Well, week three started off with a bang. We had a major snowstorm, record cold, and gas shortages; not to mention school closings, business closing, water pipe breaks and rail runner delays. One thing that did not close was the State legislature, the people showed up to work at whatever time they could make it. That shows some dedication!
This is a sixty day session, and there is no time to waste; hundreds of bills have to be passed. Sometimes maybe it would be better that they didn’t. The reality is that many bills will not get passed and that is good for the citizens of NM. Remember the motto, “LESS GOVERNMENT MORE FREEDOM!” Now I understand if it is a bill that you back that doesn’t pass, that is upsetting; but think of this, your bill will probably be brought back up again, (and again and again). I have found that old bills don’t die, good or bad, they never die. Each year that “the representative sponsor is in the legislature the Bills are dragged back out, maybe re-written, and brought back up. Here is the case of two such bills I witnessed this week. The 1st is HB235: last year it was HB 103 and who knows what it was the year before that. HB 235 Create Veterans National Cemetery Fund. This sounds ok, right. Let’s look inside.
What is the purpose of this bill? It is to gain access to the money in a fund initially created in 1988! (That original Bill still enables citizens to donate to the fund, through a check off box on state income tax forms.) Convoluted huh, we have to create a fund to gain access to an existing fund? How did this happen? Well, back in 2004 the Legislature passed the Veterans Assistance Act and forgot to include wording that would enable the State to access money in this Cemetery fund; so I am told by the director of the Department of Veterans Services. So, since 2004 all the money in this account has been sitting in suspense. Back to today’s HB 235; will it do the job? Probably not; the lawyers say, it might actually just create a new fund. The bill is written so poorly that it will probably not pass again and the money will stay in suspense till next year when it will be brought back up again. My suggestion; write a whole new bill that is straight forward and to the point, with proper legal wording that would simply say we want to correct an omission in the Veterans Assistance Act of 2004, allowing access to the Cemetery Fund for the purpose of purchasing land to extend the life of the National Cemetery (in Santa Fe), period. Otherwise, this bill will be brought back up over and over again and the money will continue to sit in suspense, and the people who donate to the Veterans National Cemetery will continue to be swindled. One last thing on HB 235 it is my understanding that the Federal Government owns the National Cemeteries. States cannot buy land directly for that; but that is a whole new can of worms that should be looked at.
The 2nd Bill is HB68 Increase Careless Driving Penalties. This is the second year for this bill as far as I can tell. This bill is supposed to increase careless driving penalties for accidents involving motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians. First, the bill never mentions motorcyclist, bicyclist, or pedestrians in it. Second, the lawyers say we have laws on the books that need to be enforced and thirdly; the bill actually may result in the complete opposite of what it wants to accomplish, penalties may actually become lighter instead of harder because of the wording. So why is this bill constantly being brought back up? I don’t know. HB 68 moved out of its first committee, but will probably not get passed, so we can count on seeing it next year. These are just two examples, but there are hundreds more. So as you can see, many bills never really die, like Dracula, next year the file will open and it will once again arise afresh to exasperate the same people over and over again.
