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Legislative roundup, Feb. 10, 2019

February 11, 2019

Days left in the session: 34

Trapping debate: A House committee gave its backing Saturday to a bill that would ban trapping on public lands.

Supporters of the measure contend trapping is a hazard to hikers and others in the outdoors.

“All individuals are using these public lands, and they need to be safe for those individuals,” Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, told the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

Moreover, advocates have argued that trapping is cruel, indiscriminate and ultimately ineffective at controlling predators.

House Bill 366 has been a priority for groups such as the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter and Animal Protection Voters.

Lawmakers said they had received hundreds of emails on the issue.

Rep. Abbas Akhil, D-Albuquerque, kept a running tally: 508, mostly supporting the ban.

But the issue also has reignited a visceral debate. Critics said a ban on trapping on public lands would deprive trappers of their livelihood and limit options for ranchers to stop predators.

Ranchers could still use cage traps to catch wildlife or other animals damaging property. And neighboring Colorado and Arizona already have banned trapping on public lands.

Still, that has been cold comfort for ranchers.

Republican lawmakers argued the issue demonstrated a tone-deafness in the state’s urban areas to rural ways of life.

The committee’s 8-4 vote went along party lines, Democrats in the majority. The bill goes next to the House Judiciary Committee.

You are what you eat: Senate Republicans are taking on the almond milk lobby.

That is, if there is much of an almond milk lobby.

Either way, state Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, is again sponsoring legislation — Senate Bill 319 — that would prohibit labeling a product as milk unless it consists of the “whole, clean lacteal secretion practically free from colostrums, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy mammals.”

So, forget almond milk or coconut milk or soy milk.

The bill gets its first hearing before the Senate Conservation Committee on Tuesday.

Coincidentally, House Republicans are sponsoring a bill — House Bill 222 — that would prohibit the labeling of a food as meat unless it was “derived from harvested production livestock or poultry.”

Neat meat would have to find another name.

Looking ahead: Increasing the pay of state officials, one of the more controversial proposals of the session, is scheduled to be heard Monday by a committee of the House of Representatives.

House Joint Resolution 5 would amend the state constitution to abolish the ban on paying state legislators. New Mexico is the only state that does not pay its lawmakers a base salary.

The proposal also would abolish payment of expenses and mileage for lawmakers while they are on official business.

A commission would be established to set limits on salaries for elected state officials and other public officers.

The proposal is a long shot to make the ballot. Legislators face heavy criticism any time they consider ending New Mexico’s 107-year-old practice of a nonsalaried Legislature.

Members of the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee will consider the proposal at 8:30 a.m. Monday.

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