Rep.-Elect Chris Chandler outlines her goals for the Legislative Session which begins Jan. 15. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
House District 43 Rep.-Elect Chris Chandler told an almost capacity crowd at the 2019 Legislative Preview Wednesday at Fuller Lodge that her goals for the session are multi-fold.
The event was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women.
“There’s been a lot of pent-up policy initiatives that really haven’t gone very far because of where we have been at in the last decade or eight years or so. People would be presenting initiatives in an effort to try to turn the state around with the knowledge that often some of these things wouldn’t go very far. They would get stuck maybe in committee but often even when they got through they got stuck in the governor’s office and as a result a lot of things haven’t been happening,” she said.
Chandler said the expectation is that thousands of bills are going to be filed during the session. She said there’s going to be a lot of activity, a lot of bills that have been filed and filed over the last few years are going to be refiled.
“Education is obviously on the front burner. There’s no question about that. Uniformly across the board, Democrat, Republican, Senate, House, everyone knows that that is going to be a priority,” she said, adding that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has come out strong in support of education.
“She recognizes our mutual responsibility to ensure that the system is brought up, that the quality of education for all of our students is brought up, and she is committed to working with the Legislature to ensure that happens,” Chandler said. “It’s not going to happen in one year. This is a multi-year process. It took many years to get to where we are and it’s going to take a number of years to bring us back up.”
She said she thinks there is an energy in the Legislature – a positive energy – that she has been sensing just in interacting with her colleagues. She said everyone is approaching the problem in a non-partisan way.
Chandler said health care and criminal justice are also issues being discussed. She said there will be an omnibus package, a collection of bills that various committees believe are important to begin with an omnibus bill on a variety of different issues on the criminal justice front. She said she is very interested in that so she will be paying close attention to it and that having been a staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee she is very excited about it.
“It’s an approach to ensuring that serious criminals are incarcerated appropriately but recognizing that we need other systems to support individuals who may have had an issue but are amenable to rehabilitation and providing services, diversion programs and support systems so that these individuals will not engage in this kind of conduct again and can move into a productive life for themselves and their families,” she said.
Chandler said she is working on some bills that she will be introducing or have had introduced by other people. She said none of the freshman representatives can file bills yet but she will be filing bills on Tuesday and in some cases, legislators have been filing bills for her.
“I’ve been asked to champion a paid family leave bill that will support working families and I’m very excited about that. I’m working with the Southwest Women’s Center on that as well as Rep. Damian Ely to move that bill forward,” she said.
Chandler said she is supporting a wage step bill in the context of the Davis-Bacon Act and expects to be filing that sometime in the first few days of the session.
“I’m going to sign on to Sen. Cisneros’s SB-11 which is identical to SB-17 last year which is the bill that ensures the taxability of the National Laboratories regardless of how they choose to incorporate themselves,” she said, adding that SB-17 passed both Houses in a bi-partisan way last year and that her expectation is that the bill will go through.
Chandler said she will be a co-sponsor of a bill banning of trapping on public lands which is excited to be championing. She is also involved in a bill that requires notice and opportunity to participate in the decision by the state engineer to allow the leasing of water rights.
“What’s been happening is the state engineer for the last number of years, is if someone wanted to lease their water rights to another entity, would not afford the due process rights that he or she would have to if it were a complete transfer or a sale. What could happen is a large amount of water could be transferred for a relatively long period of time without the same kind of protections that are offered when there’s a permanent transfer. We want to make sure that the rights of all those involved in water rights are being observed,” she said.
Chandler said the energy is good in the Legislature and people are excited about what is happening.
“There is a real spirit of bi-partisanship in the House and Senate right now. I think people realize it hasn’t been real productive in this last few years with all the wrangling and unpleasantness that’s been going on,” she said.
She noted that during the freshman orientation in December with both Democrats and Republican representatives they were all talking with one another and working together. She said the Speaker made it clear that he’s going to treat everyone fairly, that the Republicans notwithstanding the fact that they are outnumbered are going to be treated fairly and that all representatives will be on an equal footing.
“People’s bills will be heard. People will have a right to have their views heard whether or not their bills pass. That’s going to make so much more pleasant for all of us. It’s not a lot of fun to be fighting with people all the time. So we’re all approaching this in a positive way and I’m looking forward to being part of the team that makes things happen,” Chandler concluded.
A large crowd listens to Rep.-Elect Chris Chandler Wednesday evening at Fuller Lodge during the Legislative Preview sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the American Society of University Women. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com