Legislative Roundup: 15 Days Remain In 2023 Session

Happy birthday, Mescalero: May marks the 150th anniversary of the designation of the Mescalero Apache reservation, and some senators want to honor its people.

Senate Memorial 46 honors the Mescalero Apache Tribe for being at the “forefront of the fight for tribal sovereignty at the state and national levels and to preserve its culture, language and connections to the homelands throughout southern New Mexico.”

Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, who introduced the memorial to members of the Senate Indian, Rural and Cultural Affairs Committee on Thursday, said while the Mescalero Apache land is full of scenic mountains and forests, “what is most beautiful about the Mescalero is the people.”

Committee members unanimously voted to approve the memorial.

Water Trust Board: The Legislature would have more say over who serves on the Water Trust Board under a bill headed to the House after passing the Senate 32-3 Thursday.

Currently, the governor appoints 12 of the 16 members, said Sen. Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, who sponsored Senate Bill 391. The measure would reduce the number of members to 15.

“The bill would change the appointment of some of the members of the board to six by Legislative Council. That would mean the Legislature would be appointing six out of the 15,” he said.

Cervantes said the bill would give the Legislature “a seat at the table.”

“It’s important to remember the Water Trust Board is responsible for determining the priority and allocation spending of water on water projects around the state,” he said. “This year, they’ll be responsible for deciding the fate and appropriation of about $187 million.”

Fallen firefighters: The sound of bagpipes echoed in the Senate chamber Thursday, which was declared as “Recognition of Fallen Firefighters Day.”

“It is important to embrace the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice as members of the state’s fire services, to comfort family members, friends, colleagues and loved ones and let them know that the service and sacrifice of their fallen hero will never be forgotten,” states Senate Memorial 57, sponsored by Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque.

“We talk so much about the service of our first responders; we recognize our military members,” said Sen. Harold Pope, D-Albuquerque. “While I’ve never been in law enforcement or a fireman, we all understand making that sacrifice, taking that oath to really protect your community.”

Smokey smokes on: Speaking of firefighters, the House voted 63-3 to support legislation honoring Smokey Bear, who constantly warns us about the need to prevent forest fires, by making a special license plate with his likeness on it.

House Bill 363 would allow New Mexicans to pay $50 for the Smokey plate, with an annual renewal fee of $40 pear year. The renewal fees would go to the state Department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources for forest fire prevention. 

Many House lawmakers praised Smokey’s legacy. Rep. Harlan Vincent, R-Glencoe, said his wife’s grandfather was one of the firefighters who found the scared and burn-scarred baby bear who survived a fire in the Capitan Mountains in 1950 — often considered the original Smokey Bear. 

Not all lawmakers approved of having another specialty plate in the state.

“I don’t know why we have so many of them,” said Rep. Susan Herrera, D-Embudo.

Rep. Mark Duncan, R-Farmington, one of the sponsors of HB 363, said New Mexico has about 100 specialty plates. Smokey next goes to the Senate for consideration.

Quotes of the day: We’re going to have the water war of the West.” —Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, on New Mexico’s interstate legal battle with Texas over water rights. 

“This is what happens when you get a white guy to carry a memorial for you.” — Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, after a “misprint” in a memorial sponsored by Sen. Cliff Pirtle, a Roswell Republican, listed the wrong day and year the Mescalero Apache reservation was established.

“NM is top in the nation for car thefts, but the bill died on a party-line 4-2 vote despite it being sponsored by 3 Dems. What a clown show.” —Rep. John Block, R-Alamogordo, in a tweet after the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee tabled a bill he said would enhance penalties for repeat offending carjackers.

“I tell all my friends, ‘Please don’t stop in Albuquerque because your U-Haul and your trailer are going to be stolen.’” —Rep. Stefani Lord, R-Sandia Park, during the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee hearing to table the bill Block was tweeting about.


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