By now, you’re probably familiar with the big issues—jobs, education reform, tax reform, campaign finance, the state budget, etc. But many state lawmakers have filed bills that have nothing to do with those issues—and in some cases (but not all), that’s a good thing. (A quick note: Freshman legislators cannot pre-file bills, which means you won’t see any bills from them until the session begins.) Here’s our unofficial handful of bills worth watching.
Driving crazy: Several bills propose additional penalties for various driving-related infractions. First, there’s Senate Bill 17, filed by state Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, which would impose a $300 fine for texting while driving. (A similar bill by state Rep. James Smith, R-Bernalillo, would impose a $100 fine.) As of press time, state Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Los Alamos, had filed at least three driving bills, including one that imposes $25 fines for “improper display of registration plate” and “failure to notify of change of name or address.” (Another bill, however, waives the fine if you show up in court with proof of correct registration.) State Rep. Tim Lewis, R-Sandoval, wants to increase penalties for drivers who don’t take advantage of Santa Fe’s $1 cabs (see page 12)—at least for repeat offenders. Lewis’ HB 32 raises the mandatory imprisonment for a fourth DWI conviction from six to 18 months, and to 10 years for an eighth or higher DWI. Feeling overregulated? Sell that car and get a bike.
I (love) robot: Smith may be a Republican, but he believes in some spending—specifically, a $300,000 appropriation to fund statewide workshops for schoolkids to “design, build, program and test” robots, “culminating in an international robot competition.” Um, YES.
And submarines: State Rep. Thomas Anderson, R-Bernalillo, wants $50,000 for the state’s Department of Military Affairs “to educate the people of New Mexico about the mission of the nuclear-powered submarine USS New Mexico.” Sure, we still need to furnish that new courthouse, but let’s be honest: subs are pretty cool.
We don’t need no stinkin’ feds: State Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Curry, wants to send what amounts to a cease-and-desist order to the US government. Using the state sovereignty powers outlined in the US Constitution’s 10th amendment, Roch’s House Joint Resolution 1 seeks to limit the federal government’s power and calls for “all compulsory federal legislation that directs states to comply…or requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding be prohibited or repealed.” In states such as South Carolina, the “Tenther” movement has become a last-ditch effort to sidestep Obamacare.
Hands off my Game of Thrones: State Sen. Steven Neville, R-San Juan, has a bill that would make stealing telecommunication cable “that directly results in an outage” a third-degree felony, or a second-degree felony if the damage costs the cable company more than $20,000 to repair. Better just to watch it through your neighbor’s window.
Need more holidays? If the governor’s proclamations declaring it Learn a Snow Sport Month (January), Western Music and Cowboy Poetry Days (Nov. 14-18), and Classroom Kindness Week (Nov. 12-16) aren’t enough for you, rest assured that state lawmakers are doing their part to add to the pile. So far, they’ve filed bills creating Vietnam Veterans’ Day, New Mexico Speech Language and Hearing Association Day, and Better Hearing and Speech Month.