KUNM's Floyd Vasquez chatted with Gwyneth Doland about bills from the state legislature that passed this session as part of our People, Power and Democracy reporting project. Our partners are New Mexico In Depth, New Mexico PBS and the UNM Communication and Journalism Department.
KUNM: The session ended at noon on Saturday. Now that it’s all over, tell us what happened?
Doland: A lot and not that much. It was stressful, it was tense; it was frustrating for many people. I selfishly have to say it was fun for me, as it always is, because there are always so many incredible stories coming out of it. There was the drama of the tension between the Senate and the House, which is pretty normal, with the added intrigue of the Republicans controlling the house for the first time in 60 years.
KUNM: Only about 170 bills made it through the House and Senate, a small fraction of those that were introduced. How does that compare to other 60-day sessions?
Doland: I went back and looked at it and it was actually far fewer than usual. It was about a third as many as usually are passed in a 60-day session. Back in 2007 they passed 715 bills.
KUNM: Throughout the session Governor Martinez and House Republicans blamed Senate Democrats for creating gridlock. Is that what happened?
Doland: Well, yeah, that’s what happened. How you feel about that depends on your perspective. This session isn’t all about making new laws, it’s also about adjusting old ones that need a tune-up; they need a fix. So this year, you could say, lawmakers effectively deferred a lot of that maintenance. And that will put more pressure on future sessions to catch up. So probably everyone could kind of agree that’s kind of a problem.
On the one hand, Republicans have every right to feel like their agenda was thwarted and to blame the Democrats squarely for being obstructionist about it. But Democrats came in knowing they were going to have to play defense, so for them they see it as a victory that they killed so many GOP proposals.
KUNM: So what did they get done?
Doland: I won’t name all 170, but here’s a few:
- They passed a bill that will allow you to have beer and wine delivered with your pizza or Chinese food. I’m gonna have to say, I’m heavily biased in favor of that.
- They voted to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.
- They voted to make “revenge porn” a crime. For my mom and other grown-ups, that means, essentially, posting nudie pics of your ex online, just to be mean.
- They approved online voter registration. You’ll have to put in your drivers license number, but you’ll be able to do it online.
- Tattoo artists will be regulated by a board, like acupuncturists or accountants. They haven’t been until now.
- Public golf courses and museums will be able to sell booze. Right now they can only have beer and wine, so now you can have a cocktail, too.
- Fishermen will have to ask permission to wade up public streams on private land. We’ve been having debates about this in my house, recently.
- And a commission will look at creating a New Mexico version of the Appalachian Trail that passes through the whole state.
- By 2018 we’ll get a website where you can find out how much basic medical procedures cost at different hospitals.
- The police will no longer be able to seize your property and keep it unless you’ve been convicted of a crime.
- And it will become legal to grow industrial hemp for research purposes. And Floyd, I already asked but that doesn’t include “personal” research.
KUNM: When do these bills become law?
Doland: The governor has until April 10, 2015, to decide whether she’s going to sign any of them— she could say no to all of them. She’s indicated support for many. She also has a line-item veto on the $6 billion budget, and she often goes through that and cuts it up quite a bit.
This story is part of a reporting partnership between New Mexico In Depth, KUNM and NMPBS, People, Power and Democracy, that attempts to pull back the curtain on how the New Mexico Legislature works and, in some cases, doesn’t. It's funded by the Thornburg Foundation and the Loeks Family Fund.