Monday, March 23, 2009

The Last Few Days Part I

Although we had been working long hours at a hectic pace, the last week is an entirely new experience. The Round House goes into high gear, and the pulse of the political process races faster and faster. Saturday noon is the deadline for all legislative activity. For some, the need is to complete the approval process for an issue they hold dear. For others, the goal is to run out the clock on bills they find unacceptable. These conflicting motives coupled with long hours create an incredible tension throughout the Capitol.

The last week began with a Sunday floor session starting early in the afternoon and going well into the evening. We continued to have daily committee hearings and floor sessions up through Thursday. On Wednesday and Thursday we worked until midnight. Friday’s floor session began at 10AM and went without break until 3:30 Saturday morning. We returned at 8:30 that same morning to deal with the last few items working until noon which is the end of the session. So much occurred in that last week that I will need to break this report into at least two parts.

Embryonic Stem Cell Research, SB 77

The final week witnessed the other great moral debate of this session. We began the session with the debate over the death penalty, and largely concluded with the debate over embryonic stem cell research.

There are honest and good people on both sides of both issues. I believe life begins at conception, and that the responsibility of government is to protect the weak and the vulnerable. SB77 would authorize embryonic stem cell research. This is different from adult or umbilical cord stem cell research which is currently legal, accepted as ethical by all, and has been actively pursed well over a decade. SB77 was presented to the House Judiciary Committee on which I sit, and we had a lengthy discussion about the bill. The sponsor of the bill was Senator John Ryan, a Republican. He authored it for very personal reasons. Senator Ryan and I had a private and candid conversation before his appearance in the Judiciary Committee. He knew I was opposed to his legislation. I have tremendous respect for Senator Ryan, but I believe he is wrong on this issue.

The bill passed through committee and proceeded to the floor of the House. Because a Senator cannot present a bill on the floor of the House, a Representative must perform that task during the floor debate. SB77 was presented to the House of Representatives by Al Park (D-26) who is the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. The debate lasted a full three hours, and I took part in that debate. Since others eloquently put forward the moral and ethical concerns with SB77, I spent my time pointing out the problems in the way the bill was written. My intention was to try to convince any undecided representatives that the bill was flawed and should not pass into law. I do not know if I had any effect on the opinions of my colleagues, but the stem cell research bill was defeated by a vote of 38 to 30.

Private Meeting with Governor Richardson

Tuesday morning of the last week Representative Keith Gardner (R-66), the Whip for the Republican Party in the House, came up to me and said, “I need to see you in private.” My initial response was, “What have I done wrong?” Keith promptly assured me that I was not in trouble, but that he needed to share something with me. Governor Richardson wanted to have a private meeting with me, and that meeting would occur in Representative Gardner’s office which is right off the floor of the House of Representatives.

Governor Richardson asked to speak with me personally because he was preparing to make his decision on signing the death penalty repeal. He had heard about my speech on the floor of the House during our debate of the death penalty. The meeting between myself and Governor Richardson was a private meeting, and I will not share the details of what we said except that I expressed my sincere belief that the death penalty should be retained. I was extremely honored that Governor Richardson would seek me out for my opinion. He is a very prominent political figure who has played a major role on the national and international scene. He has been the dominant political figure in our State for well over a decade. I, on the other hand, am a freshman representative with the minority party. He did not have to ask for my input. Although I am disappointed with his decision, I am gratified that he sought me out and asked my opinion.

We are now home in Roswell. I will reflect on the session and post more thoughts later.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Into the Final Stretch

Transparency in Government

On Tuesday my House Memorial 78, Study Searchable Database of State Budgets, passed the House. This was originally a bill to require the State to make expenditure information available on line. I felt this was a government transparency issue that all legislatures would support, but fourteen (14) Democrats voted against my memorial.

Ineffective Counsel

Also on Tuesday I presented my “Ineffective Counsel” bill (HB 797) to the Consumer and Public Affairs Committee. If a criminal’s conviction is overturned because an appeals court has determined that the defense attorney did not do his job, the State has to let the criminal go free or re-try him. My bill would suspend the “ineffective” attorney from practicing law until he received more training and passed the bar exam (a test all attorneys must pass). Furthermore, the attorney, who didn’t do his job, would pay for the re-trial. Needless to say, defense attorneys did not like this bill and it was tabled.

