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Legislative roundup, Jan. 29, 2019

January 29, 2019

Days remaining in session: 46

Speaker speaks, sort of: Rep. Brian Egolf, speaker of the House of Representatives, publicly carried on a make-believe cellphone conversation Monday to joke about criticism leveled at him for saying it’s a legislative priority to save the men’s soccer team at the University of New Mexico.

Egolf, of Santa Fe, went into his routine after spotting a New Mexican columnist who wrote Democrats in the House have weightier matters to deal with than a soccer team.

With nobody on the other end of the line, Egolf barked into his phone: “You heard me. Nothing gets done until we fund the soccer team.” Smiling broadly, he carried on this way as bystanders watched.

UNM’s seven-member board of regents has voted to eliminate the men’s soccer team, as well as beach volleyball and the men’s and women’s ski teams.

Legislators could not simply allocate money for the soccer program. They also would have to pay for the other teams targeted for elimination so UNM would be in compliance with Title IX. That’s the law prohibiting gender discrimination at schools that receive federal funding.

Cave bill: The House Judiciary Committee on Monday unanimously supported a bill to ensure that private landowners who allow people to explore caves on their property are not held liable for anything that may go wrong.

Senate Bill 77, sponsored by Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, is primarily concerned with covering landowners whose land may bump up against Bureau of Land Management property that spelunkers are allowed to traverse.

The bill next goes to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

Governor’s budget: The House Appropriations and Finance Committee is taking a closer look before signing off on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s request for a 38 percent increase in her office’s budget.

Members agreed to go ahead Monday with the Legislative Finance Committee’s recommendation for a flat $3.3 million budget. And Committee Chairwoman Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, tasked a couple of lawmakers with examining the governor’s request for later consideration.

Chief Operating Officer Teresa Casados told the committee on Monday the additional $1.25 million would partly pay for seven additional staff members. That would include advisers on small business, behavioral health, infrastructure and clean energy, as well as staff to help with public records and constituent services. The office wants an administrative assistant, too.

Republicans raised a series of questions about the proposal.

“The Lujan Grisham administration, in all areas of state government, has emphasized that good government will require rebuilding,” Casados said, pointing to cuts under former Gov. Susana Martinez. “That’s what this budget represents.”

Looking ahead

The House and Senate education committees will hold a joint session from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday to hear from teachers, administrators and other school employees. The session will take place in the House of Representatives Chamber in the Capitol. No votes will be taken during the public forum.

Quote of the day:

“We are chasing phantoms when we do these kinds of bills. We’re never going to catch the political industrial complex.” — Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, opposing Senate Bill 3, which would codify various requirements for legislators to disclose campaign contributions. The bill cleared the Senate Rules Committee on a 7-4 vote.

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