Legislator: No surprises in session so far

By Karl Terry: Freedom Newspapers

Editor’s note: As a check on the mood and focus of the 2007 New Mexico State Legislature after its first week, Freedom Newspapers conducted an interview with District 42 Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs. Kernan represents Roosevelt and Curry counties.

Q. What has the overall mood of this Legislature been so far?
A. Everyone is getting along well. We have good leadership on both sides of the aisle. Right now things are very good.

Q. Contrast the start of this session to previous years.
A. That contrast would be more between the 60-day and the 30-day session (this is a 60-day session). In the 30-day session things are so compressed and hectic. To contrast the last two years, though, it’s the leadership that’s the biggest difference. The Senate has more decorum, there is more respect on the floor of the Senate. That has been a good thing.

Q. What bills have you introduced or co-sponsored?
A. I’ve introduced a couple of committee bills for courts and corrections. One requires law enforcement to receive a particular type of training so that we don’t put minors at risk in situations where officers go into a home to make an arrest or take other action. I do want to make it a bill where law enforcement can support it and get the training they need.

Another bill regarding the Public Regulatory Commission would require insurance companies to provide health data to other insurance companies so that businesses can be competitive.

I’ve also sponsored a joint memorial for courts and corrections to study prisoners being released and the barriers that exist to their return to employment. We always want to make sure the public is kept safe but we want them (prisoners) to have the opportunity.

Q. Have there been bills introduced or actions taken that came as a great surprise?
A. Not yet, it’s still so early in the session. … We know there are things circling out there. The cockfighting issue that was featured in an Albuquerque Journal story this weekend is creating a stir. It looks like its time has come.
We’re just getting started with committees, though, and it’s hard to pick out yet what may become controversial.

Q. What legislation do you see as being most important in this session?
A. How we spend the taxpayers’ money. We have more money than usual, and we want to be careful not to create things we won’t be able to support later on. Our goal is to spend that money as carefully as we can.

There’s also a new issue called regulatory justice. We want to make sure executive departments are fair about how they set their rules and regulations. Legislation would seek to call attention to the fact that we’re all (residents and businesses) under the rules and regulations of the various departments.

Q. What initiatives do you feel may be hotly contested?
The governor’s GRIP II (highway funding). We still haven’t completed some of GRIP I. I think that’s one we all realize we need to address and we need to be very careful about how we do it. I know there are concerns with this issue throughout my district.

Q. Do you feel that the governor’s budget of $11 million in increased spending is appropriate?
A. There’s always going to be a difference in where you put the money. Of course, a large portion should go to education, but it’s a matter of working through it all. I think the governor has some good things in his budget and some things we need to work through.

Q. Does the governor’s announcement that he’s seeking the Democratic nomination for president affect this state legislature in any way?
A. I don’t think it will really hamper what we do. I think we have a good lieutenant governor in Diane Denish, we have a good president pro-tem in the Senate. I don’t think it’s going to have a major impact on what we do, and I think he will be very aware of what we do because he has a good staff.