Legislative Follies 2013
By Jeff Berg
“Freedom of speech won’t feed my children.”—Manic Street Preachers
At this year’s legislative session, a 60-day palaver between 70 state representatives (38 Democrats and 32 Republicans) and 42 senators (25 Democrats and 17 Republicans), there were about 1,200 bills, memorials, and resolutions representing over 50 subjects introduced, covering everything from a horse slaughtering facility (HB 90 asked for an appropriation of $20,000 be granted to NMSU to “conduct a study of the feasibility of locating a horse slaughter facility in New Mexico to process horse meat for human consumption,” which received a neigh vote) to HB 68, intended to bring a welcome respite to all of us by shortening the political campaign. (No way would this pass.)
There was some good legislation that would make things better for some people, and then there were the suspect bills and resolutions that always bring out the differences in our society and culture, such as it is.
HB 122, introduced by the house’s flashiest dresser, Nora Espinoza (R-Roswell), was sneakily called the “Woman’s Right to Know Act.” It was Rep. Espinoza’s “stated” assumption that any woman who was contemplating an abortion would receive all the facts about her pregnancy, by requiring her physician to mandate “an ultrasound and the use of a fetal monitor to make the fetal heartbeat audible to the pregnant female.”
Bills that are introduced in New Mexico go through committee review, and this one was put to a hearing by the Consumer and Public Affairs Committee. Rep. Espinoza brought a witness with her—a nurse from Albuquerque who claimed that some doctors didn’t do this and their patients were later appalled to find out.
It is during these committee hearings that the public has a voice. You can sit in a stuffy crowded room with other informed or ignorant citizens, and when the committee chair asks for comments from supporters or from those against a bill, you can speak a brief piece. A show of hands is also asked for in this committee, chaired by Eliseo Alcon (D-Milan).
Supporters brought up the usual rhetoric, including some guy who spoke about Noah’s Ark for reasons that remain unclear. The “nay” voting citizens were much more prevalent, and a rep from Planned Parenthood reminded everyone that this service was already provided for, so those who do not receive it should seek further relief elsewhere.
Rep. Espinoza stated at the outset that this bill was not an abortion bill, but rather one about women’s rights.
Only a few people believed her—two fellow Republicans on the committee (and one of those even wavered for a while), so the bill was thankfully tabled (killed).
Another bill that was tabled was Senate Bill 230, which sought to allow three trained school employees to carry concealed weapons in any New Mexico school. Presented by Senator Sue Wilson Beffort (R-Bernalillo, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Torrance), the bill was certainly one of the most interesting gun-related bills presented this year. It was not based on the “keep and bear arms” argument, but rather was worded as an optional security proposition that could only be invoked when approved by a local school board, and even then, each school would make its own final decision about whether or not to use the statute.
School employees who wanted to take part would have to be accredited in New Mexico’s conceal carry program and would need to receive additional training (refreshed yearly) that would apply to a school-type situation.
Presented as an “added level of protection,” the bill was discussed without a great number of gun advocates in attendance—a situation much different from Rep. Espinoza’s other thankfully-tabled bill which would have allowed “prohibiting enforcement of federal firearm laws” in New Mexico, and made any “federal officer who is an official, agent or employee of the United States government who enforces or attempts to enforce any act, order, law, statute, rule or regulation of the United States government upon a personal firearm or firearm accessory, or upon ammunition, that is owned or is manufactured commercially or privately in New Mexico” guilty of a third-degree felony. A circus followed this bill, including one gun-toting gentleman who threatened to charge house committee members with treason if they didn’t pass it.
They didn’t and he didn’t.
This year’s legislative session is busy and intense. Not many bills had been passed by press time, but your elected officials seem very adept at sorting the wheat from the chaff this year … with some exceptions of course.
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