Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Take on Interesting bills introduced in the Legislature.

I spent my first few hours at the legislature on Tuesday as myself and numerous other Sheriff's from across the state traveled to the roundhouse to appear at committee hearings on bills which were of interest to Sheriffs. Some of these included the following.

A bill the New Mexico Sheriffs Affiliate of the New Mexico Association of Counties is supporting is one which would allow two term limited Sheriff's to run for three terms before becoming term limited. This is a compromise after years of unsuccessful attempts to remove term limits for Sheriff's. If you were not aware I am on the second and final term of office and will be removed as Sheriff by the state constitution. The term limits are in the State Constitution and if changes to it are passed in the legislature it will still have to go to a statewide vote as a constitutional amendment.

I don't have much hope in this passing but I believe it would be a good bill. I truly believe that the voters are the best term limit option and as New Mexico is only one of a handful of states that has term limits for Sheriff's it places us in a position of losing good people who have great experience. I can tell you from experience that the first four years go fast and it takes a good three years to get things going smoothly and any major projects which involve large amounts of funding can take most of your two terms to come to fruition. As a side note I would not benefit from this bill should it be passed by both the legislature and the voters. I also think its interesting that the legislature has passed term limit laws for all county elected officials and all state county officials with few exemptions. What are those exemptions? The District Attorney, Judges, and of course, State legislators.

Another slate of bills being watched closely by Sheriff's and counties are those that help counties whom are bearing the huge costs of keeping state prisoners in county jails, and bills that require the state to transport their own prisoners to courts and hearings. As it is now Sheriff's must send deputies to transport prisoners to court hearings and other legal proceedings. This pulls hundreds of deputies off the streets and sends them to transport prisoners which are completely the responsibility of the State. It is a huge cost and burden to local jurisdictions.

A very important set of bills which have little chance of passing in today's economic times is one which requires the state to set up psychiatric and mental health facilities and programs in the state. As we all remember from the recent cases of John Hyde and Cho Seung-Hui the Virginia Tech Killer. Both had brushes with the mental health systems in their states and both states failed them and their eventual solution was mass murder.

New Mexico needs to expand our mental health system and provide expanded in patient care. The waiting lists are too long and continued outpatient care is lacking in resources and funding. those in need of constant care and monitoring need a system that provides that care as well as funds the care. Many mentally ill individuals are unable to hold down jobs especially with out assistance and monitoring to ensure they are taking their medications. Going back to the Johnson administration we have cut and underfunded mental health facilities and programs. New Mexico needs to invest in these programs and begin to be proactive in preventing these kinds of deaths. It is unfortunate that those monies were not spent in the past years where the states coffers overflowed with oil and gas money.

As I was looking over the countless number of bills bieng presented one caught my eye if only for the sanctions bieng proposed. Our own Santa Fe Freshman Representative Brian Egolf intoduced a bill which will prevent wasteful government printing and mailing of annual reports, calendars, updates, etc. The bill states that there shall be no unsolicited mailing of bound materials in excess of five pages by any state agency, division, board, commission, etc. There is also a penalty for a violation of the law - any cabinet secretary or division director who violates the law will get a ten percent salary reduction.

WOW, imagine if we expanded that idea to all kinds of laws. If the Governor or legislator conducts a ethics violation maybe we can fine them ten percent of thier salaries or per diem. Maybe if a reporter or member of the media makes a mistake or misquotes an elected official they would pay ten percent of thier salaries fine to the state. The state could use this money to overcome the deficit. Ok, Ok, I jest but really is this a serious bill? I like Brian Egolf and his ideas to conserve our natural resources but I really think the way to go is to pass a bill requiring these reports and updates be placed on the internet. The money saved by doing this can be used to expand free wireless internet systems state wide. Or at least to increase funding to provide free computers and internet access in librarys and state buildings throughout the state. Then one day (when and if) we have the ability to watch the legislative session via the internet those who cannot afford high speed internet will have access to it.

This blog post is longer than most and I still have other bills that I am interested in but perhaps another post another day.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In Memoriam, Deputy Dominic Smith

Last week on Monday January 19, 2009 Deputy Dominic Smith was killed during a traffic stop in Torrance County NM. Deputy Smith is survived by a wife and two children, ages 9 and 11. All those in Law Enforcement offer our heartfelt condolences to his family and his brothers and sister deputies in Torrance County.

