Roundhouse 2013: The Starting Line


By Marisa Demarco

— The 2013 legislative session opens at noon today. Gov. Susana Martinez will deliver the State of the State address, maybe to a tough crowd. New Mexico In Depth talked with state politicians who consider Martinez’ tactics divisive. It’s part of In Depth’s series on the guv.

Today also marks the beginning of a partnership between Local iQ and the Compass. We’ll be covering the Legislature for Albuquerque’s free, bimonthly publication. Look for us in the issue that’s hitting stands tomorrow.

In the meantime, here are a few 2013 bills that caught my eye so far. Legislation will continue to be introduced over the next 60 days. Typically, the action on these measures ramps up toward the end of the session—Saturday, March 15, at noon.

• DWT: There are a couple of bills on deck that ban texting while driving, including one by Rep. James Smith (R-Sandia Park). Under his bill, no one could read, type or send a message while operating a vehicle unless they were texting for help in an emergency, reporting a DWI or operating a law enforcement vehicle. Penalties for the misdemeanor would include a $100 fine. New Mexico is one of 11 states without a ban on driving while texting.

• No More Teen Moms: Sen. Linda Lopez (D-Albuquerque) is looking to prevent adolescents from having babies. Her measure would give $500,000 to the Department of Health so it could develop a statewide prevention program. According to the department, New Mexico’s teen birth rate is decreasing but not as quickly as the rest of the country’s.

• Virtual PTSD Treatment: Rep. Dianne Miller Hamilton (R-Silver City) is seeking $250,000 from the state for a pilot virtual reality program to treat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The computer simulations mimic the war zones and circumstances that haunt the veterans. A safe space for confronting troubling memories helps ease the trauma, says Professor Skip Rizzo in a news report. The pilot program would be conducted at Western New Mexico University and overseen by the Department of Veteran Services.

• Locavore Public Schools: Sen. Pete Campos (D-Las Vegas) is sponsoring a bill that would put money toward providing New Mexico-grown fruits and veggies to public schools. He’s looking for about $1.4 million to do it. That cash would go to the Public Education Department, which would be responsible for infusing school meals across the state with local produce.

• State Sovereignty: Rep. Dennis Roch (R-Texico) has put forth a resolution that would claim sovereignty for New Mexico and repeal federal legislation. Citing the 10th Amendment, the resolution says the scope of federal power should be limited to what’s afforded by the Constitution, which says: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” But, Roch’s measure continues, in 2013, states are treated as agents of the federal government. Therefore, New Mexico should claim sovereignty and send notice to President Obama and other federal officials, as well as to all of the state legislatures in the U.S. A few years ago, 37 states weighed similar resolutions.