U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce speaks to the a joint session of the state Legislature in Santa Fe, Thursday. (Philip Fischer Photo)
Week 1 of the 51st legislative session closed Thursday after a day featuring a joint session with an address by Congressman Steve Pearce, R-N.M., more bill introductions in both chambers and committee assignments for senators.
In his address, Pearce spoke about jobs, gave legislators an update on the federal government and discussed the national impact of the financial cliff, said Sen. Bill Burt, R-Alamogordo.
Pearce also discussed the need for bipartisanship in both the U.S. and state Capitols. “His overall theme was for us to make sure that we don’t follow the same path,” Burt said.
Pearce also spoke about his efforts against the listing of the lesser prairie chicken as an endangered species, said Rep. Bob Wooley, R-Roswell.
Wooley said the listing could have an adverse effect on oil and gas production, which provides most of the money that helps to balance the state’s budget.
Just as with the state’s efforts against the listing of the dunes sagebrush lizard, “we’ve got to ban together to fight this,” Wooley said.
Wooley also introduced a bill to refurbish Fort Stanton for use as a cemetery for military veterans and expressed his opposition against a bill introduced by Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, to create the Firearm Transfer Act.
The act would require buyers, except licensed gun dealers, to submit to and pay for a background check before the transfer of firearms at gun shows and private sales.
“We can’t let this thing pass,” Wooley said. “It infringes on our Second Amendment rights.”
Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, also spoke against the bill, saying in a statement it was a “blantant attempt by Rep. Garcia to disregard federal gun laws and implement his own standards here in New Mexico where we are already an open door for criminals to come to the U.S.”
“Additionally, we must ensure that our Second Amendment rights are being upheld and that we are not needlessly heaping more laws and increased government control onto those who are already abiding by the existing law,” she said.
In the Senate, members received committee assignments. Burt was selected for the Finance Committee.
“Finance is a very important committee and as someone who has been here for a couple of years, I am humbled and honored to serve on that,” he said. “There are so many issues we need to deal with. You can’t run the state without money.”
As an independent businessman, he said he is proud to be able to represent the private sector, as well as the communities in the southern part of the state.
Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, who will serve on the Indian and Cultural Affairs and Rules committees, said he will be in touch with the Finance Committee. He said Finance Committee chairman John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, is a good chairman who does his best for New Mexico.
Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, said she is delighted to return to the Education Committee and plans to introduce a reading intervention bill Monday. Kernan will also serve on the Public Affairs Committee.
She said she’s looking forward to a great session since committees have been assigned. “Now, we can get down to the work that’s before us,” she said. “There will be little stopping.”
The Legislature will reconvene Monday.