtec facility could:

• Directly generate new, high-paying jobs and tax dollars for New Mexico;

• Help solve the United States’ nuclear storage woes, thus improving the odds for a zero-carbon energy source which in turn;

• Spurs future demand for uranium production, an industry which at one time served as the backbone of economically-depressed areas of west-central New Mexico.

On that last point, it is true that many communities have been negatively impacted by uranium mining in the past. Modern safety advancements and stricter regulations would mean that a nuclear resurgence could be an economic engine for multiple areas of the Land of Enchantment.

As the only state with two national laboratories specializing in nuclear research, New Mexico has always been on the cutting edge of nuclear technology. The proposed Holtec International storage facility is yet another opportunity for the state to lead the way with tremendous immediate economic benefits as well as longer-term potential for a return to growth of a clean and reliable form of zero-carbon emissions energy.

The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.

Economy Energy and Environment Notable News Public Comments and Testimony Top Issues

Weighing in on NM’s Newest Nuclear Opportunity

Last week, Errors of Enchantment had some fun with the ignorance and fabuliusm exhibited by opponents of Holtec International’s proposal to build a facility for spent nuclear fuel (SNF) in southeast New Mexico.

This week, though, it was time to leave “the puppies of Chernobyl” behind, and get serious. The Rio Grande Foundation has submitted its comments on Holtec’s license application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Our ten-page analysis lays out the case for the facility — not just its negligible risk to public safety and the environment, but the role it could play in fundamentally reforming the nation’s broken, and expensive, SNF architecture.

Our arguments include:

* Environment: Holtec is proposing to cite its facility in a remote, lightly populated, extremely dry, and seismically stable portion of the American Southwest. Wildlife in the region is scarce, and the three federally listed species in Lea County are unlikely to be adversely affected by a facility that, at full build-out, would encompass merely 330 acres — in a county that contains more than 2.8 million acres. Hurricanes and tornadoes are basically nonissues at the location, and CIS will have negligible impact on air quality. No historical buildings will be destroyed, and no significant cultural/archeological sites disturbed.

* Transportation Safety: Contrary to the popular image of nuclear “waste” as a green, gooey, dripping, glowing substance, SNF consists of rather ordinary-looking bundles of ceramic metal contained in long, thin tubes. Movement of SNF on America’s roads and rails has an essentially unblemished safety record. A 2007 analysis by The National Academy of Sciences found “no fundamental technical barriers to the safe transport of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste in the United States. When conducted in strict adherence to existing regulations, such transport is a low radiological risk activity with manageable safety, health, and environmental consequences.” An essay written by 19 members of the National Academy of Engineering noted: “Extensive analysis, backed by full-scale field tests, show that there is virtually nothing one could do to [SNF] shipping casks that would cause a significant public hazard. Before shipment, the fuel elements have been cooled for several years, so the decay heat and the short-lived radioactivity have died down. They cannot explode, and there is no liquid radioactivity to leak out. They are nearly indestructible, having been tested against collisions, explosives, fire, and water.”

* Security: Terrorists strike heavily populated areas, using easily obtained or assembled weapons such as guns and bombs. They are unlikely to attempt to hijack or damage SNF headed for Holtec’s facility. And once the fuel assemblies arrive, they will not offer tempting targets. In addition to the deterrent of on-site, armed security and zero potential to inflict harm on a large number of victims, Holtec’s HISTORM UMAX system “stores the canister containing SNF entirely below-ground to serve as a ‘security-friendly’ storage facility, providing a clear, unobstructed view of the entire CIS Facility from any location and the closure lid is a massive steel weldment filled with concrete, virtually eliminating the storage contents as a target for malevolent acts.”

* Economic Development: Holtec’s total investment, across several decades, would be hundreds of millions — if not billions — of dollars. Including the construction and operating workforce, the facility could create as many as 135 jobs. The state would experience a total increase in income from direct employment of nearly $8 million, and over $800,000 in personal income tax and GRT revenue. New Mexico’s economy, suffering from low wages and one of the worst unemployment rates in the nation, desperately needs projects like Holtec’s proposed facility.

* Policy Reform: Perhaps the best justification for CIS in New Mexico is the contribution it could make to shifting away from the nation’s costly and spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to build and operate a SNF facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The federal government has squandered over $20 billion in ratepayer and taxpayer funds on a one-size-fails-all approach. Supporters of atomic energy should concede that technocracy has failed. A new strategy, founded on the transformative power of property rights, competition, and private-sector accountability, promises a better path. New Mexico stands to benefit from a consent-based alternative that buys decades, if not centuries, to find workable SNF solutions.

