With one hot bill about daylight saving time in the hopper, and one bill that would restrict food stamp purchases stalled by a Senate committee, state Sen. Cliff Pirtle has introduced another bill that could draw some attention, a measure that would restrict out-of-state voter registration efforts.
Senate Bill 163 would require those who assist others in the completion of voter registration applications to be registered to vote in New Mexico.
Registration agent, as used in state election code, is a state or federal employee who provides voter registration at a state agency, or a tribal registration office, or any other individual and who assists another person in completion of a voter registration application.
Pirtle’s bill would add language to say a registration agent must also be “a qualified elector registered to vote in the state.”
“So right now, under current law, anybody can register voters,” said Pirtle, R-Roswell. “This was a concern that came from a few people this last election cycle that asked me to limit it to at least being a registered voter. There’s been some concern that people that aren’t even New Mexico residents are going around and registering people to vote. There’s been quite a bit of concern with that.”
Pirtle acknowledged the bill, assigned to both the Senate Rules and Judiciary committees, could encounter political opposition.
“It probably will run into some opposition, but I think it brings up some valid points for fair elections within our state to protect New Mexico citizens,” he said. “I think a policy similar to this is something we should adopt.”
Pirtle’s Senate Bill 239, which would place the state permanently on daylight saving time, awaits a hearing before the Senate’s Public Affairs Committee.
“There seems to be quite a bit of support, a lot of emails and phone calls coming in for it,” he said. “Most of the members seem to be encouraged by [auth] their constituents to support it.”
Pirtle first introduced the bill in the 2015 session, but it died in the House in the waning hours of the session after passing the Senate by a 28-10 vote. Pirtle said a lower bill number this time, 239, should enhance its chances of being considered sooner by the House, presuming it again passes the Senate.
“So that’s going to be a significant difference,” he said.
The bill would keep New Mexico on daylight saving time for 12 months, instead of the current eight. Pirtle said his bill would end the confusion of changing time, which he said is both an unnecessary inconvenience and health issue. He said he hasn’t yet spoken with the Governor’s Office about the legislation.
“As it gets closer, I will definitely schedule with them to get something moving on that,” he said. “I think when it passes, we’ll have to shift the grassroots movement to contacting her office to sign it. When that happens, we’ll be able to get the support. People, this is the one that they want to talk about.”
Currently, Arizona and Hawaii are the only two states that do not adjust their clocks for daylight saving time. Pirtle said no special interest groups have yet weighed in on the proposal.
“There are quite a few groups that like it, but nobody has come out officially for it, just because it doesn’t really impact any specific group super significantly,” he said. “I know there are quite a few teachers that are for it just because it puts the kids going to school an hour later, which is shown to be beneficial.”
• Senate Bill 5 would restrict the purchases of junk food under the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formally called the food stamp program. It died last week in the Senate Public Affairs Committee on a 4-4 vote, although Pirtle said anything is possible before the session ends March 18.
“I’ve got a few conversations going with some of the members trying to convince them to move it out of the committee to continue the conversation,” Pirtle said. “The real intent here is to ensure that our children and families receiving SNAP benefits are receiving the most nutritious foods. Maybe they can break away and just move it to next committee. Let’s have the conversation, let’s discuss it a little further.
“I think I’m going to be able to get something going. There’s a lot of time left. Hopefully, it resonates with a few of the members.”
Pirtle has introduced several other bills this session.
• Senate Bill 230 would allow mobile fuel storage tanks to be used by crop dusters.
“The whole Pecos Valley depends on these crop dusters to come in and provide nutrients to their crops, protect them from pests and things like that,” Pirtle said. “There was a decision recently that they somehow weren’t going to be considered agriculture anymore. The costs of putting in fuel tanks for these airplanes would be extremely high and when they would go out and spray nonnative vegetation such as mesquite bushes out on rangeland, they would have to fly many miles back and forth to airports to fill up with fuel. So it’s very costly and actually counterproductive because now they’re burning fossil fuels going back and forth where they could land out on a dirt road out on the ranch in a remote area and fill up with fuel and continue their work.”
Pirtle said mobile fueling stations are often used by farmers.
“Many farmers use fuel trailers and things to get fuel to your farm implements, your tractors and things,” he said. “So this would just bring the crop dusting planes that are used in agriculture in line with some of the tools that farmers are allowed to use.”
• Senate Bill 161 would amend the New Mexico Food Act to deem food products misbranded if products do not actually consist of milk. Pirtle said many products labeled milk don’t provide the nutrition of milk and “are piggybacking on the reputation of good nutrition.”
• Senate Bill 191 would require traffic citations be filed in the county where they allegedly occurred.
“I’ve introduced this in every regular session,” Pirtle said. “Working with the New Mexico Magistrate Judges Association, we’ve come up with language that ensures a citizen can protect his constitutional right to have his citation in the county where the offense occurred, or can consent to an adjoining county.”
• Senate Bill 162 would require that two of the five regents at New Mexico State University have a background in agriculture.
• Senate Bill 100 would exempt guaranteed payments to company partners from gross receipts taxes.
• Senate Memorial 3 would request Congress transfer 860 acres from Lincoln National Forest for the use of the Mescalero Apache Tribe.
“Basically, it would ask the federal government to transfer the ski area, which is not owned by Mescalero Apache Tribe, to the Mescalero Apache Tribe, so that they could manage the forest land on the ski area,” Pirtle said. “Right now, they don’t have the authority and the U.S. Forest Service has not maintained the ski area in a way that meets their standards. Many people know the Mescalero Apaches have a great reputation of managing their forests to prevent fires. With a little bit of fire, there was a lot of damage that occurred to their lifts and things, so this would help them be in control of forest management on the ski area, and it wouldn’t have any impact on water usage or anything along those lines.”
Senior Writer Jeff Tucker may be contacted at 575-622-7710, ext. 303, or at email@example.com.