Legislators weigh in on session
Last updated 4/17/2021 at 4:07pm
CLOVIS - Area legislators talked Wednesday about what they thought went right, and what they thought went wrong, during the recent legislative sessions in Santa Fe.
Mostly, local lawmakers focused on how little recourse they had during the gathering controlled by Democrats.
A quartet of legislators - two representatives, two senators - gave their input Wednesday morning at a breakfast organized by the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce and Clovis Industrial Development Corporation.
The legislators - Republican representatives Martin Zamora and Randy Crowder and senators Pat Woods and Stuart Ingle - told the Clovis Civic Center crowd that the Democratic majorities showed little deference to the minority party on matters that included recreational marijuana, elimination of abortion restrictions and the removal of qualified immunity.
Woods said many debates have tested personal friendships in the Roundhouse, and that for many Democratic-backed measures, "They essentially said, 'I have the votes, so I'm not going to answer your question.'"
Zamora said he fought for what his constituents have told him, but most battles seem to come down to rural New Mexico on one side and the "I-25 corridor" on the other. And the corridor, which has more than half of the state's population, usually has enough representation to win those battles.
"It sometimes makes me feel like a failure because I can't stop this," Zamora said.
Zamora lamented the legislation on legalized marijuana, which Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed Monday following a special session called specifically for it. He was concerned about the lack of reliable testing for the drug for employers and law enforcement. He also believes marijuana legalization is a reason for impending car insurance rate increases in Colorado.
"Even if you weren't for it, even if you don't smoke it, you're still going to pay for it," Zamora said.
Crowder said the 60-day session was a trial for everybody with various pandemic restrictions and security measures in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C., and joked that he and other legislators qualified for medical marijuana after session-induced post traumatic stress disorder.
"The 60-day session was very stressful," Crowder said. "There was a chain link fence up. We were locked in, the people were locked out."
Crowder did not like the move to eliminate qualified immunity, noting the state is considered by many studies as one of the country's leaders in violent crime and agreeing with other legislators recruiting officers will be more difficult.
He noted many categories, including education, where the state is either 49th or 50th.
"Our state is in trouble," Crowder said, "and I believe that is the result of one party in control for 90 years."
Crowder did note the area made gains in transportation, including $14 million for U.S. 60/84 improvements from Cannon Air Force Base to Clovis. He also credited Senate Bill 20 for creating the Transportation Project Fund and lowering the local match from 25% to 5% for projects.
Redistricting will come up later this year, with the Legislature expecting to receive three different options. However, he anticipates the matter will be decided in court, which isn't unusual given the stalemates redistricting can cause.
He also made attendants aware of the upcoming general election, with a ballot question that could allow the state to access up to 1.25% out of the Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood programs and K-12 education.
"The more we pull out of that fund," Crowder said, "the less there will be for later."
Woods felt like many of the newest laws will benefit lawyers at the expense of taxpayers, and many policies are the result of white guilt and political correctness.
"New Mexico can be much more," Woods said.
Woods said working in agriculture is difficult because "you buy everything retail and sell everything wholesale," and new policies like mandatory sick leave will make numerous businesses harder to run.
"It's hard to sign the front of the check," Woods said. "It's easier to sign the back of that check."
Ingle spoke briefly; after Woods jokingly introduced him as the "main-liner" speaker, he retorted, "You mean short-liner." Ingle said his colleagues had largely said everything he would have.
"There's a lot of things we'll have to cope with these next few years," Ingle said.
Ingle said a positive was a concentration on infrastructure projects - Crowder said he couldn't recall the governor's office ever signing every capital outlay request presented - but noted it will be difficult to find contractors to do all of the work.
Chase Gentry, executive director for the CIDC, said the 60/84 work was a great job by area legislators.
"I can't imagine the pressure and the technology problems," Gentry said. "We appreciate what you do for us every day."