Insensitivity to Crime Concerns

The number of bills that have been introduced that, in my opinion, weaken the ability of law enforcement and the criminal justice to protect the public has been astonishing. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I have seen the constant stream of legislation to “help” criminals.

A few examples are as follows:

HB 285 Repeal the Death Penalty was introduced by Rep Gail Chasey (D-18), a retired educator and attorney. This was an intense debate in both the House and the Senate. I spoke extensively against this repeal in both committees and on the floor. It has passed the legislature and is on the Governor’s desk.

HB 396 Reliable Eyewitness Identification was introduced by Rep Joseph Cervantes (D-52), an attorney. This bill creates all kinds of new rules and regulations for police officers to follow. I won’t bore you with all of my objections, but let me note that when this was heard in Judiciary, the “expert witness” who sat with the bills sponsor was well known criminal defense attorney Michael Stout. I strongly spoke out against this in committee and on the floor. Unfortunately it passed the House by a vote of 34-31. All the Republicans voted against this bill.

HB 807 Jail Good Behavior Standards introduced by Rep Antonio “Moe” Maestas (D-16), an attorney. This bill strips the authority of Magistrate Judges to deny “Good Time” to individual convicted of misdemeanors. I publically opposed this in committee and on the floor. It was defeated on the floor of the House.

HB 866 Criminal Record Expungement Act by Rep Antonio “Moe” Maestas (D-16), an attorney. This would allow courts to conceal from the public certain convictions after specified time periods. It passed the Consumer and Public Affairs committee on a 3-2 vote and is currently in the House Judiciary committee.


I have been attempting to do live Web-casting during my committee hearings. This is also being done by Representative Janice Arnold-Jones and Representative Candy Spence Ezzell. I got some attention in a political blog by Heath Haussaman at posted on March 10, 2009 at 12:36PM.

Unfortunately I have had a number of technical problems. This is an all volunteer effort with borrowed equipment. I am not comfortable with the quality of the web-casts. I really wish the Legislature would do this with a team of professionals. Sadly there seems to be people of influence who do not want the public to be able to see want is happening in committees

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Two Weeks to Go

More Sad News

I am sorry to report the death of two more family members of Legislators this week. Representative Ray Begaye (D-4) lost his mother and Representative Zachary Cook’s (R-56) father passed away. Please keep them and their families in your prayers.

The Film Industry Subsidy

On Tuesday evening I presented HB 725 which was a bill to repeal the Film Industry Production rebate. Currently Film Production companies get 25% of their qualifying expenses rebated to them by the state. This program will cost us an estimated $54 Million next year. We do not do this for any other industry.

Supporters claim that the state benefits from this program. I have studied various analyses of these issues and I am convinced this is a poor use of the taxpayer’s dollars.
I hope to be able to post these studies on line soon.

The hearing did not go favorably. The audience was packed with film industry people including leaders of their union. They all spoke about how they had personally profited from their employment in film production. I did not and do not dispute that they have prospered. The question is at what cost and who pays?

Immediately after the bill was tabled, at the suggestion of the committee, I met with representatives of the film industry. We talked for two hours. They were unwilling to compromise in any way. They would not yield on a cap, a reduction of the size of the rebate, or any sunset clause.

Here is a pretty good article about the committee hearing:

Some Additional Issues

As part of my inquiry into the film production rebates, I requested information about who has received these rebates: How much are they paid? How are their claims substantiated? The administration sent me a simple list with the names of 67 companies (many are duplicates) that have gotten your tax dollars but no details about how much they got, when they were paid, where they are located or what they did to deserve this money. I will continue to work at shining the light of day on this program. You have the right to know how your tax money is spent.

Finally it must be recognized that this is a very influential and powerful special interest group. They have the support of some of the most prominent politicians in this state. Based upon the reactions, I must have hit a nerve.

