Rep. Chris Chandler speaks about the upcoming Legislative Session at a recent League of Women Voters luncheon. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
League of Women Voters members listen to Rep. Chris Chandler during a recent League of Women Voters Lunch with a Leader event at Mesa Public Library. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Rep. Chris Chandler listens to constituents following a recent League of Women Voters event in Los Alamos where she was the guest speaker. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
With the Second Session of the 54th Legislature set to open less than a month away, Rep. Chris Chandler has been busy pre-filing bills and touching base with constituents throughout her district on a number of issues. Closer to home, she spoke Dec. 10 at the League of Women Voters Lunch with a Leader and has a “Coffee With Christine” scheduled for Jan. 4, 2020 in White Rock.
Two of Chandler’s pre-filed bills, House Bills 16 and 17, sit at the top of the House’s 65 pre-filed bill. HB 16 is the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act under which an eligible employee would be paid a percentage of their salary to enable them to bond with a new child or care for a family member. HB 17 is a bill that would require private post-secondary education institutions to disclose certain information to prospective students. It would require an enrollment agreement before a person begins coursework with the total estimated cost of the program, the number of credit hours required and the median income to be expected at 10 years after completing the course based on actual records of former participants.
Chandler told LWV members she was pretty sure cannabis would be on the Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s list. She said the said Lujan Grisham had a task force to which she appointed Pat Davis from Albuquerque and that he and others have been working to come up with some kind of proposal.
“I voted for the bill last year. A couple of months ago, I got a call from some folks in the rural part of my district who have two medical marijuana producers in their vicinity. The production of medical marijuana is fairly tightly regulated. The water quality has to be at a certain standard, and the number of plants that can be grown,” she said.
She said the concern of some of her constituents is that the medical cannabis folks are overusing the water in their area.
“I met with them and they are evaluating whether it is appropriate for cannabis users to be using mutual domestic water. The intent of the laws that govern mutual domestic water is that it’s primarily for drinking water. It’s not for agricultural use. You can have some incidental agriculture such as watering your lawn or growing a family garden,” Chandler said. “The water management laws didn’t contemplate 16 greenhouses in one of these communities and a slightly smaller number in the other community. The concern is how is that going to impact their water table.”
She said the mutual domestics only get so much water from the state engineer.
They have an allotment and if they go over the allotment and some of them have, they have to “pay it back” – meaning find other water to pay their debt. And that’s not an easy thing to do,” Chandler said.
She said the domestic water users in each association are no more than 200 households.
“The board members are all volunteers. Some of them have an employee or two, maybe an office person and the operator. And now they have to figure out how they’re going to integrate medical marijuana and maybe even recreational marijuana into their systems. I think we’re going to need to address that. There are a lot of facets to an issue that you don’t think of until you are actually out talking to people about what is on their minds,” Chandler said.
She said she voted in favor of the cannabis bill last year.
“We’ll see what kind of language comes up but if you’re going to put in a cannabis facility you’re going to have to come up with the water rights to do it. And you are going to account for how you produce the cannabis so that you’re not inadvertently impacting the local communities in a negative way. I’m hoping this is just one situation and that other producers will be more sensitive to the communities they are moving into.”
Discussing her Post-Secondary Education bill, Chandler said she views it as kind of a consumer protection bill.
“It’s going to involve the massage schools, the hairdresser schools, the for-profit colleges and this whole array of post-secondary schools where sometimes people are taken advantage of. At the federal level it was being attacked for a while but that’s not going very well. My bill is more of a disclosure bill so that when a student expresses interest perhaps in enrolling in one of these programs they get accurate information such as the total cost of the program, the average debt associated with it – those kinds of things, as well as the placement rate and whether it meets certification or licensure standards for New Mexico.”
She said the schools often have these requirements at the federal level so it’s going to be information that they have to provide generally now.
“It will require them to put the information on their website so if somebody’s browsing their programs they have a way to compare costs and so on. I was out knocking on doors a while ago and someone told me they were in a massage program. For six months it was $10,000 and I thought, that sounds like a lot. I don’t have anything to compare it with and she didn’t seem to think it was excessive but it struck me as a little much,” Chandler said.
She said she is proud to be sponsoring the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act that supports working families.
“New Mexicans should not have to choose between losing their job and caring for a new baby, loved one or themselves,” she said.
Chandler is also working with Sen. Sander Rue on an information disclosure act streamline getting access to the details of state settlement agreements.
“There is a law that tries to limit disclosure except under certain circumstances so we’re trying to limit the circumstances and make access much easier. It has been fun working with Senator Rue on that and I’d like to pursue more of those kinds of open government initiatives. It’s an area that interests me because of my longstanding League membership and my local government experience. I’ve always been very interested in trying to be as transparent and open as possible in how we do business,” she said.