Legislative roundup — Jan. 30

Days remaining in session: 21

Gazing at the sun: Inside the Roundhouse and out, eyes were trained Wednesday on the fiery orb around which life revolves. For Earth, that’s the sun; for New Mexico, it’s the zia sun symbol.

While some lawmakers inside the Capitol decried widespread commercial use of the state symbol, outside the Capitol, Peter Lipscomb, a New Mexico State Parks interpretive ranger, beckoned visitors entering the Roundhouse to stare directly at the sun.

Lipscomb manned a solar telescope that enables safe viewing of the sun. Through the filtered lens of the solar telescope, the sun appears bright red with lines — known as prominences — jutting from its edges.

The sun viewing was a foot in the door for Lipscomb to promote donations on New Mexico Personal Income Tax forms to fund transportation of children to parks for education programs.

The connection between the zia and his task for the day was not lost on Lipscomb. “Seeing our nearest star, the sun, and the connection to our state flag, it is what powers life as we know it,” he said.

The zia also powers commercial enterprises, and lawmakers expressed frustration that it is being widely used with little or no regard for its origin or significance to the Zia Pueblo, located northwest of Albuquerque. Federal law prohibits registering a trademark on flags of states, municipalities and nations, according to a legislative analysis.

But Senate Memorial 1, heard Tuesday by the Senate Rules Committee, would authorize a report by the Department of Cultural Affairs at an estimated cost of $31,000 to provide recommendations and best practices for use of the iconic state symbol.

Regents, Round 2: Rep. Jeff Steinborn is no fan of governors selecting friends or campaign donors for plum positions as university regents.

Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, tried but failed to overhaul the system last year. Now he is willing to tweak it.

He has introduced a constitutional amendment so voters could establish regent nominating committees. The committees would recommend qualified candidates to the governor, who would make the appointments.

Steinborn last year sponsored a more ambitious amendment calling for the election of nearly half the regents of The University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University. That bill died in the Legislature.

Steinborn’s latest proposal for nominating commissions would apply to all seven state universities, the New Mexico School for the Deaf and the New Mexico School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Rodeo credit: High school students might be able to get physical education credit for participating in rodeos, marching bands, cheerleading, Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and other activities under a bill sponsored by Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho.

Senate Bill 122 would allow school districts to decide on which pursuits involving physical activity could be substituted to meet the state’s requirement for one unit of credit of physical education in order to graduate.

Brandt’s bill is in response to a recent memo from the Public Education Department that said these alternate classes don’t qualify for PE credit. “In some cases, this has meant that a student has had to drop an academic course to add a PE class,” he said. “This does not benefit our students.”

Looking ahead: Gov. Susana Martinez is scheduled to attend the 45th Governor’s Prayer Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Thursday at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center, where legislative, business, religious and other leaders are “to recommit to faith and service.”

• Feb. 7 will be Lottery Scholarship Advocacy Day at the Capitol. A coalition of various organizations will speak to lawmakers about the scholarship program, which faces insolvency because it’s spending more than it’s receiving from state lottery revenues. Legislators are considering a number of changes intended to keep the program afloat.

— The Santa Fe New Mexican

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