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Legislative roundup, Feb. 20, 2019

February 20, 2019

Days remaining in session: 25

Immigration enforcement: A poll conducted for two advocacy groups found that the majority in a sampling of registered voters in New Mexico don’t want state tax dollars used to enforce federal immigration laws.

The random poll of 732 people showed that 66 percent did not want the state to divert tax dollars for immigration enforcement, Somos Acción and the ACLU of New Mexico announced Monday during a news conference at the Capitol. Thirty-three percent supported using state resources to enforce immigration laws.

In a related finding, 57 percent said they believed the Legislature should prohibit state agencies from using their resources to enforce federal immigration laws.

Legislators in the Senate and the House of Representatives have introduced bills this session to bar state and local law enforcement from using any resources to aid in enforcing federal immigration laws.

The poll was conducted from Jan. 10 to Jan. 20 by Latino Decisions, a national firm. Its pollster is Gabriel Sanchez, a professor at the University of New Mexico. He said the poll had a 3.7 percent margin of error.

Border leadership: All 16 Republicans in the Senate have signed a letter encouraging Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to try a new approach in attempting to influencing federal immigration policies.

The senators suggested that Lujan Grisham could join with the governors of California, Arizona and Texas to establish “the collective voice” of states on the border to solve humanitarian and security issues involving immigration.

“Despite Congress failing to secure our borders or developing a comprehensive immigration policy, we believe our neighboring governors along the border can be successful on behalf of all of us to craft policy recommendations to be shared with our federal partners,” the GOP caucus wrote. “Senate Republicans stand ready to help in any way possible.”

The Republicans, though, probably would want to recall their letter. None noticed that they misspelled the name of their own governor as “Lujan Grishman.”

Wasting time: Most state senators on Monday returned to the theater of casting phony votes to initiate a colleague.

It happened when freshman Sen. Gregg Fulfer, R-Jal, stood as a co-sponsor of his first bill to reach the full Senate.

The measure, Senate Bill 447, was harmless enough. It establishes a scholarship program for engineering and surveying to recruit and retain those professionals.

Many in the Senate, though, dragged out debate to needle Fulfer a bit. They defeated his bill in a 28-13 vote.

But then they revisited the bill and voted 41-0 to approve it.

Environment secretary: The Senate on Monday voted 36-0 to confirm James Kenney as secretary of the Environment Department.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle praised him.

“I think he’s got a good, commonsense approach,” said Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales.

Kenney twice worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, most recently as a senior policy adviser on oil and gas issues. He is a veteran of civil and criminal investigations involving the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

Outside work, he said, his interests include hiking, teaching yoga, raising chickens and making wine.

New forecast: Freshman U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland on Monday told the Legislature that she wants to raise teacher salaries, legalize marijuana and provide Medicaid for all.

“It often seems the wind is in our faces and not at our backs,” Haaland, D-Albuquerque, said during her 20-minute talk. “But the sun is rising. Let’s seize the day and move our state forward.”

Quotes of the day: “Where did they go?” — A person attending the Senate Rules Committee on Monday after noticing that seven of the 11 members were absent. Sens. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, and Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, explained that senators are needed in multiple committees at the same hour. “You do get credit if you find them and bring them back,” Steinborn said.

The New Mexican