The NRC has extended the public-comment period to July 30, and your thoughts can be “submitted through the federal government’s rulemaking website,, using Docket ID NRC-2018-0052.” Feel free to add your voice to the list of New Mexicans who consider Holtec’s proposal an opportunity to bring jobs and tax revenue to the Land of Enchantment — and along the way, finally terminate the billion-dollar Yucca Mountain boondoggle.

Economy Notable News Public Comments and Testimony Top Issues

RGF submits comments to USDA in support of restoring work requirement for able-bodied SNAP recipients

The Rio Grande Foundation has long supported restoration of work requirements for able-bodied food stamp recipients without children. Left-wing groups throughout the State have consistently opposed such efforts.


The Rio Grande Foundation submitted the following comments in support of restoring the work requirement.


Comments are due on April 9 and can be submitted here:

USDA should eliminate SNAP ABAWD time limit waivers altogether and require all able-bodied adults without children to work, train or volunteer in order to receive benefits.

These waivers are counterproductive policies that have the unintended effect of trapping SNAP participants in the cycle of dependency and poverty while stressing resources intended for the truly needy. They increase the likelihood that a participant and their family will remain on assistance, making them more likely to live in poverty.

Current policy uses state-level unemployment data to waive ABAWD work requirements, but this is a deceptive data point. For instance, New Mexico’s unemployment rate is 5.8 percent, substantively higher than the 4.1 percent national average. But only one county in our state is above the 10 percent threshold for county-level unemployment waivers, while residents of three counties where unemployment is under the national average are still exempt from work requirements.

More importantly, even in areas of relatively high unemployment the ABAWD time limit waiver slows state and national economic growth by decreasing the chance that New Mexicans receiving welfare benefits will search out the jobs that are being created as our state’s economy improves. This is the time for people to rejoin the workforce, as unemployment has dropped 0.6 percent in the past 12 months. Notably, in a state with an estimated 53,900 unemployed workers,[1] there are almost 10,000 “entry-level” jobs posted on just one Internet job board.[2] Restoring the incentive to find work will move more New Mexicans off assistance and into those open jobs, further growing the economy while reducing the burden to taxpayers.

The Trump Administration should be praised for taking on the disastrous policies of the last decade that quintupled the number of able-bodied adults without children receiving SNAP benefits nationwide. To reverse this unsustainable trend, USDA’s efforts to help SNAP participants find and maintain meaningful unemployment would be best served by implementing the principle that able-bodied adults without children must be required to work, train or volunteer in order to receive benefits.




Constitution and Criminal Justice Notable News Public Comments and Testimony Top Issues

Rio Grande Foundation President Paul Gessing Provides Updated Comments on SoS Revised “Disclosure” Regulations

Albuquerque, NM – In response to revised regulations being proposed by New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse-Oliver, the Rio Grande Foundation has revised its previously-submitted comments.

Said Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing in the Foundation’s revised comments, “We applaud the Secretary of State for narrowing the scope of the proposed rules. Nonetheless, the Rio Grande Foundation remains concerned about the rules as written and the vague and complicated language and requirements they contain.”

Gessing noted that his primary concern with the proposed regulations remains procedural. Legislation addressing donor disclosure was vetoed by Gov. Martinez in the wake of the 2017 legislative session. These regulations are rightly the purview of New Mexico’s Legislature and Executive, not the Secretary of State.

In terms of our concerns regarding the proposed rule itself, the Foundation expressed a desire for clarification as to whether the Rio Grande Foundation and similar 501c3s would not be covered by the rule. In particular, we recommend that you consider revising the rulemaking again by amending the “advertisement” definition to explicitly exempt 501c3 organizations engaging in grassroots lobbying. If this change was made, it would remedy the Foundation’s chief concern about the rulemaking.

While some of the new language represents an improvement over the previously-proposed disclosure rules, we do have some serious concerns regarding the newly-added language in the “Coordinated Expenditures” section of the revised rulemaking.

Public testimony on the revised proposal will be accepted on August 30 in Santa Fe. Details including how to file your own comments can be found here.

You can read the full written comments here.

A video illustrating the importance for donor privacy can be found below: