Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Legislators talk about coming session

Staff writers

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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. Randy Crowder (R-Clovis)

Crowder, who ran unopposed in the general election to replace the retiring Anna Crook, will represent a portion of Clovis quite similar to his district as a Clovis City Commissioner.

“I’m going in as a rookie,” Crowder said. “I hope to not embarrass myself or my constituents. I’ve had two or three people ask me to carry some legislation. Mostly, I just want to be productive.”

He plans to carry legislation that would make amendments on workman’s compensation and another bill related to construction.

Regarding the four times the Clovis city commission will meet during the session, Crowder said he planned to make the meetings or at least participate by telephone, but conceded he might miss one or both of the commission’s March meetings if work piles up in Santa Fe.

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


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.

Sen. Pat Woods (R-Broadview)

Woods will enter his third legislative session, and figures it will be the most interesting yet because of the change in power at the House.

“I think it will put a lot of pressure on the Senate Democrats to maintain the status quo they’ve had for years,” Woods said. “When they controlled both houses, they could control all of the legislative flow. The Senate Democrats still determine what’s heard on the Senate floor, (but) they’re going to have to take votes on some of these issues they’d probably rather not take votes on.”

As far as legislation, Woods said he was looking into bills that would clean up language for the state brand board regarding the definition of sheep as livestock, and make better use of a citizens’ review committee that makes recommendations to judges when the Children, Youth and Family Department removes a child from a home.

He has heard of an effort to change the state’s water trust board to Legislature-appointed positions rather than governor-appointed and change the appropriation process.

Woods also identified a pair of ideas he opposes. The first would reclassify horses as a companion animal, which he believes is a veiled effort to stop the business of horse slaughterhouses. The other would change forms so municipalities could apply to the state for funding on one form, and the state would determine which board should fund the project; Woods doesn’t see how a universal form could fulfill everybody’s needs and still be simple to fill out.