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COLUMNISTS

Clahchischilliage: Focusing on District 4

Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage
R-Kirltand
New Mexico Rep. Sharon Clachischillage, R-Kirtland

Thirty-day legislative sessions are challenging because there is so much to get done in a very short amount of time. However, we used our time wisely this year and were able to accomplish many significant achievements for New Mexicans across the state.

I was elected to represent the people of District 4, and when I am in Santa Fe, I focus my efforts on improving life for the residents of my district and the Navajo community.

For example, I fought to fund key local projects.  I requested $114,759 to maintain critical infrastructure for Dineh water users on the Navajo Nation and $100,000 to construct a wastewater system near Shiprock. This funding will help ensure our local water supply is safe, clean and accessible.

It’s important that we honor the sacrifices our veterans have made to protect our country’s freedoms. I’m proud to support the construction of a Veterans’ Memorial Park on the Navajo Nation recognizing the contributions of our local heroes who have served in the armed forces, and I requested $50,000 to help this project. We must also make sure our elders have access to the services they need, which is why I requested $74,000 to begin work on a senior center in Upper Fruitland.

In addition, I sponsored a proposal that would have provided funds to help counties and tribal health councils to identify health needs and develop strategies to meet those needs. Another proposal I sponsored would have allowed tribal colleges to receive state funds. Although these bills did not pass, I will continue my efforts to support the people and institutions in District 4.

I also worked on legislation that would have improved safety for all New Mexicans.  I sponsored a bill that would have protected our children from sexual predators who use their position of authority to prey on their victims.  My bill would have clarified language in New Mexico law to hold all violators accountable for sexual acts against a child.

Another one of my bills would have made it a fourth-degree felony to flee from probation or parole. Currently, people suffer minimal consequences, if any, when they abscond from probation or parole.  By imposing real consequences for absconding, we would allow officers to monitor offenders more effectively, save on costs associated with finding absconders, and keep the public safe.

During this past session, the Legislature was able to pass many proposals to improve protections for New Mexicans and their families.  We passed legislation to strengthen penalties for child pornography related offenses.  We increased penalties for repeat drunk drivers to help keep New Mexico’s roads safe.  And we finally agreed on a solution to protect the integrity of New Mexico’s driver’s licenses by making them REAL ID compliant and providing driving authorization cards to illegal immigrants instead of full-fledged licenses.

While many important items were passed this year, I’m disappointed that other worthwhile bills did not make it through the process. Unfortunately, the Democrat-led Senate killed legislation I supported that would have helped ensure that all students are able to read by the third grade, a bill that would have prevented school truancy, and a proposal to allow adjunct teachers in New Mexico classrooms. The Senate also killed a proposal that would have allowed for the creation of an ethics commission.

While we accomplished a lot this session, there is clearly still so much more to do. I am determined to keep fighting for the people of District 4 to make New Mexico a better place for you and for future generations.