Legislative Roundup: Feb. 7

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Snow flurries Wednesday dust the Capitol grounds in Santa Fe. Gabriela Campos/The New Mexican

Legislative Roundup: Feb. 7

By The New Mexican:

Days left in session: 37

Heralding hope: Citing sobering statistics about the abuse and neglect of children in the state of New Mexico, Attorney General Hector Balderas told a joint session of the House of Representatives and Senate on Wednesday that he was there “to remind us all that we are all tired … of the headlines, we’re tired of the tragedies, we’re tired of asking why and how this could have been prevented?

“How do we make a difference?” 

Balderas spoke about a number of high-profile criminal cases his office was involved in investigating, including the fatal school shooting at Aztec High School in December 2017 and criminal charges surrounding former Santa Fe and Española teacher Gary Gregor, who has been found guilty of child molestation.

Several high school students from that Aztec high school spoke to lawmakers, with one girl telling the assembly, “It’s not OK for kids to have to stay home from school because they are afraid to go to school.”

Balderas urged lawmakers to support a number of pieces of legislation that would protect children or enforce stricter criminal penalties against adults who prey on them.

Break out the dodgeball: The Senate Education Committee on Wednesday unanimously advanced a bill to allocate $7 million a year to ensure that all students in grades K-6 receive at least a half-hour of physical education every day.

Students in those grades now only receive physical education once a week, said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque.

Her proposal, Senate Bill 304, would phase in daily physical education, starting with students in kindergarten and first grade in the next school year.

The bill goes to the Senate Finance Committee next.

Oil and Gas: Most days in the state Senate briefly resemble Groundhog Day, the movie about a befuddled weatherman who relives the same day in the same small town.

New Mexico’s version is limited to a few repetitive minutes.

Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, stands and praises some aspect of the oil and gas industry. Sharer typically discusses how many products and jobs exist because of the industry.

Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, has taken to countering Sharer’s comments by making his own brief speeches about renewable energy diversifying and strengthening the economy.

The pattern was broken Wednesday on Oil and Gas Industry Day at the Capitol. Democrats joined Republicans in praising the industry.

Then everyone made it official by voting for a memorial lauding the oil and gas industry for its contributions to the state’s economy and well-being. All 42 senators and the lieutenant governor supported the memorial.

Quote of the day:

“They plugged in one too many coffee pots.” — Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, after the lights dimmed during a Senate Education Committee hearing. Someone had inadvertently bumped into the light switch.

Registered therapy dogs Maya, Sophie, Honey and Karma of Pet Pals of Farmington stand in the state Capitol lobby in Santa Fe after being recognized on the Senate Floor and receiving the John Henry Award for Outstanding Service on Behavioral Heath Day at the Capitol. Gabriela Campos/The New Mexican