Sen. Leo Jaramillo speaks at the January 5 Legislative Preview at Fuller Lodge sponsored the League of Women Voters and the American Association of University Women. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Sen. Leo Jaramillo and Rep. Christine Chandler chat prior to last Thursday’s Legislative Preview. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
District 5 Sen. Leo Jaramillo, speaking at last week’s League of Women Voters and American Association of University Women Legislative Preview that he will be working on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office on the proposed Free School Breakfast and Lunch Program during the upcoming legislative session.
“I come from very humble beginnings so school breakfast and lunch were important to me. My mother was a school cook and retired as a school cook and she tells stories about students that were so hungry that she would pack up their tray because she knew that might be the only meal they had for the day,” he said. “To be carrying this legislation means something to me personally – both because of my experience as someone who has experienced hunger and having a mother who served those students for nearly 20 years.”
When Sen. Jaramillo speaks in Los Alamos, he always calls it his second home. He said he began working for Los Alamos High School as a high school junior in 1993 and feels really at home on the hill.
During the summer Sen. Jaramillo served as chair of the Land Grant Committee.
“Land grants are important to New Mexico, not only to our history, but to New Mexicans that have been living here for generations. Land grants were given by the King of Spain to families to serve as colonies of then New Spain. When Mexico took over from Spain and we became part of Mexico, the Mexican government honored the land grants of Spain. When New Mexico became part of the United States, the United States continued to honor the land grants and now they’re political subdivisions of the state,” Sen. Jaramillo said.
He has worked on a variety of issues associated with land grants on issues ranging from illegal dumping in land grants to figuring out what to do with big game that’s destroying fences in land grants and there is no compensation for the damage.
“Another major thing is what are we going to do when it comes to water within these areas. A lot of our land grants aren’t connected to mutual water or domestic systems. They all have wells and septic tanks and there’s a huge threat of groundwater pollution. Those are major areas we worked on this summer,” Sen. Jaramillo said.
He said he is proud to announce that during the upcoming session he is proud to announce that he still will be the vice chair of the Rules Committee which is composed mostly of the members of the minority and the majority leadership teams.
“We look at legislation prior to getting to Judiciary most of the time. A lot of the bills we listen to center around voting rights and I think we’re going to hear about that again. I’m a member of the Tax, Transportation and Revenue Committee looking into tax packages and legislation centered on tax and transportation. Those are two really good committees to be on,” Sen. Jaramillo said.
He mentioned that he has been moved on the Senate floor for this session and will be sitting right in front of Sen. Bobby Gonzales.
“It’s going to be nice to have a good friend and a Northern colleague next to me. When we start talking about legislation that affects Los Alamos County he and I can just turn to each other and talk about that legislation,” Sen. Jaramillo said. “It’s important where you sit because those side conversations truly help if I get a text message from the County asking questions or having concerns that he and I will be in close proximity and can have those discussions and vote in the best interest of Senate District 5 and in this case, Los Alamos, since we’re in different Senate districts.”
Sen. Jaramillo will be looking at legislation related to catalytic converter theft.
“Catalytic converters now have some metals in them that are very valuable and now priced higher than gold in some instances. Electric vehicles are now becoming the target because their catalytic converters hold more of these metals and the thieves can get more money for them. This legislation would require anyone trying to sell a catalytic converter to a scrapyard to provide the year, make, model and VIN of the vehicle from which it was removed,” he said. “The bill would require the buyer to take a picture of the catalytic converter and withhold the payment for two days. This will serve as a deterrent and we’re thinking those who want to make a quick dollar aren’t going to go through those extra steps to try to sell a catalytic converter.”
Sen. Jaramillo will also be working on a bill to extend the criminal statute of limitations for criminal sexual penetration and criminal sexual contact with a minor. Another bill he will be working on relates to the education and safety of child performers.
“As a former educator this is one of my favorite ones. What’s happening is a company in Georgia is now dominating the field of educating our students who are part of a movie studio or set. What this means is it would need to be a teacher at least at a Level 2 that would teach our students in New Mexico – that is a teacher who is certified in New Mexico or nationally certified. It won’t just be a company coming in and checking a box that’s teaching our children. This would make sure that it’s a certified educator teaching on movie sets,” Sen. Jaramillo said.
Sen. Jaramillo and Sen. Gonzales are working on a Acequia Disaster Fun.
“We’re going to be looking into how we can increase the amount of money in the Acequia & Ditch Infrastructure Fund. What happens is that local communities are asked to put in a certain amount of money when there’s a disaster with an acequia. These communities don’t have money lying around. This fund will allow the state to kick in money to help with any kind of federal match that is provided when there is an acequia disaster,” Sen. Jaramillo said. “I will also be working on adjudication bills on acequias. This would provide legal support to acequias. We’re now seeing that acequias are going into litigation with our neighboring pueblos but don’t have the money to pay for an attorney to help them try to reach agreements with our pueblo neighbors.”
Los Alamos County has been working with Sen. Jaramillo on amendments to a utilities bill.
“What happens now is that when the County takes your money for utilities, if there’s an (Inspection of Public Records Act) request, your name, address and personal information will be given out with that IPRA. This bill would protect your information and the bigger portion of this is that with smart meters coming in, people will be able to track you as that individual to that household.”
Sen. Jaramillo said he and Rep. Chandler are working with the governor’s office and Los Alamos County to try to help Pajarito Mountain Ski Area in Los Alamos.
“We’re trying to get the governor to give us at least $10 million in discretionary funds in support of a project to get water up onto the hill. We’re seeing this as an important way to generate revenue through tourism but we’re also seeing the importance of having water on the hill in the event of another fire. We need to make sure that we’re prepared so we will continue to work on championing that,” Sen. Jaramillo said.
He said he will be working with the County on what it determines are its most important project to see if he can help fund those. He said he will also be giving money to the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos and Los Alamos Public Schools.
“I’m looking forward to meeting with everyone to find out what their priorities are. I do know that a number of parents have reached out about the softball and baseball fields in White rock. They’ve talked about the need to improve those but I haven’t heard from anyone else. If anyone has ideas I’d love to hear from them,” Sen. Jaramillo said.
He noted that he got to join with Lt. Gov. Howie Morales in meeting with senior citizens to discuss what their needs are.
“We’re going to see a surplus of money in our coffers this time around and we’re trying to see how to best utilize that money. Everyone is asking for it but it’s important that we protect seniors. The three issues they are discussing are healthcare – we have a number of people that don’t qualify for state funding when it comes to healthcare because they might make $10 over the limit. How can we help those seniors? Sen. Jaramillo said.
He noted that transportation was another issue for seniors, especially when they are unable to find help to get them to specialists in Albuquerque when they live in rural New Mexico. He said the third issue is grandparents raising grandchildren and how to support them.
“What’s happening is we heard from an 82-year old woman raising two teenaged grandsons. She said, ‘I don’t make enough money to keep them fed’. We are looking into ways that we can work on vouchers for farmers markets or what else we can do to ensure that these grandparents have the resources to continue to care for their grandchildren,” Sen. Jaramillo said.
He said the governor has asked the three legislators to work with her on combatting homelessness in New Mexico, affordable housing, setting up a state healthcare authority and increasing the public school budgets to cover healthcare premiums for teachers and other school staff.
“As a former educator, that one means a lot to me and that’s one I’m going to help her champion and get it over the finish line,” Sen. Jaramillo said. “I want to know what’s important to Los Alamos residents. What’s on your radar? What should I be doing for you and how can I better represent you?”
Los Alamos County Councilor Randy Ryti and Sen. Leo Jaramillo at the January 5 Legislative Preview at Fuller Lodge. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Sen. Leo Jaramillo chats with Los Alamos High School students who assisted with the January 5 Legislative Preview at Fuller Lodge. Pictured are, from left, Luke Favorite, Rylee Mechum and Grafton Urbatsch. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com