Egolf: January session just the beginning of large scale reform

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By Tris DeRoma

As a parade of major legislation on gun control, education and energy makes its way to the senate in the New Mexico Legislature, Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf  (D-47) said it’s only the beginning of a bigger plan. And no, the Democratic majority is not trying to run the state’s oil and gas industry out of the state.

“I can’t say there’s been probably 10-to-1 this session conversations appreciating the industry, thanking the industry for making contributions to the state for making the surplus possible and enabling us to engage in an education moon shot,” Egolf said. “A war on oil and gas is a figment of the imagination of the House minority.”

He also addressed criticism that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s request for a $500 million increase in education funding that the legislature is trying to meet is just a small part of a five-year plan to fully fund public education.

“For anyone that says we need to do more in terms of dollars this year, I would just say… ‘how do you hire 6,000 or so teachers by Sept. 1?’ It’s impossible. This reform is the first year of a five-year effort, so a $500 million increase will be further increased next year and then the year after that and then the year after that.”

Egolf said education reform is also about using those dollars wisely.

“Part of this is not just one-time dollars but its also increasing funding for our colleges that train teachers. It’s about recruitment from educators, and it’s about putting in place systems that we need to have to make sure we have high-quality teachers in every school,” Egolf said. “If we put out that much money without making sure we’re hiring the right kind of people, and without making sure that the school district has the capacity to spend it without waste, we would be doing a big disservice to the taxpayer. We have to make sure the resources are spent wisely.”

As for gun control, Egolf sees the legislation passing through the House and onto the Senate as pieces in a puzzle to stop mass shootings and other forms of gun violence.

“It’s not acceptable. We have to get a handle on every facet of the problem, to making our schools more secure, to making sure guns don’t get into the hands of people that want to murder our children in their classroom. I’m proud of the House for sending three bills to the Senate to start addressing the problem. I hope the Senate will continue them and send them to the governor,” Egolf said.

The bills will help stop gun violence in other areas also, according to Egolf.

“Today is the one year anniversary of the massacre at Parkland. We need to do a lot more to keep our kids safe in school and there’s not one bill that’s going to provide the complete solution,” Egolf said.  “But, by universal background checks restricting the flow of illegal firearms into the hands of criminals, by getting concerned friends and family through intervention to keep firearms out the hands of friends and family that might want to harm themselves or others, those are two tools we can look at.”