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State Rep. Stephen Easley, D-Santa Fe, one of the newest members of the Santa Fe delegation in the state Legislature, brought humor and a few small missteps to today's annual “Legislative Briefing and Lunch with Legislators” for the League of Women Voters of Santa Fe County.
Easley, 60, an Eldorado resident, walks with a cane, but is hardly soft-spoken. While the speakers were introducing themselves at today’s lunch, Easley mentioned that newly-elected state Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, sits right behind him on the floor of the State House. Easley told the largely white-haired audience he expects to turn around, at several points during the session, and make a face to Trujillo that says “Holy crap, can you believe that?”
Easley cares about education. He holds advanced degrees and was a university professor and research scientist in the 1980s and 1990s. He does not agree “in the slightest” with the Gov. Susana Martinez’ plan to retain students in the third grade if they are behind in reading.
Easley quoted Albert Einstein, who said insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Making struggling students repeat the third grade, “in the same place, with the same people, and the same teachers,” and expecting improvement, according to Easley, fits Einstein’s definition of insanity.
After his academic career, Easley worked for the state and Gov. Bill Richardson, as an information officer, from 2003-2010. In this official capacity, he spent some time in the state Legislature, and knows how many demands legislators have upon their limited time during the session.
Today Easley tried to tell the League, “I’m tired of the Legislature having to waste their time” on bills that try to repeal driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. He called this “a wedge issue from the governor that doesn’t need to be dealt with.”
But the phrase that actually slipped out of the Easley’s mouth was DWI, not driver’s licenses. Jaws dropped in Easley’s audience of middle-aged and senior women when he said he wanted the “DWI issue off the table” and considered it a waste of time. Members of the League must have been incredulous—was this new state representative advocating for the rights of intoxicated drivers?
As soon as Easley realized he had misspoken, he decided to crack a joke. “I want to make it a free for all for drunks,” he said, drawing instant laughter from the crowd. He also clarified that he will accept a compromise on the drivers’ license issue.
Near the end of the lunch, Easley fielded a question from the audience about how and where New Mexico will find more providers as more state residents receive health care. “My plan is to get a medical degree,” Easley quipped. He then explained there really is a shortage of providers in the state, especially in the specialties. UNM can’t graduate enough doctors who will stay here, according to Easley, and New Mexico will have to recruit doctors from other states. Easley also wants more investment in telemedicine, where specialists in Albuquerque can treat people in rural areas.
For those who wish to hear more of Easley’s views and wit, constituents and interested residents are invited to his town hall tonight with state Sen. Peter Wirth, which will be at the La Tienda Performance Space in Eldorado from 6:00-7:30pm. Easley will also debate bills in the Roundhouse, and tell the occasional joke, during the sixty-day session that starts on Tuesday.