It is like a family member has died whenever I learn of a fellow officer who gives his or her life in performance of their duties. Although in the movies and TV officers usually die by firearm the truth of the matter is that auto accidents are the primary killer of law enforcement. In New Mexico including Deputy Smith there has been 17 officers killed in the line of duty during the last eight years. Out of those 11 were during traffic accidents. Deputy Smith was killed while standing in the roadway taking photographs of a vehicle which was stopped during a traffic stop and later found to contain drugs.

This is a good reminder to all to be extra careful when you see those flashing lights ahead. Everyone should slow down and pull into the outside lane or the lane furthest from the side of the road where the police cars are parked. Drivers often also get fixated on seeing what is happening rather than being mindful of persons or vehicles in the roadway. The flashing police lights are good in that they warn drivers of a accident or traffic stop ahead however, they can also conceal pedestrians and can distract drivers from paying attention to anything else.

In the case of Deputy Smith it appears that the vehicle that struck him came from a blind curve and possibly did not have time to react or see the police lights. This is a rare case but one which officers need to try and recognize and set up warning vehicles ahead of the accident or traffic stop where they are visible. I have often told my staff that if the vehicle stops in an unsafe place use the P.A. system and have them pull forward to a driveway or a spot which is safer. Both the police and the public need to work together to prevent these types of deaths or severe injuries which occur at accident scenes and traffic stops.

Sometimes sentences like the one I am about to type are cliche' however, I think it still needs to be said. The best tribute we can give to Deputy Smith is to use this as a training tool to help ensure it does not happen to anyone else.

I will end this blog with the way I started it, my heartfelt condolences go out to Deputy Dominic Smiths family and the deputies and Sheriff who worked with him. God Bless you and support you as you grieve.

Monday, January 05, 2009

A Return to Blogging for the New Year.

I am not sure anyone noticed but I took an unplanned respite from blogging for the last couple of months in 2008. I am not one for resolutions however, I did say I would return to this blog in 2009. As luck would have it the day I decided to sit down and blog again became the biggest news day to hit New Mexico since the last big news day in New Mexico.

Governor Bill Richardson dropped his nomination proceedings to the Commerce Secretary position offered him by President Elect Barack Obama.

I probably can't add more to this than every local and national news source has added since the bombshell dropped Sunday Morning. My phone rang constantly for about two hours after the news hit the airwaves. Most wanted to see what my take would be on the Lieutenant Governor race of 2010 which I had previously thrown my hat into.

It is early to say a lot, I like many will be watching the Pinon Nuts as they fall from the trees. I am the only candidate who has expressed an interest in Lieutenant Governor who has no ties to the Richardson administration and his fundraising efforts. Other than a $50 ticket here and there I just have never had the funds to attend and donate to the countless $1,000 or more a plate dinners, round tables, and other functions. I have never been appointed to a high paying job or position in State Government. Of course I am not saying that if you have ties to the Richardson Administration that you are automatically tainted and I actually hope that for the sake of New Mexico and its recent string of corruption trials that the whole CDR Investigation is a wash and no illegal activity occurred.

I have not given up on the race for Lieutenant Governor and my resume was in the hands of Lieutenant Governor Dianne Denish and her transition team. This recent event was not one I nor most others were expecting but it is in line with the string of political firsts that have occurred throughout 2008. From Senator Pete Dominici's departure to the loss of Heather Wilson to Steve Pearce, and then the great democrats sweep of congressional seats, culminating with the election of the first Democratic Black President, 2008 was an astonishing political year which seems now to carry on into 2009 for New Mexico.

An interesting side note, CDR Financial Products the company involved in the investigation which triggered Governor Richardson's pulling his name from the Secretary of Commerce broke the top 100 of googled items on Jan 4, 2009. Google has a feature called Google Trends where you can see the top items googled on a particular day. Coming in at number 100 was CDR Financial Products. As part of the feature you can see the time of the day an item peaked and where in the country the largest hits came from. The largest number of hits 7% came from Albuquerque N.M. . As you can see in the chart below provided by Google Trends the hits peaked at 11:00 am just 40 minutes after the news of Governor Richardson's withdrawal hit the national airwaves.

One final interesting side note Republican Mike Huckabee took 3 of the top 100 spots in the top 100 googled searches, 11th, 24th and 37th. Because people can search for name, website, and other variations or spelling errors typed in to google's search feature persons can make the list in more than one spot. Interesting, anyway it is good to be back writing again. I want to end this with a wish that 2009 is a good year for all of you, yes it is already Jan 5, 2009 but it is never to late to wish good for someone.