The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Lawmakers reflect at Yam

 

March 24, 2019

Jamie Cushman

Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, left, and Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, were among the four local lawmakers to address constituents.

PORTALES - Four area lawmakers took to the Yam Theater on Thursday to reflect on the 60-day legislative session that wrapped up last week.

The main point made by Rep. Randy Crowder, R-Clovis, Rep. Martin Zamora, R-Clovis, Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales and Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, was the same: the state can't sustain the $7.1 billion in spending that came out of this year's session.

"Record, records amount of money. Absolutely unbelievable amounts of money compared to what it was a few years back and that's thanks to the oil industry," Ingle said.

Crowder said many of the bills passed had unintended fiscal consequences, like the increase to minimum wage that could cost the state $30 to $60 million on its childcare center contracts and the approval of same-day voter registration - which could cost $40 million more.

"We had a $1.2 billion spike (in funding) ... It just shot straight off the charts with this year's spending. And if you look back in history, immediately following every one of those spikes is a crash and that's going to be hard to sustain. It's going to be hard for the communities to absorb that," Crowder said.

Woods said much of the extra spending this year went toward education, including $170 million to increase salaries for teachers and school staff.

"Education is going to receive about half a billion dollars. Now I know all you dadgum school board members are pretty happy about that, but wait until you hear the rest of the story," Woods said. He noted that with the additional funds will come more oversight of the Public Education Department, and thus more paperwork for the school districts.

One bill targeted by the legislators was Senate Bill 8, which expanded background checks for nearly all instances when a gun changes ownership in the state. Ingle called the bill "a toothless giant." Ingle said when the bill was heard in committee, Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torres said the bill wouldn't make a difference for how criminals get their guns because they don't buy them legitimately.

"That's the problem with so much legislation anymore; it's meant more for the headline than what it can actually do," Ingle said.

The legislators celebrated the failure of House Bill 51, which sought to remove from the state's books a law, mostly unenforceable due to Supreme Court rulings, which criminalizes abortion and includes a "conscience clause" for health officials who do not wish to perform an abortion.

"Between when the House passed it (and the bill failed in the Senate), all the people back home began to find out what was in that bill and what was happening to the doctors and what was happening to unborn children in the state of New Mexico," Crowder said. "The churches rised up, the people rose up and they began to call and they began to text and they began to show up in Santa Fe and it changed things. I believe that the people of New Mexico stopped that bill, which is good."

Zamora reflected on his first legislative experience in Santa Fe and how he kept hearing from veteran lawmakers how difficult of a session it was.

"For it being your first time you don't know what bad is and what good is, but we sure learned it in a hurry," Zamora said.

And while much of the financial discussion had a doom-and-gloom feeling, a story told by Crowder about the prank exploits of another local legislator - Rep. Phelps Anderson, R-Roswell - showed how the lawmakers can still have some fun amidst the long nights.

"I have my microphone and my papers and Phelps runs past me and he slides a piece of paper out in front of me," Crowder said, describing an instance when he was about to address the House floor.

"Of course I'm standing there, I look down at the paper and it says, 'Zip your pants. You're on TV,'" Crowder said.

"What do you do? Is he telling the truth? Is he jerking your string ...?

"Fortunately I look out the door, he went past my desk out the door and I could see him just laughing. Two of my colleagues that were sitting right next to him turned around; they had grins that you couldn't even see their ears they were smiling so big. So I knew that it was a set up."

 
 

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