Roundhouse 2011: Playing Chicken With Millions

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, March 24, 2011

Part of the Weekly Alibi's Roundhouse 2011 


Marriage for the Masses

Take one step forward and someone (or in this case, three someones) will try to knock you back two more.

Early this year, Attorney General Gary King issued an official opinion stating that same-sex marriages performed in other states could be recognized in New Mexico. On the heels of that announcement, Sen. William Sharer (R-Farmington), Rep. Nora Espinoza (R-Roswell) and Rep. David Chavez (R-Los Lunas) all introduced measures asking that marriage be defined as solely between a man and a woman in this state. Chavez’ resolution, along with another bill he filed, goes a step further, proposing that same-sex marriages performed in other states not be recognized here, nullifying King’s opinion.

The measures would have needed to be approved by voters before being signed into law, but none of them made it out of their various committees.


Your Criminal System on Drugs

Here’s a common sense way to save money, free up jail space and just be plain reasonable: Don’t send nonviolent drug offenders to the big house. Instead, require them to get treatment for up to 18 months. This bill, sponsored by Sen. Richard C. Martinez (D-Española) and Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas (D-Albuquerque), does just that. A similar measure worked its way through the 2010 session but failed eventually, [“A High Price,” Feb. 4-10, 2010]. For critics worried about follow-through, the measure allows for offenders to go to jail if they break the terms of their treatment plans. Plus, the treatment option is only available to someone twice.

The Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act passed both the Senate and the House and is on its way to the governor’s desk.


What Does a Girl Have to Do to Get a Vote Around Here?

Requiring photo IDs at the polls has been a controversial topic for years. Some say the practice would cut down on undocumented immigrants trying to cast ballots. Others argue there’s no evidence to suggest that’s even a problem and such a stipulation would only disenfranchise voters. Rep. Dianne Miller Hamilton (R-Silver City) and Sen. Steven Neville (R-Aztec) both introduced legislation that would require voter IDs at the polls, but neither bill got very far.


Death Died on the Table

Gov. Bill Richardson repealed the death penalty in New Mexico in 2009. The new guv wants to reinstate it. In her corner is Rep. Dennis Kintigh (R-Roswell), who sponsored legislation that would have put the question of reinstatement to voters. But it was tabled in the House Consumer & Public Affairs Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Gail Chasey (D-Albuquerque). Chasey is a vocal opponent of the death penalty, having introduced the bill that repealed it two years ago [“The End of the Death Penalty?,” Jan. 29 - Feb. 4, 2009].


Repro Rights Preserved

A host of bills relating to abortion flew into the Legislature this year. Sen. William Sharer (R-Farmington) was the primary pusher. He sponsored one bill that would prohibit late-term abortions (it was tabled). He also brought forth another that prohibits abortions after 20 weeks—based on the assumption that by that time, fetuses are able to feel pain. It never escaped committee, and neither did an identical one sponsored by Rep. Dennis J. Roch (R-Texico). Sharer also put up a third measure prohibiting abortion clinic staff from “intentionally and repeatedly” contacting patients against their wishes (also tabled).

But the blitz didn’t stop there. Rep. Alonzo Baldonado (R-Los Lunas) introduced a measure that would have required parental notification when underage daughters request abortions, with a few exceptions.

Lastly, Rep. Conrad James (R-Albuquerque) sought to prevent school-based health clinics from giving advice related to reproductive health—namely, anything to do with contraception, abortion, sexually transmitted infections, or reproductive processes and functions.

Both failed in committee.

Despite all attempts, the laws surrounding abortion in New Mexico remain unchanged.