The idea of assigning state police officers to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge to prevent suicidal people from jumping met with a quick defeat Tuesday at the state Capitol. Members of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee unanimously blocked a bill to allocate $156,000 a year to help pay for the suicide prevention squad. “I can’t see how it’s going to work,” said Rep. Liz Thomson, D-Albuquerque, who led opposition to the proposal, House Bill 166. The measure called for three state police officers to be assigned to the bridge, presumably in different shifts. But Thomson pointed out that the cost of salaries, benefits and equipment for three officers would run $288,000 a year, or nearly double the amount sought in the bill.
Brian Egolf, on his first night as speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives, selected nine committee chairmen and chairwomen who will be in leadership jobs for the first time. Egolf, D-Santa Fe, on Tuesday also expanded the number of committees in the House from 13 to 14. Republicans, back in the minority after two years as the controlling party, objected to adding a committee but lost on a party-line vote of 38-29. Minority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, said the additional committee would create the need for more staff. Egolf said that was not the case because the existing pool of legislative analysts would handle the workload for all committees.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]MARY KATHERINE RAY is the Wildlife Chair of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club.[/box]
The 60-day New Mexico Legislature has concluded for 2015. Last November, a majority of Republicans were elected to the state House of Representatives, which turned the leadership of the House over to the Republican Party for the first time in 60 years. The consequences were not good for wildlife. Every single bill on the subject of wildlife had to go through the House Agriculture committee, which became the House Agriculture/Water/Wildlife committee when the newly elected leadership reorganized and shuffled the committee structure. Placing wildlife issues under the control of agriculture interests was not unlike placing hens under the control of foxes.