Knipfing’s Notes: NM House has ’4M’ WeekFebruary 16th, 2013 at 9:30 am by Dick Knipfing under Latest Posts
Here’s another good thing about New Mexico: it’s easy to be heard. That thought comes to mind because this was a “4M” week at the legislature: Major Movement on Major Measures. The House passed a bi-partisan (an ancient, mostly forgotten political philosophy under which members of both parties put aside their party differences and work together for what they believe is the common good) gun control bill which requires background checks gun show purchases. Whatever you think about that, and there is sharp disagreement, the important point is that lawmakers worked together, took it on, didn’t duck and made a decision. Now it goes to the senate where its fate is uncertain.
The other Major Movement on a Major Measure came in the unending battle over drivers’ licenses for illegal immigrants. A group of lawmakers introduced a bi-partisan (there’s that term again) bill aimed at breaking the deadlock. It would create a two tier system: regular licenses for citizens and foreign nationals who are here legally and limited licenses for “Dreamers”, people brought to the U.S. as small children without having any choice in the matter. Governor Susana Martinez who’s been staunchly opposed to all licenses for illegals, says she’s favorable to this compromise. However, there is one glaring omission in the bill. It does not address the question of licenses for the vast majority of illegals, people who came here willingly as adults. Under current law many thousands of them have New Mexico licenses. Martinez has consistently fought to take them away. The legislature has consistently refused. It’s not clear how willing either side is to compromise on that key part of the question.
These are “big deal” issues for New Mexicans and with the session now about halfway over many other “big deal” issues are also unresolved. The legislature, dull and boring as it is to the vast majority of people, has a huge impact on everyone’s lives. And, the thing about New Mexico is that the people who make those impactful decisions, lawmakers and the governor, are easily accessible. In states like New York or California with huge populations, the governors are as remote as the president and lawmakers are as isolated as members of Congress. In New Mexico anyone can walk into the capitol and easily find their local legislator or go to the fourth floor and at least have access to the governor’s staff. At the risk of sounding like a political science geek (which I am), YOU CAN HAVE AN IMPACT in New Mexico. It’s mid February. There is still a month to be heard.
Speaking of being heard: Congress is taking its President’s Day break even though it has not acted to head off sequestration which kicks in March 1st. Sequestration will automatically make deep, across the board cuts in Federal spending. New Mexico will be whacked especially hard. The most common estimate is that we’ll lose 22,000 jobs. Some economists claim the country will be thrown back into recession. But members of Congress have “boogied” back home without doing what needs to be done. If you run into any of the New Mexico delegation in the next week or so, it might be appropriate to politely, but firmly ask a simple question: “Why are you here?”