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SCOTUS begins issuing new opinions, with another expected related to the power of federal agencies, the battleground state of Wisconsin gets a ruling on alternative voting sites, and coastal work is being done to help salt marshes withstand hurricanes.

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The Supreme Court for now protects access to abortion drug mifepristone, while Senate Republicans block a bill protecting access to in-vitro fertilization. Wisconsin's Supreme Court bans mobile voting sites, and colleges deal with funding cuts as legislatures target diversity programs.

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As summer nears, America's newest and largest international dark sky sanctuary beckons, rural job growth is up, but full recovery remains elusive, rural Americans living in prison towns support a transition, while birth control is more readily available in rural areas.

Conservation Groups Praise Demise of Mineral-Rights Bill to Fund Education

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Thursday, February 9, 2017   

SANTA FE, N.M. – Conservation groups are celebrating after a bill that would put revenue from the sale of mineral rights toward early-childhood education was tabled by its author. On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee tabled and essentially killed Senate Bill 182, following a public outcry.

Ben Shelton with Conservation Voters New Mexico opposed the measure, viewing it as something of a wolf in sheep's clothing because it offered funds for education in exchange for the mineral rights to 6.6 million acres of federal public land.

"This is part of a push we see happening across the West to take federal public lands away from the public and basically give them to states with the idea that the states would then lease them out to private interests," he said. "And you effectively remove the ability of the public to access or benefit from public land."

The bill originated with Public Lands Commissioner Aubrey Dunn and rests on the assumption that Congress is planning to vote to transfer those mineral rights to the state, something that may now be less likely to happen. Supporters of public land transfer argue that the states, not the federal government, should decide whether or not to extract resources such as oil, gas and helium from public lands.

Shelton says money for early-childhood education would not start rolling in for many years.

"Because the money wasn't just going to be given to early-childhood education," he added. "It would be put into a trust. It would have taken decades for that trust to mature to the point where it's actually providing meaningful interest payouts to early-childhood education."

Shelton supports an alternative proposal to provide more reliable education funding by increasing the outlay from the permanent fund by 1.5 percent.


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