Bills address drug problem

By Andy Jackson: CNJ staff writer

Local legislators are adamant about two bills they wrote that will hit the Roundhouse in upcoming weeks — separate yet connected propositions for mandatory drug sentencing and rehabilitation initiatives.

Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis, said he’s introducing a bill that would impose mandatory methamphetamine sentencing, to “get cooks out of the kitchen,” he said.

A need for state-wide mandatory sentencing for methamphetamine offenses is something 9th Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler encouraged the senator to pursue, they said.

“Too many times across the state, methamphetamine cooks walk out with a slap on the wrist,” Chandler said. “It’s rare to see maximum sentences handed down by courts.”

Right now, judges have the discretion to sentence methamphetamine possessors and makers to anywhere from zero to nine years in jail, Chandler said.

Harden said stopping the distribution of methamphetamine is only one part of a social problem he hopes to legislatively alleviate this session.

Rehabilitation is the other piece, he said.

“It’s a holistic view,” Harden said to stop the distribution of drugs and treat victims of drug abuse.

Rep. Anna Crook, R-Clovis, said she will be proposing a bill soon for a drug rehabilitation initiative.

“We’re incarcerating people, but when they get out they still have a (drug) problem. We need to get to the root of the problem. I think we need reform. It hasn’t worked to this point,” Crook said.

It’s an initiative that could lower recidivism and costs incurred to the state, she said.

“It’s something like $73 a day to house an inmate in the penal system,” Crook said.

Crook’s bill is modeled after an initiative in Ensenada, Mexico, where the recidivism rate is less than 10 percent, she said.

Gov. Bill Richardson will support the bills, Harden said.

“I think it’s the year, not just for money, but it’s also very high on the governor’s agenda. We’re stepping up to the plate when it comes to the distribution of drugs. The timing is perfect to get the executive and legislative branches to take meaningful steps,” Harden said.

Legislative sessions resume Monday in Santa Fe. And bills proposing drug courts in various judicial districts throughout New Mexico are on the docket.

Ninth Judicial District Court Teddy Hartley has been pushing for a drug court for approximately two years, he said.

There are 30 drug courts throughout the state and they have shown a decreased rate of recidivism, said Hartley, who spoke on the subject in front of the Senate Finance Committee Thursday and the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday — with favorable responses from both, he said.

Drug courts, Hartley said, would save significant money on incarceration expenses and return individuals to the mainstream with decreased rates of recidivism.

“The governor’s budget included drug courts as part of his recommendations. I believe we will get it and I’m excited and gratified,” Hartley said.

“We believe we’ll have the next one added (in district nine),” he said.

If granted funding, Hartley said a district drug court could be underway in early fall.

Roundhouse notes:
• The Senate unanimously voted to eliminate the daily $8.82 bed tax charge, according to a release from the senate.

The daily tax was imposed on licensed nursing homes, care facilities for the mentally retarded, and residential treatment centers, and was previously enacted to last until June 30, 2007, according to Senate Bill 88 (home of the bed the tax law).

Rep. Anna Crook, R-Clovis, and Sen. Harden, R-Clovis, said they were pleased with the bill’s passing.

• Harden said he heard Richardson’s presentation for a proposed spaceport — to commercialize space travel in the state.

“They’ve already sold early tickets to rich people … wealthy people are already booking flights,” Harden said.

Though Harden thinks commercial space travel would be a safe and profitable venture, he’s not signing up for the zero-gravity experience anytime soon.

“I would not book a ticket. I don’t like heights or flying (on commercial aircraft),” he said.

• Harden said he signed onto a bill Thursday that would make it mandatory for all convicted felons to submit to DNA testing.

“It’s a discussion of using DNA in addition to fingerprinting,” Harden said. “This is a really important piece of legislation, it’s pretty proactive.” .

• Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler will be meeting with Richardson this week in Santa Fe to discuss “the success of Meth Watch and of the meth ordinance.”

Clovis approved the methamphetamine ordinance in September restricting the sale and display of sinus and cold medication that could be used to manufacture methamphetamine.

Meth Watch is a volunteer program where stores are encouraged to alert law enforcement when a suspicious amount of ephedrine products are being purchased.

