Sen. Leo Jaramillo, right, chats with longtime friend and former colleague Bill Wadt following his legislative update to Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce members at their monthly business breakfast. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
This year’s legislative session was different for Sen. Leo Jaramillo he told those gathered at the SALA Event Center for a legislative update during the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce’s March Business Breakfast.
“The first two years I was in that pandemic bubble. It was Zoom and limited people in the Roundhouse. This was the first time so many people got to come in, interact with me and talk with me. I got to learn from them and they got to learn from me and it was an amazing experience,” he said.
Jaramillo said one of the best things about being there was being able to walk into the House Chamber and go kneel down with his good friend Rep. Christine Chandler to get a smile and a hug, and sometimes a selfie. (See separate story on Rep. Chandler’s presentation)
“Sometimes you need that friend to be next to you to keep going. I wanted to publically thank the representative for being a good friend of mine,” Sen. Jaramillo said.
He said he went into the session with one major goal.
“I had several bills but my major goal was to work on free breakfast and free lunch for every student that wants it. It didn’t matter what your income is. It took away the stigma for those kids who got free lunch and breakfast. I hear from a number of teenagers – I’m a former middle school teacher who saw first-hand that students sometimes don’t eat because they’re embarrassed to tell their friends that they receive free lunch or free breakfast,” Jaramillo said. “This allows, pun intended, everybody to have a seat at the table with no one asking questions. That was my priority bill that I sponsored with my colleague, Sen. Michael Padilla of Albuquerque, and it was one of the governor’s initiatives that she wanted to see go through. So many kids from K-12 came to the Roundhouse to thank me for the bill, to cheer for the bill. It gave me all the energy I needed to take that to the finish line.”
Jaramillo talked about a few of his other bills that made it to the governor’s desk. He mentioned that as a cheer coach in New Mexico for 15 years, he carried a large messenger bag that the students called his “murse” – his male purse.
“In that bag were menstrual hygiene products that I made available to students no questions asked. When the ‘murse’ was running low and I was working at Los Alamos National Lab, employees would come and help me fill it so that it always contained what the young women and their families needed,” Jaramillo said. “I got a call from four young ladies from Albuquerque Academy that are seniors and have introduced free menstrual hygiene items in their school. They asked me about my ‘murse” and they asked me to carry the bill for them on the Senate side. So I’m happy to announce that the bill will ensure that elementary, middle and high school restrooms will have free menstrual products for students.”
Jaramillo also mentioned his work on a high-priority bill for the governor to get $100 million into the Law Enforcement Recruitment & Retention Fund to continue to support getting officers on the street. That bill was rolled into HB 2 for the budget, he said.
“I was so proud to be asked to carry the Election Changes Act with my colleague Sen. Katy Duhigg. It creates an election security program as well as procedures for absentee ballots and training for election challengers and watchers,” Jaramillo said.
Sen. Jaramillo spoke about two catalytic converter bills that were consolidated into one – SB 133 which seeks to address theft by requiring secondhand metal dealers to keep records of the converters. The thought is that making the regulations more stringent, thieves may be more easily caught. It will become a deterrent to those who are stealing the converters, Jaramillo hopes.
He noted that he was I able to run two bills with is friend Rep. Chandler that this was the first session where they were able to run two bills together.
“One was no publication requirement for name changes. This was a bill that was enacted in 1889 and you had to publish name changes in newspapers. The Representative and I supported this bill protect survivors of domestic violence and to protect the LGBTQ community to ensure that our trans brothers and sisters wouldn’t have to publish their name and their name change in the paper being outed to the community,” Jaramillo said.
He said working with Rep. Chandler showed a united front in Northern New Mexico and that the two legislators truly care about the safety of New Mexicans.
“It was nice to have her sit right alongside me. I got to learn so much from her. She’s been in the House longer than I have been in the Senate and I was able to see how she maneuvered bills through committees. We worked on the Motorcycle Safety License Plate Bill and I took it to the Senate. It came from right here in Los Alamos County – a push for a license plate to encourage drivers to, ‘Look Twice for Motorcycles’,” Jaramillo said.
He said he teamed up with Rep. Chandler, Sen. Bobby Gonzales who represents White Rock and the governor to send money to the water project Los Alamos County is doing on the ski hill which will do two things; it’s going to help us with economic development, bringing tourism in to the ski hill.
“This project will do two things; it’s going to help with economic development, bringing tourism to the ski hill. And it’s also going to help with wildfire mitigation because if wildfire comes, there will be water on the hill. Those retention ponds we have on the ski hill now are dried up. This will ensure that there is always water in them in case fire comes to Los Alamos again,” Jaramillo said.
Jaramillo is giving more than $150,000 from his junior funds for capital outlay to the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos as well as $75,000 to the Los Alamos High School Robotics Team.
“Let’s talk about fun! It’s not all about work. I got to have fun too. I was able to play in the Hoops for Hope Basketball Fundraiser, although I only played maybe a minute. I took my old UNM megaphone and cheered with the Capital High School cheer team and we raised more than $30,000 for UNM cancer patients,” he said.
Los Alamos High School Native American Club members joined Jaramillo at the Roundhouse during American Indian Day.
“It was nice to tell them that their voice can be empowered if they just participate. It was so much fun to host leaders from Los Alamos County in the chamber and in the gallery for Los Alamos County Day and to see so many smiles from Los Alamos was so awesome. I also got to meet with parents, teachers and students from the Chamisa Elementary School Global Warming Express Club. They showed up on a day that I was presenting a bill on changing the Oil and Gas Act that was something that needed to be updated since 1936 to bring it into to the 2000s. They showed up in support with their global warming shirts,” Sen. Jaramillo said.