State legislators provided attendees with a legislative update from this year’s session Monday at the Chamber of Commerce’s Lunch and Learn.
The main topics included explanations of recently passed legislation, education funding, capital outlay, oil and gas revenue funds and agriculture.
House representatives Nora Espinoza, Dist. 59, Bob Wooley, Dist. 66, Candy Spence Ezzell, Dist. 58, were joined by Sens. Stuart Ingle, Dist. 27, Cliff Pirtle, Dist. 32, Bill Bert, Dist. 33, and Gay Kernan, Dist. 42.
“Overall it was a good session. In a 30-day session we’re supposed to do a budget and that’s it,” said Ingle, Senate minority leader. “There was a lot of joint resolutions introduced this year thank goodness only three passed, because that’s something folks vote on. I’m not against voting on things. But there was junk introduced there that were just hideous.”
Ingle explained the process of passing this year’s budget and how he was pleased that the Legislature was able to get it done before the session ended, in spite of the abundance of tie-votes and hold-ups in the House.
He also talked about the new law outlawing texting while driving.
“It’s an interesting bill,” Ingle said. “Everybody who has looked at the bill says it’s almost unenforceable because you don’t have to show them your cell phone. To prove you’re texting you have to see it. It will be an interesting law but perhaps it will cut down on people texting. Right now it’s against the law but it will be an interesting thing to see how that’s proven.”
Some of the capital funding passed that will affect Roswell had to do with dental hygiene and nursing education, he said.
“The lottery is going to keep going, It’s one of the best things we’ve done for the state of New Mexico,” Ingle said. “Because you’re getting the money back. This is something that helps and gives people a real chance and their kiddos a real chance. Helps their children go to school.”
The Senate vote on the gaming compact which was not passed will return. He was not against the compact but was against parts of it that addressed inequities in how alcohol was served on and off reservations.
“If we’re going to have the same law for everybody, let’s have it for everybody,” Ingle said.
Pirtle talked about the Right to Farm bill that was passed.
“It wasn’t quite as strong and it didn’t quite have the teeth that some of us in the industry feel it needed to protect dairies and farmers from frivolous lawsuits,” Pirtle said. “All it did was strike the word ‘improper’ from the Right to Farm Act.”
It was a struggle, he said. But it had taken two sessions and a lot of work behind the scenes to get it done.
“That was a very big win for rural New Mexico and hopefully we can protect the Ag industry in New Mexico and the industry that they’re able to stay because they are a strong part of our economy,” Pirtle said.
This year was Wooley’s third in the Legislature. He said he has really started to feel comfortable. The session was slow at first and sped up.
“This year things really started falling in place for me,” Wooley said. “I’m looking forward to the 60-day we have coming up.”
Wooley introduced a bill and was able to get House Bill 24 through the House, which passed the Senate and became law, thanks to help from Ingle, he said.
The bill eliminated the sales tax on the sale of commercial aircraft and is expected to be an economic boon for Chaves County and Roswell.
“It’s going to be a very good thing for us in the years to come,” Wooley said.
AerSale has recently received authority to bid on 27 airplanes following an announcement about the bill’s passage, Wooley said.
Espinoza and Ezzell spoke about their frustrations with different aspects of how the state legislates education. Espinoza said the unions continue to work against them.
“It’s one of the things that gets under my skin,” Espinoza said.
Ezzell spoke about funding education. The oil and gas industry pays for about 50 percent of the state’s budget, she said.
“We’ve gone over the top as far as funding education,” Ezzell said. “What we saw this year was a preview of what we’ll see next year and ladies and gentlemen, it was ugly.”
She said she was also frustrated by the money spent on transportation projects in the western region of the state, when highways in southeastern New Mexico remain unfixed.