Frivolous legislation order of the day

By Ned Cantwell

The Legislature had nothing to do with it. Gov. Bill Richardson did it. Nonetheless, as we look back on the marathon session of the New Mexico State Legislature, it is puzzling.

New Mexico has adopted as her Official State Aircraft the hot air balloon. There has been no lack of hot air the past couple of months in Santa Fe. Now that the legislative session has ended, however, one must wonder how Big Bill thinks he can get away with his unilateral declaration.

Where does Richardson get off naming a state aircraft when other official state designated symbols have traditionally been the purview of the legislative branch?

As an example, New Mexico did not choose the Spadefoot Toad as her Official State Amphibian without considerable hand wringing among our elected representatives. The Sandia Hairstreak did not win acclamation as New Mexico’s Official State Butterfly before ringing debate by eloquent lawmakers.

Nonetheless, there was Bill Richardson one day, swaggering into a press conference, just drunk with power or perhaps sugar-jazzed by too many Super- Sized Snicker bars. The hot air balloon is official, says he. That’s it? No committee assignments? No environmental impact statements?

The governor was no doubt honoring the state’s international balloon festival. And certainly our lawmakers might have been far too bogged down with weighty, and ponderous, and life-altering issues to delve into frivolous matters such as hot air balloons.

For instance, this is the year the Legislature finally took up the critical issue of unfinished wine. Ever since we became a state back in 1912, New Mexicans have been going to restaurants, ordering a bottle of wine, and leaving half of it on the table when they pay the bill.

Leaving a bottle of unfinished wine is a horrible social problem. One wonders why the Legislature would even think of bothering with food for kids programs or pre-k or gambling reform when they know that somewhere in New Mexico there is sitting on a table an open bottle of Chardonnay that is going to go to waste if the dishwasher doesn’t get to it first.

Riding to the rescue on this one was Rep. Jim Trujillo of Santa Fe. His bill would allow us to cart home our wine bottle provided we have been drinking it during dinner and provided we eat a “full course meal.”

Look for legislation next session, House Bill 9,430, An Act Related to Eating, Defining the Term Full Course Meal, Declaring Such Meal Will Include Soup And Maybe Salad But Not To Include Salad When The Dressing Is Ordered As A Side, Thereby…

Don’t think you are going to just waltz out of the steakhouse with your wine. First, you must take the bottle to the cash register, have it resealed and tagged. Here is a law with teeth, if not bad breath.

This is not to suggest that our lawmakers ignored issues of a more serious nature. Sen. Leonard Lee Rawson, a Las Cruces Republican, was pushing a law to make it illegal for body artists to split my tongue. Long overdue. How many times have I awakened with the prayer, “Lord, give me the strength to resist the temptation to go have my tongue split today.”

Let’s drink to it with the two inches of Merlot we just carted home from Cattle Baron.

Ned Cantwell is a New Mexico columnist who needs to find something else to whine about. Contact him at: