Bill considers right to eat enchiladas

By Ned Cantwell: State Columnist

Should have known better. My teenage grandson said I just had to rent “Napoleon Dynamite.” I love Kyle and figure that sooner or later there has to be a movie we both like.

You would think that after “Anchorman,” a real piece of doo-doo, the lesson would have been learned. It wasn’t. I tried again, and “Napoleon” was only half-bad.

Kyle wasn’t the only one who thought this movie about a weird kid in Idaho was a smashing success. Idaho loved it. Idaho loved it so much that the state Legislature there formally praised the filmmakers.

I thought New Mexico was the only state whose lawmakers took off on frequent flights of fantasy. Not so. “Whereas,” the Idaho proclamation declared, “Tater Tots figure prominently in this film, thus promoting Idaho’s most famous export, and…” blah, blah, blah.

This column takes pride in keeping up with the more ludicrous aspects of the New Mexico State Legislature and thought it was on top of things. That’s before I got the e-mail from reader James Walterscheid who wondered why we missed the Right to Eat Enchiladas Act.

The what? And yet there it is, House Bill 553, introduced by Rep. Terry T. Marquardt, a Republican eye physician from Alamogordo.

Had it succeeded, this piece of legislation would have taken its place in New Mexico history right next to another great accomplishment, the legislative act that established the Official State Question, “red or green?”

Alas, it was not to be. Those of us who cherish our right to bear arms, our right to free speech, our right to the pursuit of happiness, will not have the comfort of knowing we have the right to eat enchiladas. Our headstrong legislature, so wrapped up as it was with trivial matters such as pre-K education, Medicaid spending and renewable energy, could not find time to get to the only issue of importance, filling our bellies.

At its core, the Right to Eat Enchiladas Act would have made it illegal for you — and by “you,” I mean “you, the guy with three double cheeseburgers on your tray” — to go to Taco Bell, eat four tacos, three enchiladas and two burritos, then sue Taco Bell because you gained 5 pounds.

Here’s what it says: “Purpose of Act: The purpose of the Right to Eat Enchiladas Act is to prevent frivolous lawsuits against manufacturers, packers, distributors, carriers, holders, sellers, marketers or advertisers of food that comply with applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.”

It would seem, then, the legislative title is a misnomer. It is not the Right to Eat Enchiladas Act. It is the Right To Eat Until We Can Do A Credible Imitation Of The Goodyear Blimp As Long As We Take Responsibility For Our Own Gluttony.

Rep. Marquardt is drop dead from eating too many chimichangas serious about his tort reform bill that the Public Affairs Committee sent to the legislative graveyard when its three Republicans were outvoted by its four Democrats.

He said he gave the bill its fanciful title so that nosy columns such as this would call him and give the issue more publicity. It worked. And he won’t be giving up the fight for tort reform any day soon.

So like the cockfighting ban, which has been on the New Mexico legislative agenda so many years it seems even longer than the Michael Jackson trial, tort reform will be back. Stay tuned.

Ned Cantwell is a syndicated New Mexico columnist who prefers red. Contact him at: ncantwell@charter.net