The House this week approved a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation as part of the state’s Human Rights Act.
The bill now goes to the Senate and one local senator said she will not support it.
The bill passed the House with a 38-25 vote.
Rep. Anna Crook, R-Clovis, said she voted against the bill.
“I’m opposed to it,” she said. “I feel this bill will have a really serious effect on our small businesses. How do you perceive if someone is straight or gay?”
Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, whose district includes Roosevelt County, said if the bill is anything like the one that lawmakers faced last year she wouldn’t support it.
“I’m sure there will be debate similar to last year,” she said. “I imagine the vote will be along party lines.”
Last year, lawmakers approved the same bill that the House just OK’d. However, the governor signed the wrong bill and as a result companies with fewer than 15 employees didn’t have to follow any of the state’s Human Rights Act.
Critics of the bill include religious groups statewide. The Roosevelt County Commission last summer adopted a resolution opposing the bill.
Lawmakers intended for the under-15 exemption to apply only to the sexual orientation provisions they added to the legislation.
County tax may ease
Residents in counties across the state could be in for a surprise. And it would be a surprise that would hit their pocket books.
A bill that passed the House this week by a 38-21 vote would allow counties to raise their gross receipts tax rate by an additional one-sixteenth percent.
What’s controversial is that officials could do it without voter approval.
Crook voted for the bill.
“It was one of those Catch 22 things,” she said. “I hate to put things out there on our constituents without their approval. But I couldn’t in good conscious vote against it. I know what conditions our county detention centers are in.”
County officials across the state are facing out-of-control costs with maintaining their jails.
In 2003, for example, Roosevelt County Detention Center Administrator Jesse Luera was forced to send many inmates to outside jails to curb overcrowding.
“Our commissioners are saying that the jails are making them bankrupt,” Crook said. “I had a problem with the bill, but I just couldn’t vote against it. I do believe in letting voters have a voice.”
Kernan, who will vote on the bill as it makes its way to the Senate, said she wants to listen to the debate on the issue before making a decision.
Water in Elida
Elida officials are thinking anything but small this legislative session.
The rural eastern New Mexico town is seeking almost $600,000 in improvements to its water system.
Town officials are seeking $590,000 for a three-phase water project.
Both Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, and Rep. Earlene Roberts, R-Lovington, have submitted capital outlay requests for the water projects.
The first phase would include completing a new water well, said C.D. Newberry, a police officer with the Elida Police Department.
The second phase, Newberry said, would include the repair of an existing water storage tank and the construction of an additional water storage tank.
And the final phase would include replacing three miles of three-inch water lines and six miles of four-inch water lines. Newberry, who helped put together a packet on the city’s legislative priorities, said officials wanted all nine miles of water lines to be replaced with six-inch water lines.
“We have got to improve the water supply here so that there is more volume of water,” he said. “Without it, it holds back our economic development.”
Newberry explained that the city’s water supply comes from wells that are leased and there are contract limits with the amount of water than can be leased from the well.
“That can prevent the town from adding commercial accounts to the town because it could take more water than is allowed under the lease,” he said.
Water improvements aren’t the only request on the city’s wish list.
They also hope to get $100,000 worth of improvements to the city’s fire department building.
Newberry said part of the money would go to get a water supply for firefighters at the fire department. Currently, firefighters have to go off site to get water.
“They can’t fill up with water at the department,” he said. “We hope to get a pipeline laid at the station and refill the trucks there and have an adequate supply of water there.”
Also, officials would like to get the fire department building’s roof fixed.
“It’s leaking pretty badly,” Newberry said.
Officials also want to make an expansion to the building so there is more space for trucks to operate.
“Right now the trucks are really crowed,” he said. “We would like to be able to get the trucks in there without being crowded.”
Officials with the Elida Police Department also hope the Legislature is good to the city.
They are seeking $45,000 for vehicles, computers and communications equipment.
One of the department’s vehicles had 150,000 to 175,000 miles on it, and it needs to be replaced, Newberry said.
Also, the department has to get new data terminals so that officers would use in their vehicles.
Newberry said the terminals would allow officers to not have to call dispatchers in Portales for some citations.
“It would reduce the amount of time when the public is detained during a traffic stop,” he said. “We would be able to run info pretty safely.”
l 7 a.m.-noon — Give Kids a Smile Day N.M. Dental Association,
l 10:30 a.m. — United Blood Services Blood Drive press conference,
Bloodmobiles located outside East and West wing entrances of State Capitol
l Noon — City of Espanola Legislative Luncheon, Senate Lounge
l 8 – 9 a.m. — New Mexico Association of School Business Officials Day at the Legislature, Continental Breakfast Boxes for Legislators.
l 7 a.m. — Farm Credit Services and Public Service Company of N.M. 2004 Legislative Breakfast, La Fonda Hotel
l All day — New Mexico Occupational Therapy Day at the Legislature New Mexico Occupational Therapy Association, Capitol Rotunda
l All day — Gallup-McKinley Day at the Legislature, Capitol Rotunda
l 9 a.m. — Gallup-McKinley Day Legislative Reception, El Dorado
l 10:30 a.m. — Press conference for Alzheimer Association of New Mexico Alzheimer Diseases and Memory Loss Day, West Wing of State Capitol
For more information on legislative issues go online to www.state.nm.us.
David Arkin covers the Legislature for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. He is a former Freedom reporter and editor.
He can be reached at