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Legislative roundup: walls, loophole, URENCO

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Legislative roundup

The New Mexican

Days remaining in session: 23

Against the wall: In her State of the State address last week, Gov. Susana Martinez called for building more infrastructure on the border.

“Relax Mr. Speaker,” the governor said. “I’m not talking about a wall.”

Democrats want that in writing.

A group of state lawmakers is backing legislation that would prohibit selling state land to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

“Mexico is obviously not going to pay for it,” one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, told reporters on Monday, referring to President Donald Trump’s pledge that the country’s southern neighbor will pay for the project. “And the border wall is ineffective.”

The Democrat from Las Cruces called the idea “a 12th Century solution to a 21st Century problem” and argued a wall would be a setback for a state that is trying to boost trade and has strong cultural ties to Mexico.

The state owns about 22 miles of land along New Mexico’s 180-mile southern border, mostly in the Bootheel.

House Bill 138 is something of a longshot. Martinez would have to add it to the agenda for this 30-day session. And even if she decided to take that stand against her fellow Republican in the White House, it may not go far. A similar bill died in the Legislature last year.

But House Democrats say it would send a message to Trump that New Mexicans do not want the wall he has promised.

It is not just a partisan issue, however. Some Republicans, such as U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, have criticized the idea of building a wall along the entire border with Mexico.

Abuse loophole: The state’s top law man is calling on legislators and the governor to close what he says is a loophole in New Mexico’s law on child abuse.

Current law requires anyone who believes a child is being abused to report to the Children, Youth and Families Department or law enforcement.

Sen. Howie Morales of Silver City and Rep. Liz Thomson of Albuquerque, both Democrats, propose to change the law to specify that this includes not just abuse by parents but by teachers or other adults, too.

And on Monday, Attorney General Hector Balderas came out in support of the measure, Senate Bill 87, flanked by advocates for sexual abuse survivors.

“This was a dirty little secret that existed for decades,” Balderas said, arguing the lack of specificity in the law allowed abuse cases to slip through the cracks because reports of abuse did not involve parents or guardians.

Balderas pointed to the case of Gary Gregor, a former Northern New Mexico teacher accused of sexually abusing multiple students when they were young girls. And former students who say schools ignored reports of misconduct by Gregor in other districts. He has pleaded not guilty to charges against him.

Legislators called on Gov. Susana Martinez to add the bill to the agenda for this year’s 30-day session so it can get a hearing.

Quote of the day: “Yes, that’s a uranium enrichment company cookie.” — Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, tweeting a photo of a sugar cookie that seemed to be the same color as a uranium disc. The words “Urenco USA” were inscribed on the cookies in frosting and distributed to legislators, apparently by the multinational corporation that operates a uranium enrichment facility near Eunice.


Follow legislative coverage at www.santafenewmexican.com/news/legislature.

Read Steve Terrell’s blog at www.santafenewmexican.com/news/blogs/roundhouse_roundup and Milan Simonich’s blog Ringside Seat at http://tinyurl.com/RingsideSeat

Subscribe to our updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/thenewmexican.

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