Local officials have mixed-views on legislative session
Local elected officials praised the recent decision to increase sex-offender penalties, but didn’t have much else good to say about the special session of the state legislature.
“I think the timing was poor; everything we accomplished I think we could have done in January,” said Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis.
Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, agreed, and said the expense incurred was far too high for the benefits of the session.
“It costs $60,000 per day to hold a special session; for 10 days it would be 600,000, but the Senate was not there for three days and I don’t know of any senators who will be taking a per diem for those days so that will cut the expenses a bit,” Ingle said.
Ingle, the Republican minority leader, objected to the way Gov. Bill Richardson called the special session without providing prior advance notice of the text of the bills it would consider.
“You’re going to have disagreement on both sides of the aisle on how things are written, and that’s why we need it early, but this isn’t the first governor who’s done this,” Ingle said. “We need to see if there is an area of compromise that can be done so we can get done with the business that needs to be done and not cost the taxpayers too much money.”
Ingle and Harden also objected to the governor’s efforts to borrow money for major road projects in anticipation of receipts from increased gas taxes.
“I am a firm believer that we need well-maintained roads throughout the region, but I objected to the method by which that project was financed for a couple of reasons,” Harden said. “Primarily it goes against my basic principles to tax one group of people when government operations should be shared by all of us as an equal burden.”
Harden said he opposed the idea of borrowing money in advance of tax receipts.
“I believe the bonds will ultimately increase our debt about $1.6 billion and I am concerned we are mortgaging our children’s future,” said Harden. “That is a huge debt for our kids.”
One item on which both men agreed with the legislature was the sexual assault bill. Commonly known as “Marissa’s Law,” the legislation is named for Marissa Mathy-Zvaifler of Albuquerque.
The Associated Press reported she was strangled in July during a concert by a custodian who had been released on probation after being convicted of raping a 4-year-old girl.
“We got some pretty good teeth put in the sexual predator act, something that should have been done many years ago,” Ingle said. “There wasn’t any problem convincing anybody that our sexual predator laws need to be toughened.”
Ingle said there had been some discussion in the legislature of the recent spate of sexual assaults on Clovis children, but most of the attention focused on the Albuquerque case.
“Sexual abuse of children is neither Republican nor Democratic,” Harden said. “The legislation sends a clear message to sexual predators that the penalties in New Mexico are going to be very, very stiff and that’s the way it should be.”