January 26, 2023

Legislative Roundup: 1/26

Daniel J. Chacón/The Santa Fe New Mexican

Christy Sellers, Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, University of New Mexico head football coach Danny Gonzales and Lt. Gov. Howie Morales pose for a photo after a news conference to promote a bill Brandt is championing that would prohibit discrimination against transplant recipients based solely on their physical or mental disabilities.

Days remaining in session: 51

Active shooter training: The full Senate and legislative staffers attended a closed-door active shooter training Thursday.

“Training taking place — no entry,” stated signs on the doors to the Senate gallery.

Before a reporter was asked to leave the media gallery overlooking the chamber, Paula Ulibarri, sergeant at arms for the Senate, told attendees she didn’t want them to be paranoid but prepared.

“I know you have other places you should be and want to be and have things to do,” she said. “But in this day and age, this is very important to every one of you.”

Ulibarri continued, “This can happen anywhere at any time, and I want you, if nothing else, when you go from this class, I want you to be aware of your surroundings.”

The training was conducted by two New Mexico State Police officers, one of whom told the group the FBI had changed the term from “active shooter” to “active killer.”

“That’s what the person who’s in the building [is] trying to do,” he said. “He’s trying to harm people. He’s trying to kill people.”

Organ donation discrimination: Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, recruited University of New Mexico head football coach Danny Gonzales and Lt. Gov. Howie Morales on Thursday to build support for a bill he is sponsoring that would prohibit discrimination against transplant recipients based solely on their physical or mental disability.

“This has not been a problem so far in our state,” Brandt said during a news conference attended by Gonzales and Morales. “We’re just making sure it doesn’t become one.”

Brandt said he named Senate Bill 71 “Glory’s Law” after a young girl who has Down syndrome.

Chirsty Sellers, Glory’s mother, said she heard a story about a baby in another state who was denied a kidney transplant “solely based on that child having Down syndrome.”

“So immediately, I wanted to find out [where New Mexico stood on the issue], and right now, we don’t have any laws in place to protect people with disabilities should they need a transplant,” she said.

Gonzales said he has an 8-year-old daughter with Down syndrome and found out on Thanksgiving Day his 10-year-old daughter has Type 1 diabetes.

“That doesn’t define who they are; it’s part of who they are,” he said. “And for somebody to be denying something because somebody decides they’re not worthy — we’re all human beings, and to be a kind human being is not hard.”

Geothermal energy: A new bureau in the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department with several full-time employees would be devoted to exploring New Mexico’s geothermal capacity under a bill the Senate Conservation Committee endorsed Thursday.

Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 8, said his legislation builds on a law that established the legal structure for geothermal development in the state.

“What we’re presenting today is really the next step in the development of New Mexico’s third great renewable energy source after solar and wind, which we know the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine,” Ortiz y Pino said.

“But the Earth is always hot,” he added. “If we’re able to tap the heat of the Earth itself, we can complement the other two renewable energy sources and provide New Mexico with 100 percent renewable energy all the time.”

The bill would appropriate $10 million to create a fund to study the costs and benefits of proposed geothermal resource development projects and $15 million to create a revolving loan fund for universities and others to finance projects.

“We need to look to Mother Earth to provide for the human race,” said a co-sponsor, Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview.

Feeling creative: New Mexico already has a state Film Office. So why not open an office that encompasses all the other arts and crafts?

Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, and Reena Szczepanski, D-Santa Fe, filed House Bill 8 this week to create a new Creative Industries Division within the state Economic Development Department. At a news conference held Thursday, they said the division would promote creative industry-related tourism and support small creative businesses, nonprofits and entrepreneurs.

At least 50 percent of the division’s attention and support would be targeted toward rural communities, Szczepanski said.

Several artists spoke in favor of the initiative, with one saying it could unleash the state’s “untapped potential” for developing a creative industry.

The bill includes a $67 million appropriation, which would be recurring, to open, staff and run the division.

Quote of the day: “I’ll vote twice if you’ll let me.” — Rep. Martin Zamora, R-Clovis, after a legislative aide tallying up votes on a bill by the Agriculture, Acequias and Water Resource Committee called on Zamora, who had already cast a vote, a second time.