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That Was the Week That Was: NM Leg Wk#3

The editor apologizes to Claus and our readers for posting this a day late.  Nonetheless, in the interests of preserving the historical record of this riveting legislative session, here it is.

by Claus Whiteacre

In week three of the New Mexico Legislature, legislative committees got very busy and Gov. Susana Martinez issued another yet another executive order right in tune with the themes from her election campaign.

In the wake of the Super Bowl, a football analogy seems appropriate. By repeatedly running the executive order route, the Governor appears to be attempting end runs around the legislative branch of government – as well as the law. And on three of these plays, she has run afoul of those black-robed refs in the third branch of government — the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The Walkout

On Monday before either chamber had convened, the Republican members of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee walked out in the middle of a meeting. The revolt was led by Rep. Don Bratton (R-Hobbs).

While it is common for individual members of committees to talk to the press after a hearing, the fact that all of Republican committee members joined together after the walkout to craft a collective statement to the press brings up some questions.

The united statement spun the walkout as being unplanned and said the Republicans were just trying to represent the “people” in what they considered an unfair hearing.  However, it is worth noting that joining the walkout were a significant number of industry lobbyists. Presumably, this was done to remind us all that corporations are people too — albeit artificial ones.

It remains to be seen whether we will see more “unplanned” walkouts in the days ahead.

The Executive Order on Immigration

Later in the week, Gov. Martinez issued an executive order mandating that state police officers question criminal suspects about their immigration status. The executive order revoked a policy put in place by former Gov. Bill Richardson in 2005.

On Thursday morning, more than a dozen Democratic senators and representatives called a noon press conference in the Rotunda to denounce Gov. Martinez’s executive order.

“There are two things to take away from this: We are not Arizona and it is important that no one in this state will fear approaching a police officer,” said Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque).

In what turned into a duel of competing press conferences, Martinez scheduled one of her own at 12:30 PM to talk about the gas outages throughout the state.

The Importance of Clean Water

Concurrent with the press conferences, a sizable number of people from throughout the state had gathered in the numbing cold outside the Capitol for a rally to preserve clean water.

Speakers at the hour-long event said they wanted to let New Mexico’s leaders know why maintaining common sense water policies is vital to protecting our unique quality of life for all our citizens.

What Really Caused the Drought

That afternoon in Senate Finance Committee, the proposed budget for the department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources was on the agenda.

All in all, secretary designate Harrison Schmitt seemed like a reasonable man as he spoke to the committee – until he said that drought was caused by solar flares.

Really?

Schmitt’s also all for nuclear energy: extraction, refining, and disposal. There are now ways of rendering it safe, he said, although he did not give details.

Prevailing Wage

Friday afternoon, the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee discussed a bill carried by Sen. Kent Cravens (R – Albuquerque) which would change how the prevailing wage is calculated.

The prevailing wage is the going wage that has to be paid on public construction projects. Sen. Cravens’ bill, SB 287, would have that wage determined by a survey of contractors across the state, instead of setting it according to union wages.

A number of contractors and contractor association spokespersons were for the bill, while a roughly equal number of union representatives were against it.

After a lengthy discussion and public comments both pro and con, the bill was held over until next week.

Environmental Rules

In the Senate Judiciary committee, Sen. Carroll Leavell (R- Jal) carried a bill that would have repealed four rules adopted by the Environmental Improvement Board in 2010 concerning greenhouse gas
emissions.

SB 190 failed along straight party lines when the seven Democrats on the committee voted against it.

It was an interesting week.



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