House Majority Whip defends sluggish redistricting pace

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From recent articles it appears that there is a concern about how legislation is moving through the House of Representatives and the Senate.  
The comments I have heard criticize the pace at which the legislators are hearing bills and the priority on redistricting versus non-redistricting issues.  
Let me clarify the intent of this special session and how this process unfolds.  
First, redistricting is complicated. Not only are we considering over 20 redistricting plans with considerable discussion, legislators from areas throughout the state are meeting in smaller groups to further discuss districts within their regions.   
These in-depth conversations are essential to ensure that we incorporate input from the public and that our final decisions represent the very best apportionment of our citizens.   
Let me mention that if we do not do our job well, the consequences are very serious.  
Following the last redistricting session in 2001, challenges to redistricted districts cost the state over $3.5 million.  At a time when our resources are very scarce we cannot afford to put forth plans that are not sound.  
At the same time, the governor is pushing the legislature to take up substantive issues that will detract from the important work we have to accomplish.   
Issues like driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, how to keep the unemployment fund solvent, and retaining third-graders who are not proficient readers.
These, and other issues, deserve the careful consideration that occurs during a regular session when committees are fully staffed, analysts are in place and public input is considered — particularly when we examine a bill such as the third-grade retention bill that would have such enormous impact on our schools across the state.  
As a lifelong educator, and currently an administrator in APS at the legislature on leave from my district, I am especially qualified to address these sweeping education issues.  
I know that we currently do not have the level of funding it will take to support our teachers and schools in this effort and we must be cautious and thoughtful before we retain more than 10,000 third-graders.
At the same time, It makes it very difficult when we have an investigative reporter following us around trying to create misperceptions that detract from our priority — redistricting.  
Our processes are transparent and we always welcome the opportunity to share our deliberations publically.     
The voters of New Mexico have elected us to represent their best interests, not the interests of a special agenda of the governor.  
There will be ample opportunity in January to take up these other issues and our job right now is to get re-districting right — and that is exactly what we are doing.    
Sheryl Williams Stapleton
House Majority Whip