What public? Small crowd for state reps

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By Katy Korkos

The turnout was small at the Town Hall meeting with Rep. Jeannette Wallace, R-Los Alamos, Sandoval and Santa Fe, and Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Los Alamos, Rio Arriba and Santa Fe, but that meant those who did attend had good access to the elected officials. Every question from the audience was thoroughly answered in a relaxed setting in Fuller Lodge Thursday evening.Wallace has been elected nine times to serve her district. Wallace and Martinez are both planning to run for re-election in 2008, and circulated nominating sheets at Thursday’s meeting.Wallace said she loves her job. Even though the legislative sessions are part-time, her job is year-round and support staff is only provided while the legislature is in session. The only thing she would change about the job is that “someday I would like to have part-time help.” Wallace expects ethics, health care and education to be major topics in the upcoming legislative session, which begins in January.Martinez outlined his career in public service, where he has worked in city, county, and state government as well as being a magistrate court judge for 14 years before running for the New Mexico Senate. His district encompasses most of Los Alamos but not White Rock, which is represented by Senate District 6.“My district spans from Lumberton to Los Alamos, about 110 miles, and from Española to Dixon and Embudo,” Martinez said. He described his district as one of the most diverse in the state, with some of the richest and the poorest people in New Mexico – some villages without even basic infrastructure like water and wastewater treatment.“Before we start going into spaceports we should provide safe drinking water for our communities, like Alcalde and Cordova,” he said. “I’m working to obtain water and wastewater projects for them.”Wallace said the next redistricting would likely bring even larger districts, as they are based on population and that population growth was concentrating in urban areas like Albuquerque and Rio Rancho. There are currently 71 members in the House of Representatives, with each member representing roughly 26,000 residents.Questions from the audience were submitted in writing to both representatives:

“What kind of population or economic changes do you see in your district?”

Wallace said the continuing resolution (rather than a funding bill passed by the federal government) was not favorable for Los Alamos, and that lay-offs at the national labs would have a severe impact on the area. “I think lay-offs at LANL are really going to affect our district,” Martinez said. “I’ve seen some development and growth in Española, and taxes are brought in by Wal-Mart and Lowe’s, but it seems like business here is staying the same.”Wallace agreed, saying, “We’re still talking about economic development.”

“What legislation is pending regarding our schools?” Wallace responded that she saw nothing pending that would affect Los Alamos more than other districts.

“What kind of impact will the development in Pojoaque have on water resources?”

Martinez said he felt that there should be some sort of control on water use by the tribes and pueblos, but that control was more of a federal issue than a state issue. “It has to have an impact,” Martinez said.“We’re not going to resolve these issues until the federal government more clearly defines sovereignty,” Wallace said. “You’ve got to be a good neighbor, too.”

  “What is the state’s budget situation?”

“We have never closed the books this late in the year, Wallace said, “and we haven’t closed them yet.” Wallace said that more than $721 million in capital requests had been brought to the finance committee, and those had been pared down to about $400 million.“I do the budget, and we’re not too optimistic,” she said. “We only project a 3 percent increase, and that doesn’t give us a whole lot of leeway.”

“What will be done about health care in the session?”

“We’re not saying we’re against health care, we just want to look at how it’s done,” Wallace said. Martinez said that he would need to review the governor’s package, at a caucus in mid-December, before he would give his support to the bill.

“How can Los Alamos and Rio Arriba counties work more closely together?”

Both representatives agreed that good cooperation benefits the entire region. Los Alamos County Council Chair Jim West facilitated the discussion on Thursday, and added that the county has “a strong initiative called Partners through Progress.” West said the Española Basin regional group is meeting to address water issues, and the North Central New Mexico Regional Transit District has gotten off to a strong start.Wallace is a member of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee as well as the interim Legislative Finance Committee and the Capital Outlay Subcommittee. Wallace also serves on the Government and Urban Affairs committee and the Radioactive and Hazardous Materials, Legislative Council Service, Information Technology and as an advisory member to the Los Alamos National Laboratory Oversight committee.Martinez serves on the legislative subcommittees for Courts, Corrections and Justice; Conservation; Rural and Economic Development; and as the vice-chair of the Judiciary, Radioactive and Hazardous Materials, and Land Grant Committees in the state Senate.

Wallace can be reached by phone or e-mail, 661-2575, 690-2747, wallace@ losalamos.com or Jeannette.Wallace@nmlegis. Martinez can be reached at 753-8027 or by e-mail at richard.martinez@nmlegis .gov. The next legislative session will begin at noon on Jan. 15 in Santa Fe.