League lobbies legislature

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By Roger Snodgrass

The New Mexico League of Women Voters Tuesday pressed state legislators for commitments, pro and con, on bills the league has decided to favor or oppose this year.


Kicking off League Day at the Legislature with an early morning informational meeting in Morgan Hall at the State Land Office, state President Kathy Campbell of Los Alamos introduced the plans for a day of lobbying in the Capitol, including committee visits and gallery views of the separate House and Senate general sessions.


Encouraging personal visits to key representatives, Barbara Calef, secretary of the Los Alamos league, explained how to deliver the fact sheet with personalized messages to the right person involved with the issue. “Just open the door and walk in,” she said. “The first time might be a little scary.”


Campbell called immediate attention to two House bills the group is tracking that happened to be scheduled for discussion during the day.


One was HB252, a bill sponsored by Rep. Al Park, D-Bernalillo, before the House Voters and Election Committee that would, among other things, restrict contributions from individuals to any candidate for state office to a maximum of $2,300, and donations from political committees to $5,000.


New Mexico, according to a Legislative Finance Committee Report, is one of only four states that doesn’t limit campaign contributions for state candidates. The others are Illinois, Oregon, Utah and Virginia.


The league supports this bill and, including Senate versions of House bills, five others regulating campaign contributions, as well as a bill establishing an independent ethics commission.


Another lightning rod making its way through committees, Campbell pointed out, has to do with the contentious issue of domestic partnerships.


The league supports the two domestic partnership bills that would protect the rights of couples, whether same or opposite sex, who might also be seniors or individuals with disabilities who may prefer not to marry for whatever reasons.


Diane Wood, the first state director of the Commission on the Status of Women, now director of the Northern Regional Office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said she was glad when she could join with the League to work on bills.


“You’re always so well prepared and such good activists in your communities and so well respected,” she said in a legislative overview a little later in the morning.


Among shared bills this year are the ones on domestic partnership rights, or on the contrary, the “definition of marriage acts,” or “DOMAs” that are aimed at creating a constitutional amendment or a statutory definition of marriage rights that precludes same-sex partners.


“If you don’t pass so-called controversial bills right away, it takes much longer,” Wood said.


Adherents on both sides have tried to influence the outcome of this issue by getting large numbers of supporters.


After the dramatic tie vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee Monday, concerning SB12, the domestic partnership bill supported by both the league and the ACLU, two Senators were in the spotlight.


One was Sen. Bernadette Sanchez, D-Bernalillo, who was absent, but who has said she was undecided; the other was Sen. Richard Sanchez, an Española Democrat who is one of the three Senators representing parts of Los Alamos County.


Sanchez voted with the Republicans last year as well as this year and has said the overwhelming proportion of his constituents are opposed to the bill.


Maggie Toulouse-Oliver, the Bernalillo County Clerk finished up the morning presentations with a talk about Same Day Voter Registration, which has been introduced in two versions.


Either way, the voter reform measure would allow eligible voters to walk into a voting place on Election Day and register – and vote.


Trying to get a start on what might be a long-term legislative project, Toulouse-Oliver admitted that it sounded suspicious to many, but said it could be done without fear of a fraudulent effect.


“North Dakota doesn’t even have voter registration,” she noted. “You just show up on election day with your I.D.”