Transparency in Government

My bill to put the State’s budget on-line stalled in the House Appropriations Committee on Monday. The opposition was from the Information Technology Department which was concerned this would cost too much. At the suggestion of the Committee Chair, I went back and had my bill converted into a House Memorial. The Memorial calls for a study to be conducted on this concept and a report to an interim committee. The hope is to come back with a bill next session.

I went back to Appropriations on Friday and my Memorial was passed. It should come to the floor next week. I want to thank Representative Don Bratton (R- 62) and Representative Larry LarraƱaga (R-27) for their assistance in getting this through Appropriations. I also appreciate the encouragement of the Chairman of Appropriations, Representative Henry “KiKi” Saavedra (D-10). They are all real gentlemen.


I have begun live Web-casting. I have started with the House Judiciary committee. You can watch at Please understand I am trying to keep the link open, run the camera, and do my work as a committee member all at the same time, so it is a little rough.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Dramatic Week


Domestic Partnership has hung over this legislature since before the session began. We have wrestled with many issues, the budget, the death penalty, ethics reform and others, but always hovering over this body has been the fundamental question of “What is the definition of marriage?” This single issue has produced the majority of e-mail, letters and phone calls. I firmly believe in Traditional Marriage and was prepared to fight for it. I did not have to defend the institution, as the battle was won in the Senate. On Thursday, February 26th the Senate voted against SB 12 by a vote of 25-17. I was fortunate to actually be present on the floor of the Senate when the vote occurred. Those Senators who stood strong to defend Traditional Marriage are all heroes.

State Worker’s Pay

On that same day, I am sorry to say, the House was not as noble. First the House passed HB 854 which takes 1.5 % of the gross pay of teachers, state policemen, and other state workers. The pay cut is diverted into the worker’s retirement, and the state’s contribution from the General Fund is reduced by the same amount. This is done to save the state $40 Million in FY2010. There has been NO other effort to reduce spending. I voted against this bill.

The Budget for FY2010

Also on Thursday, we voted on the state budget for FY2010. If I am not mistaken, it was the first straight line party vote of this session. The debate was long and serious. Rep. Don Bratton (R-62), one the most respected members of the House Appropriations Committee, spoke extensively against the bill. The FY 2010 budget cuts into our reserves in the amount of $136 Million. The projected price of oil and gas products is way too optimistic. Except for the 1.5% cut from the paychecks of state workers, there is no reduction in State spending. These and many other problems make this a flawed budget. I joined all of the other Republicans and voted against this budget.

Budget Transparency Bill

My HB 452 which puts the State’s “checkbook” on line, made it through the first committee, Health and Government Affairs, on Tuesday, February 24th. I had meetings with individuals representing the State Department of Finance, municipalities and counties who suggested some changes. I was pleased to be able to work with these folks and put forward a better bill. The next stop is House Appropriations. That is a tough committee, but I am hopeful.

A Questionable Bill

On Saturday, HB 864 “Voting System Budget Adjustment” was brought to the floor for debate and vote. This bill was sent to ONLY one committee and had the “Emergency Clause” which means if it passes the Legislature, and the Governor signs it, it goes into effect immediately. The Fiscal Impact Report (FIR) has this brief explanation:

The federal auditors reviewing Secretary of State spending of a Help America Vote Act federal grant has rejected $6.3 million spent on advertising with media consultant A. Gutierrez and Associates … A possible resolution to the audit finding is to make an accounting shift of the unaccepted expenditures… However, this shift requires the Legislature to expand and reauthorize the $11 million appropriation made in 2006…

The entire FIR is here:

The Attorney General is investigating this whole deal, but only AFTER the Feds said this money was misspent. Along with Reps Arnold-Jones and Larranaga, I asked a lot of questions during the debate. Many of us feel this is being done to protect the former Secretary of State. This is another example of the problems in this state that NONE of the proposed ethics legislation addresses. I hope the news media digs into this.

The bill passed, but without the “Emergency Clause,” so the soonest it could take effect is July 1, 2009.