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 V.18 No.13 | March 26 - April 1, 2009 

Making Sausage

What legislation was turned into links, and what was left as greasy globs of guts? The session’s over, but Gov. Bill Richardson hasn’t taken action on everything that made it to his desk. We'll keep you in the loop as things progress by adding updates here.

PASSED:

Death Penalty Sees Its Last Days

Signing the bill to repeal the death penalty is among the most significant actions in Gov. Bill Richardson's political life. "What we cannot disagree on is the finality of this ultimate punishment. ... It cannot be reversed. And it is in consideration of this, that I have made my decision," he said in a news release.

Because a flawed justice system puts innocent people on death row, he continued, and for a host of other reasons, he signed the measure into law. The legislation carried forward by Rep. Gail Chasey replaces capital punishment in New Mexico with a sentence of life without parole.

State Employees Will Pay More Into Retirement

If the governor signs this legislation, public employees will contribute more of their paychecks to their retirement packages. Bob Anderson, a political science instructor at CNM, wrote to the Alibi to call the bill a "disaster." Everyone can thank Rep. Kiki Saavedra.

Child Care at UNM

The Alibi wrote a story a couple weeks ago looking at the lengthy waiting list for the near-campus daycare center for university students, staff and faculty. The Senate passed a memorial sponsored by Sen. Linda Lopez to look at what it would take to expand the Children's Campus.

Title IX in 2009

Roughly 37 years ago, a national law was passed to establish equality in school sports for male and female athletes. The state Legislature passed Rep. Danice Picraux's bill to check in and see how that's going around the state. School districts will be asked to hand out questionnaires to find out who's complying with Title IX and see which sports students like.

Open Conference Committees With Hilarious Results

“Conference committees” might sound terrifically dull, but they see plenty of action. When the House and Senate can't agree on something, they send in three legislators each to hash it out. All of this usually happens behind closed doors. A bill that would require the Legislature to let the public in on these showdowns passed. Though Rep. Joseph Cervantes’ measure hadn't been signed into law by the governor, lawmakers decided to open one such meeting anyway. And it's a good thing they did.

“Had we needed their vote, they would have been there for us.”

Sen. Cisco McSorley, discussing the failure of domestic partnership legislation

The open meeting was used as a tool to shed light on some shenanigans by House Speaker Ben Lujan. Legislators called him out for trying to shoehorn into an unrelated bill an amendment that would help developers pull down state-issued bonds. Here's the hilarious part. After the amendment was nixed, Lujan threw a fit in front of media and called Sen. John Arthur Smith a racist. Then Lujan found Smith and told him he was "full of shit" with reporters nearby.

We look forward to high drama in the years of open conference committees to come.

Nothing Like a Nice Webcast

Sen. Janice Arnold-Jones and the local media pressured the Legislature to begin webcasting committee meetings. With so much attention on the issue, the Senate and House soon followed suit and began webcasting officially. So far, the visual quality is piss-poor, but it can only get better from here. Anyone with computer access can watch how business gets done in the state.

Campaign Contribution Limits

A bill limiting how much a campaign can accept from a single donor broke through. Sen. Dede Feldman's chalks a one in the good guys column.

Though 45 other states already have such measures in place, this is a first for New Mexico. Candidates for non-statewide elections can receive $2,300 per election from businesses and individuals, and $5,000 from political action committees.

DEAD:

Domestic Partnerships: Not Today

Someday, there will be domestic partnerships in the state, says Norma Vasquez de Houdek, who married Mary Houdek five years ago in Sandoval County. Many supporters thought this would be the year. Sen. Cisco McSorley and Rep. Mimi Stewart were confident their respective bills would make it to the guv's desk in 2009.

But 10 Democrats and 15 Republicans shot down the measure in the Senate, responding in part to pressure from opponents who protested in the capital.

But there was more political support for domestic partnerships than it seemed, McSorley assured the Alibi [“ Not Even Close,” March 5-11], and some senators would have supported the legislation if the vote was close enough. “Had we needed their vote, they would have been there for us,” McSorley said.

No Creationism at School

Sen. Kent Cravens brought forward a measure that would ensure instructors could teach the strengths and weaknesses of evolution. Also, students who don't agree with evolution couldn't be penalized. The legislation didn't make it through the process.

No Guns at Chili's

A measure allowing patrons to carry firearms into family restaurants where alcohol is on the menu didn't make it through the House. The legislation was brought forward by Sen. George Munoz and supported by the National Rifle Association.

Daylight Savings: Still a Pain

Senate Majority Whip Mary Jane Garcia really hates losing an hour in the spring. She suggested New Mexico stop observing daylight savings time, calling it a health hazard. But it was not to be, and the legislation died.

No Looking in Nonprofit's Wallets

Rep. Paul Bandy wanted nonprofits to reveal who donated money to their causes if the organizations run ads about candidates. The bill was probably a result of the tussle in the fall where legislators who lost their seats blamed nonprofits.

Nonviolent Prisoners Will Stay in Lockup

A jail administrator would have been allowed to release inmates into a community custody release program instead of staying in the county jail under legislation by Rep. Moe Maestas. Nonviolent offenders could have entered substance abuse treatment, education or employment programs.

No Local Produce in the Cafeteria

This bill dies every year. Rep. Rhonda King wants the state to spend $3 million on locally grown fruits and vegetables to include in public school lunches. Kids would eat better. Farmers would have steady income. The districts would use less gas getting food to their schools.

If This Isn't the Year for Ethics Reform ...

As the Alibi pointed out in a feature [“ The Land of Disenchantment,” Jan. 22-28] at the start of the 2009 session, there's plenty that needs to be addressed in our state's political system. Scandal after scandal shakes our trust in New Mexico's government.

There were measures on the table that would begin to address these issues. One called for the creation of an independent ethics commission to look into complaints of dirty dealings. One would publicly fund campaigns so candidates can avoid owing favors to contributors. Those didn't pass.

Electoral College Remains in Tact

Rep. Mimi Stewart wanted to do away with the nation's electoral college all together and allow elections to be won or lost by the popular vote. The bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Enjoy Your Wait at the DMV

A convenient piece of legislation was heading to the Senate floor but never made it there for a vote. Rep. Elias Barela's bills would have allowed New Mexico drivers to renew their licenses using the power of The Internets.

Beat Your Spouse, Keep Your Badge

The Senate never voted on a measure that would require spouse abusers to turn in their shields. Rep. Nate Cote's legislation would have also prevented people convicted of domestic violence from becoming officers for three years after the offense.

Commit a Felony, Keep Your Pension

Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort's bill would have canceled the retirement benefits of state employees convicted of felonies that relate to their government jobs. The measure keeled over in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where all good legislation goes to die.

Pitbull Lovers Rejoice

The House gave the thumbs down to Rep. Jon Heaton's act that would have required owners of rottweilers and pit bulls to register their pets as dangerous. Opponents called the measure "breed discrimination."

A Punch in the Neck for the MMA Ban

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings copped Sen. John McCain's line when he said mixed martial arts are the same thing as cockfighting. He wanted to outlaw MMA in the state, but the bill stalled in the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee. Who knows what it was doing there.

 

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