Listening to a particularly inane discussion in a Senate committee one recent day, I caught myself thinking, "Geez, they sound like a bunch of whining liberals."
Yeah, I know. That will surprise a few people. Not the whining but my response.
The subject was the new constitutional requirement that Public Regulation Commissioners have more education and experience. The whining, from people I usually consider intelligent, was about how the requirements might be unfair to somebody. By that logic, we're all qualified to be judges, too. I've written before that this commission must make difficult decisions based on hours of technical testimony. Voters agreed by a large margin, and yet some of these people were prepared to ignore voters' wishes.
Whiners surfaced again during a House floor debate of a measure to study the possibility of a humane slaughter and processing facility as a remedy to the state's thousands (yes, thousands) of unwanted horses. What we heard was an hour or so of hanky wringing about how much everyone loved horses, interrupted by bursts of reality from ranchers, who also love horses.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Aztec, said cases of cruelty have quadrupled since 2005. And New Mexico sends more than 18,000 horses a year to inhumane slaughter in Mexico. Rep. Candy Ezzell, R-Roswell, pointed out that the cost of alfalfa has almost tripled in the last two years. Not only can many people not afford to feed horses, they can't sell them because there's no market.
The whiners prevailed, 36 to 28. And it was just a study.
Then there's the theft of cable, which has the potential of causing massive power, phone and internet outages. Bills introduced by Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Espa-ola, and Sen. Steve Neville, R-Farmington, would increase penalties. The Senate Judiciary Committee killed one bill because it would be too tough on culprits, who might be disadvantaged.
Disadvantaged? We're not talking about the unfortunate combination of poverty, boredom, opportunity and temptation. Wire and cable thievery requires tools, large vehicles, planning and knowhow.
Here's what else I notice. Liberals whine. Conservatives rage.
Early in the session we saw Rep. Nora Espinoza's gun bill. The Roswell Republican would have made it a third-degree felony for a government official or firearm dealer to enforce federal gun laws here. Lawyers and non-lawyers alike pointed out constitutional problems, although there were also some interesting discussions of legal grey areas. An angry Espinoza has said that we must "stand up" to the federal government.
A second Espinoza bill was the so-called Woman's Right to Know Act, which would have subjected a woman to onerous and expensive requirements, including an ultrasound, before receiving an abortion. It too had constitutional issues and assumed wrongly that a woman's decision to end a pregnancy is made lightly or in ignorance.
Espinoza also introduced a constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
"America's greatness has come in large part to us having traditional family values, through and through," said Rep. William Sharer, R-Farmington. "One man, one woman, making children."
And how does gay marriage threaten traditional marriage?
All three measures died in committee.
Then, of course, there's the infamous measure by Rep. Cathrynn Brown. We now know that the Carlsbad Republican's bill, which appeared to criminalize abortions, was incorrectly worded when it came from the Legislative Council Service, although I wonder how Brown, a lawyer, failed to communicate her intent or how bashing the overworked LCS is helpful. In a letter to fellow legislators, she goes on to bash "ultra-liberal" and "left-wing groups," "the liberal media" and progressives.
I doubt if Brown earned much sympathy with her angry letter and hot-button vocabulary. It's also interesting that she takes no responsibility for any part of the uproar.
How about less whining, less anger and more reality checks?
Sherry Robinson is a New Mexico journalist who began her career in 1976 and has served as assistant business editor and columnist with the Albuquerque Journal, editor of New Mexico Business Weekly and business editor of the Albuquerque Tribune. She is also the author of two books: "El Malpais, Mt. Taylor and the Zuni Mountains" and "Apache Voices."