The 2017 Legislature kicked off at the Roundhouse Tuesday, and the first order of business was Gov. Susana Martinez’s state of the state address to the legislature.
That speech featured many proposals the Republican governor has advocated for years – reinstating the death penalty, avoiding tax increases, holding back third graders who can’t read and increased penalties for DUIs. But she also advocated bipartisanship, probably a necessary step when Democrats control the Legislature.
Opening day is largely one of pomp and circumstance, especially for new lawmakers and their families. For New Mexico In Depth and KSFR Radio, we tracked down five new lawmakers in the boisterous capitol and asked about their day, the state of the state address and their goals for the 60-day session.
Sen. Jeff Steinborn is a Las Cruces Democrat who isn’t exactly new. Listen to Sen. Steinborn.
“For me what’s new is I’m now in the state Senate. I’ve been in the House for eight years, so it’s my first day as a state senator, a new group of colleagues over here. Obviously I know many of them. But a new body, just a different pace, rhythm and how they operate, so I’m enjoying it.
“The state of the state address, it was not what I’d call aspirant in terms of laying out much of a vision for the state. You know, our state is dealing with some pretty difficult challenges. And quite frankly we have not seen the level of bipartisanship in dealing with them. Moving forward, that would be a great goal that I share to deal with our state’s financial crisis and really build a brighter New Mexico future.
“I’m working on a variety of bills everything from ethics to renewable energy, trying to get control and a better handle on prescription drugs, to get a better deal for the state taxpayer and state government and some wildlife issues as well, wildlife management.”
Sen. Greg Baca, a Belen Republican, defeated former Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez. Listen to Sen. Baca.
“It was terrific, I got to meet a lot of great people today. I got to hear the state of the state address. Basically getting shown around, introduced to some of the bills and what some of the priorities are going to be for the Senate.
“I thought the governor did a great job of articulating her position, what she felt was important. I agree with a lot of it, and, like anybody, you know, there’s some issues there I think need a little further thought. (He wouldn’t identify them.)
“My priorities first of all are to get to know my peers and to understand the positions within the Senate and get a better understanding with the budget and the status of the state. So that’s a priority. My other priority is also my district. There’s going to be a lot of cuts taking place. I think everybody understands that, so I have to look to my district as well as the state to determine what’s most important.”
Over in the House, Democratic Rep. Candie Sweetser won an open seat in Deming and will serve as vice chairwoman of the agriculture committee. Listen to Rep. Sweetser.
“It has been a little overwhelming, I will be completely honest, but also really exciting.
“I heard a lot of support for bipartisanship in the state of the state. I hope it holds through the session. I certainly feel like our Democratic caucus is looking forward to forgetting about partisan politics and getting things done for the state of New Mexico. I think a lot of that gets said on the first day and some of that falls apart as the session progresses, and this year I hope that is not the case.
“I decided to run because I felt we needed a strong ag (agriculture) voice in the majority, so that is my hope. I have a farm and ranch background and that’s who I’m here to represent. But honestly the overriding thing is the budget, and we have got to figure the budget out. And I don’t think we can cut ourselves into prosperity, but I do know that there’s not a strong appetite for new taxes.”
Republican Rep. Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences won an open seat. Listen to Rep. Dow.
“It was a wonderful time to get together and celebrate with friends and family and meet my colleagues and just welcome everyone together.
“The state of the state, you know it’s a challenge coming in as a freshman with such a budget, with such a deficit.
“My priorities are to focus on making sure children are born healthy. I really like the quote, ‘It’s easier to grow a healthy child than to mend a broken man.’ So I’ll be focusing on issues that strengthen families.”
Finally, we talked with Rep. Linda Trujillo, a Santa Fe Democrat. Listen to Rep. Trujillo.
“It was really kind of surreal, I mean it was exciting. I had my son here, my future daughter-in-law, my husband was here and it was just nice. It was really an introduction to what is going to happen.
“I am thrilled as a school board member that our graduation rates are up. Our teachers have worked really hard, our staff, our superintendent. But I was a little disappointed that the governor brought up the lack of notification for students who are not achieving level in third grade. But overall, graduation rates are up. I think we all want to support business. So there were some things that I agreed with and some things I disagreed with. That’s kind of how state of the state is, right?
“I’m really excited because I was appointed to the Education Committee and I was also appointed vice-chair of the Labor and Economic Development Committee, and those really are my priorities.”