Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Legislators speak on session

and Steve Hansen

Staff writers

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[email protected]

The wave that brought Republicans control of the state House of Representatives on Tuesday should produce significant ripples come late January.

The annual legislative session begins at noon Jan. 20 in Santa Fe, and the 60-day session closes noon March 21.

Legislation may be pre-filed Dec. 15-Jan. 16, and filed during the session as late as Feb. 19. Most legislation that passes both houses and is signed by Gov. Susana Martinez takes effect June 19.

What legislation will pass both houses is anybody’s guess, given the shift in power.

The election was dominated nationally and statewide by Republicans, as the GOP took control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 62 years. The party controls the House by a 37-33 margin.

For the GOP, House leadership was decided Saturday at a meeting in Albuquerque. Speaker of the House will be Don Tripp, R-Socorro; floor leader will be Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque; majority whip will be Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas; and majority caucus chair will be Kelly Fajardo, R-Belen.

The Senate is only up for election during presidential election years. The Democrats remain in control by a 25-17 margin, with Sen. Stuart Ingle of Portales the presumptive Senate minority leader.

“We’re going to have a different situation coming from the House of Representatives,” Ingle said, “so there’s going to be a change in what passes from there. We’ll take a look at things that will help business, maybe change regulations.”

We talked to area legislators about the upcoming session:

House

of Representatives

Rep. Dennis Roch (R-Logan)

Roch plans to pursue bills for gross-receipts tax reform to attract business and raise revenue by making the tax fair and simple, and cost less per taxpayer. He said the state currently has a “Swiss cheese” tax code.

He also wants to push legislation to make New Mexico a right-to-work state, meaning the state would change to prohibit union security agreements or agreements between unions and employees requiring union membership or dues payments. Roch estimated that 25 percent of businesses shopping around for states in which to locate won’t even consider a state that is not “right-to-work.”

He also wants to see more laws introduced to increase personal responsibility. His example was a law he has introduced in previous sessions that would reduce workers comp benefits to persons who were under the influence of drugs or alcohol on the job. He is also exploring legislation that would require parents who receive public assistance to take parenting classes.

Rep. Bob Wooley (R-Roswell)

The Republicans from eastern New Mexico will defend the region’s oil and gas, farming, ranching and dairy industries from “bad bills” next legislative term. That, he said, will be a bi-partisan effort.

Wooley says he’s passionate about veterans’ issues. He will sponsor legislation to make repairs to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Angel Fire. In addition, he said, he will promote other bills that help veterans. George Dodge, a Santa Rosa Democrat, is one of his key allies on veterans’ issues, he says.

Wooley said he’s also looking for bills that will make New Mexico a right-to-work state.

The GOP majority, he said, “is a super opportunity for the Republican Party to do great things for the state.”

He added, however, that the Legislature must achieve these things “as a unified body. We have to involve the Democrats.”

He said the job of the Legislature is to represent the people who elected the legislators, and that the Legislature should all work together.

Attempts to reach George Dodge, D-Santa Rosa, were unsuccessful.

Senate

Sen. Stuart Ingle (R-Portales)

Ingle noted that it’s early to be determining plans for the session. He has several ideas for legislation, but declined comment on any because he has not begun drafting any of them and doesn’t know what will or won’t work.

He said Gov. Martinez has yet to send her package on things she wants to address in the session, though he’s quite sure it will include the elimination of driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.

A big challenge, Ingle said, may come from a smaller pool of capital outlay, funded by the taxes on coal, gas and oil extraction.

“The price of oil has dropped a little bit, and there may not be as much money coming in as we thought in July,” Ingle said. “It comes down to the price of crude oil. We thought it was going to stay in the $90 (per barrel) range. Now it’s around $70.”

Ingle hasn’t heard anything about any other senators planning to run to replace him as Senate minority leader, but assumes the caucus members may want a few changes.