So what successes have we had this week? HB100 No Fourth Grade without reading Proficiency, HB21 Limit Certain School Grade Promotions, these two bills will be merged and are on their way to House Education Committee (HEC). Next is HB45 Eminent Domain Federal Property Condemnation, it was passed out of the 1st committee and is on its way to House Judiciary Committee (HJC). These have all made it past their first hurdle. I will let you know when they will be heard. Next, we have the ESCAFCA bill mentioned last week, it has been assigned a bill number HB306 it is an emergency bill and will be heard in Voters and Elections on Tuesday February 8 at 8:30am. For those of you who live in ESCAFCA this is an important Bill, as it could significantly reduce your tax burden. The extremely important Voter Identification Requirements bill got its number this week it is HB308. This is a very important Bill; it requires proper identification to vote. This bill will be coming up in Voters and Election Cmte., but no date yet is set. I will let you know as soon as I get the date. On Saturday, 2/5/10, we had a set back with HB110 Limited Use of Eminent Domain, it was passed out of its first committee. I want to thank all who showed up today against this bill. You did a great job of letting your voices be heard, the fight is not over. This bill is moving on to its second committee, and we have a good chance to stop it there. I looked over who was for this bill, (from the cmte. records) and all those who were for it stand to make huge amounts of money if the bill passes. Real Estate developers want this bill, the Chamber of Commerce, the city of Rio Rancho, Sandoval County Government, some development corporations and the list goes on. Yes, in a secondary way, the citizens of Rio Rancho will benefit through some jobs and more people added to the tax base; but those benefits will be tempered by higher taxes to build more roads, schools and utilities for the developers. As soon as this bill is passed, Rio Rancho will start buying land. Why? Because the price is right; they will buy the land at current depressed prices and sell to developers at a profit, or the developer will get the land without having to negotiate with the people. It is a win for the city government and the developer. Who are the really big losers in this bill? It is the property owners. The property owners can do nothing as the city has eminent domain; trumping their constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure. If you think this does not affect you, as you don’t live in Rio Rancho, think again!! State law applies to every city and person in this state. Your property could be next if the law fits your area and even if it doesn’t fit your area now it could at some time in the next 30 years. If you do not believe in the expansion of Eminent Domain powers, you need start thinking of a plan that allows you to show up at the House Judiciary committee meeting, date to be announced ASAP.
I want to spend a little time talking about HB85 CYFD Rule Waiver for Certain Programs. I know this is not a strictly fiscal bill, but it is a constitutional bill. HB85 is requesting waivers from CYFD rules and regulations that involve discipline and curriculum. Who is asking for this waiver you may ask? Private day care centers, Christian and non Christian, who do not take any funding from the state. They are not asking to be exempt from back ground checks or health inspections. They want these waivers so that they can continue to offer a choice to parents who wish to give their children an alternative to public education on the Pre-K level. You see, all daycares must be licensed by the state. The state has a five star rating for licensing, and it use to be that the Star 1 level required only the background checks and health inspections; but in 2010 it was decided that discipline and curriculum should fall into the Star 1 requirement for licensure. CYFD does not like the idea of this bill, they want to control every aspect of the Day Care programs and this is how they can do it. CYFD State Director’s philosophy is a policy of “discipline without punishment”. Let me give you an example of their idea of discipline. If a child does not want to lie down at nap time, they do not have to. If you tell the child they have to stay on the mat that would be a violation. A stern look may be considered a violation, and heaven forbid you say, “I am going to have to tell your mom if you don’t sit down”, that is a violation and centers have been written up for it and could lose their license, which is possibly CYFD’s goal. People choose Private Day Care and Church run Day Care because they do not want the CYFD philosophy for their children. If HB 85 does not pass, all Day Care will be State Day Care it’s operations, whether it is private or not. Choice is the issue here; the separation of church and state may be an issue here. The future of our children is an issue here. Will we allow the CYFD’s philosophy to be the only one in the market place or will we give parents a choice? HB 85 will be heard in Consumer and Public Affairs Committee on Tuesday Rm315 at 1:30pm. I hope to see you there, and if you can’t make it please call Rep. Chasey, Rep.Maestas and Rep. O’Neill to let them know what you think.
The last bill but not the least is HB105 Electronic Voter Registration this is the bill that allows people to use drivers’ license to register on line. Remember the state of NM issues Drivers licenses to illegal aliens. We do NOT want this bill to go forward! Start calling the Consumer and Public Affairs Committee members right now. Let them know we do not want illegal aliens to vote in our elections. When it gets a date in committee I will let you know.
Bills to watch this Week
HJR 12 Recall of Certain Public Officers – House Judiciary Rm309 at 1:30pm
*HB306 ESCAFCA District Authority & Elections Rm305 at 8:30am
HB85 CYFD Rule Waiver for Certain Programs – Consumer and Public Affairs Rm315 at 1:30pm
These are the bills posted on the calendar as of the writing of this letter. Please go to http://www.NMlegis.gov to click on committees, then on committee schedules for more postings as the week goes on.
The only way we can make a difference is to show up at these committee meetings let our voice be heard; show them we are watching. Monday and Tuesday would be a good day to do just that. I know that most folks work a regular schedule, and cannot come to Santa Fe easily. I am encouraging those that can to make extra effort. Keep those calls and emails going to the folks you hired to work for you.