Council outlines legislative priorities

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By The Staff

Every year County Council adopts a State Legislative Priority Position Statement, which is used as a guide to council’s intergovernmental efforts. This year, the council’s State Legislative Committee developed the State Legislative Priority Position Statement. The committee meets in an effort to develop the statement and makes recommendations on the County’s priority topics.

  Councilors who served on this year’s committee were: Council Vice Chair Robert Gibson, and Councilors Nona Bowman and Ken Milder. The State Legislative Priority Statement will serve as a guide from council to the legislative support contractor and staff who are dealing with various state officials and entities. The statement also allows staff to focus its attention on Council’s approved direction. Four sources are used for determining the County’s priorities when working on the Statement. These sources are: Regional, state and national organizations identified priorities; staff recommended and identified issues; county intergovernmental priorities and a review of state and federal budgets. The 2009 Legislative Session will begin on January 20, 2009 and will end on March 21, 2009 and will run the span of 60 days.

  At last Monday’s council meeting, Assistant County Administrator Anthony Mortillaro presented Council with the list of priorities that the County intends to submit during this year’s legislative session. “The format we used is very similar to last year’s format. We asked for staff input on potential legislative issues,” Mortillaro said. “Items that I listed on here are very similar to what we had last year. We took a few things off that got completed and modified the capital outlay list from the prior year. We heard that the state might not have funding for capital outlay,” he continued.

The County is asking that the state support the following capital outlay requests, listed in priority order: West Jemez Bypass Road, $4 million; Campy May Phase II fire hydrants, $350,000 (received $200,000 in prior year, requesting balance); Visitor Information Center for White Rock, $285,000; SR 4 White Rock Road improvements, $400,000; White Rock Treatment Plant planning study, $100,000; DP Road sewer, $883,285; Los Alamos Wastewater Bio-solids Recycling Facility, $975,000; Trinity Drive/DP Road Alignment, $300,000; Los Alamos Canyon Reservoir, $520,293; Diamond Drive Phase III, $400,000; Diamond Drive Phase IV, $800,000; Knecht Street, $589,638; Court/jail replacement, $500,000. In addition, funding for the following is also being requested: Continued operation of Park and Ride; State Transit Fund (to be deleted if NCRTD tax passes); telecommunications infrastructure capital improvements. The widening of NM 4 (Rover Blvd. to NM 502) is being requested, as is legislation that enhances affordable housing programs and NMAC and NMML legislative priorities.

  The county is also asking that the following items be monitored: Any changes to municipal revenue legislation, such as proposals for local governments to “swap” GRT distribution for State income tax distribution; Health care policy and financing legislation; and other legislation directly affecting Los Alamos County and/or its ability to serve its citizens. Items that are on the list for being opposed are: Changes to the state school funding formulate that would adversely impact Los Alamos Public School District; proposals that would eliminate or reduce the GRT revenue to the County from LANL-related services; and legislation that would adversely impact indigent health care revenues received by the County or program provisions that would adversely impact their effective use.

  After the presentation, Councilor Frances Berting questioned Mortillaro on the list of priorities. “I don’t know why Camp May Phase II is at the top of the list. It seems like it’s more a luxury than an absolute thing,” she said. “The project was started and funded for $254,000. There are two phases to complete the project. We requested $550,000 but only got half. Who’s going to pay to complete the project that’s been started?” Mortillaro countered. “Has it been physically started? Is it sitting there half done? If it hasn’t, then I question that being at the top of the list,” Berting shot back. Councilor Jim West chimed in and said that he thought that council stood a better chance of getting funding if they could prove that the county can finish the projects it has started. “If you have an item on there that strikes the legislature’s fancy, you have a better chance of getting it funded,” he said. “If we can get enough money to partially complete a project, we have a better chance.”

  Council Vice Chair Robert Gibson defended the prioritizing when he said, “We have a large number of needs. We put things on the list knowing full well they won’t be funded, but we need to show them we have the need.” Councilor Ken Milder then suggested that council adopt the priority statement. “I think we should go forward and the next council can make adjustments to this as they feel necessary,” he said. “I feel we need to go forward because I assume there’s some preparatory work to be done before legislature goes into session.” He then made a motion to adopt the list, which was seconded by Councilor Michael Wheeler. After a vote, the motion passed 7-0.