Beyond the Bills, your legislators on the lighter side.

• What’s your favorite political joke?

Rep. Brian K. Moore, R-Clayton:
Where does the word politic come from? Latin for poly, meaning many; and tic, meaning blood-sucking parasite.

Rep. Jose Campos, D-Santa Rosa:
President George Bush was at a news conference, he was talking about Iraq, Washington and the economy. A reporter asks him ‘Did you hear about the bazillions of deaths in Iraq?’ Bush becomes devastated, slumps over and says ‘How many millions are in bazillions?’

Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis:
The story about the little girl that wanted something for Christmas. Her family was in hard times (financially), so she wrote a letter to God asking for $100. The girl’s letter wound up on the post master’s desk in Washington, D.C., and the little girl received $10 in the mail for Christmas. The girl wrote a thank you letter to God, ‘Dear god, thank you for sending me $10, but please don’t send other letters to Washington, because they keep too much.’

Who’s your favorite US president and why?

Rep. Keith Gardner, R-Roswell:
“Ronald Reagan because of his vision and ability to stand fast in adversity.”

Rep. Brian K. Moore, R-Clayton:
“I have to appreciate Washington for getting the whole thing started. Lincoln may have been the bravest …I admired Reagan for communication.”

Rep. Anna Crook, R-Clovis:
“I was very fond of Ronald Reagan. He was an excellent president. He was charismatic and did an excellent job.”

Rep. Jose Campos, D-Santa Rosa:
“FDR, because of the challenges he had to overcome, through the Depression and World War II and bringing the country together … He worked internationally to make sure we wouldn’t be overrun by the Japanese or Germans. He was a man with a strong will and heart. He was there for America at a critical time.”

Rep. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs:
“My favorite in my lifetime is Ronald Reagan, for his ability to pull people together. That’s missing in Washington. He was the right man at the right time. I’m hopeful to see that again. The way it is now it’s difficult to accomplish what we need to at the federal level. My hero is Ben Franklin, but he was never president.”

Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis:
“So many come to mind … (But) I’d go back to the early founding fathers. That group of presidents that laid the foundation for what democracy is about today.”

Sen Stuart Ingle, R-Portales:
“There’s been a lot of great presidents. It depends on the circumstances … Kennedy and Eisenhower. Nixon opened up a lot of things in foreign countries.”

Why did you enter into politics?

Rep. Brian K. Moore, R-Clayton:
“I was politically active in the 60s, campus stuff. Our state representative asked me to run and I said, no, I don’t have time. I had friends call, and I came down the year before and went to committees and watched the floor. I thought this is crazy and I thought no I can’t do this. (But then) I was convinced I could come up and be independent and vote how I wanted to vote. I thought we’d lose anyway, no one was more surprised then me on election night.”

Rep. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs:
“All my life, my family’s been in politics. My dad was a county chairman. My brother worked in Washington (for a senator). I’ve always had an interest but never thought about stepping out until I was asked. I was appointed the first go-round and then elected. It’s all about timing and life experience. Some are lucky and others just dream. I’m fortunate to be in the political arena.”

Rep. Anna Crook, R-Clovis:
“I was the number one draft. I was the last one on the list and I was elected.”

Rep. Jose Campos, D-Santa Rosa:
“My father. After World War II, he got involved in moving the community forward, in keeping the town alive What inspired me to get involved was to create opportunities for all rural communities, to enjoy quality of life, without gang problems, where we know our neighbors. In large cities, many people don’t know who their neighbors are. Much of our armed servicemen are from rural areas. There’s a quality of life in being raised in rural areas, we need to preserve these areas, and find good jobs to help improve our opportunities.”

Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis:
“It’s something I’ve always been interested in. I got involved in the political process really early, when I was in ninth grade at Marshall Junior High. I always wanted to go the Naval Academy, I got in, (but the) process is writing Congress and senators …When I was in high school I was always involved in the young Republican party. It’s always been an interest and I am fortunate and blessed to be in a position to do this.”

Sen Stuart Ingle, R-Portales:
“I enjoy working with people.”

Rep. Keith Gardner, R-Roswell:
“Frustration and a desire to serve. My dad was in politics and it’s always been interesting to me … to hope to make a difference.”