To The Point
by Caren Cowan
Another One in the Books
The 2015 New Mexico State Legislature is history. Governor Susana Martinez has 20 days from the close of the Legislature, March 21, to sign, veto, or pocket veto the less than 200 bills that made it to her desk.
The Session was unique as they all are. It seemed to take awhile to get rolling but there were enough early morning and late night committee meetings to wear a person out.
Some have been critical of the perceived lack of action by the body during the 60 days. Undoubtedly there was some important legislation that should have been addressed but wasn’t. But there have been many wiser than me that have said we have enough laws on the books… maybe we should start taking some laws off the books one of these years.
The budget got done and that’s the number one priority of a legislature. Unfortunately the capital outlay bill didn’t make it and there is word that the Legislature may call itself back into Special Session to address that single issue. The Governor has made it clear that she will not be calling the body back. A one day Session is estimated to cost over $50,000.
Surely there are important projects that will go without funding if there is no Special. However there have years when there was no capital outlay at all available due to funding constraints. Because of the dramatic drop in oil and gas prices there was far less money available to the state than was envisioned last summer.
While we enjoy the lower gas prices as individuals and businesses, there are pretty dire consequences to them to the state as a whole.
The New Mexico Cattle Growers’
HB 38 Forest & Watershed Restoration Act – This bill creates a fund for large scale collaborative watershed restoration.
SB/HB 112 Define Agricultural Use for Property Tax – This bill provides guidance to county assessors in times of drought.
SB 123 Clarify Livestock Definition – There were conflicting definitions of livestock in livestock code preventing prosecution of some thefts. This measure standardizes the definitions. (A sheep thief avoided prosecution because sheep were not in one of the definitions.)
SB 226 Use of Public Water & Landowner Protection – This measure codifies current practices of the Game Commission in terms of stream access, clarifying the confusion created by the former Attorney General’s opinion on the subject.
SB 398 Running at Large of Livestock – This bill addresses antiquated language in the livestock code changing the word “shall” to “may” when county commissions are considering petitions.
The most notable of those the Association opposed were the anti-coyote hunting contest and anti-trapping bills. (See last month’s “Point” for details on these measures.)
Among the disappointments during the Session were the demise of the Federal Lands Study Commission (also see last month), the enhanced Right to Farm Bill and the video-ing of animal cruelty without timely reporting enhancement to the animal cruelty statute.
I cannot help reiterating some of last month’s column on the animal cruelty topic. I remain astounded that a group call Animal Protection of New Mexico (APNM) could stand up and support animal cruelty and go on to state that 72 percent of the American public supports it too. The theory is that undercover videos are necessary “to build a case” against cruelty perpetrators; one must takes weeks and months of video. Then they must be held and edited for weeks and months before being turned over to appropriate authorities, often in concert with a media blitz. All the while, the purported animal cruelty continues.
I really doubt that that 72 percent of the American public totally gets the process of these undercover videos they are
Foiling the plan…
This wasn’t the only crossing of horns with APNM during the 2015 Legislature. The group generally comes forward with something to make the animal cruelty statute more aggressive and invasive. This year they took a different tact.
Their first bill, HB 147, was aimed at moving the Animal Sheltering Board from under the Regulation & Licensing Department Board to the Environment Department. Seemed like an odd fit especially considering that the Animal Sheltering Board was created under the livestock code.
The Board was created in 2007 and began taking actions in 2009, although the body is supposed to have nine (9) members from the following:
(1) one euthanasia agency employee with training and education in euthanasia;
(2) one veterinarian who has provided paid or unpaid services to an animal shelter;
(3) one representative from a nonprofit animal advocacy group;
(4) one member of the public;
(5) a manager or director of a New Mexico facility that provides shelter to animals on a regular basis, provided that the manager or director selected is trained in animal shelter standards;
(6) one representative of the New Mexico association of counties;
(7) one representative of the New Mexico municipal league;
(8) one member of a rescue organization; and
(9) one member of the domestic pet breeder community.
No more than two board members shall be appointed from any one county within the state. Appointments shall be made in such manner that the terms of no more than three board members expire on July 1 of each year.
Currently there are only three (3) members. We are unsure of there ever has been a full Board but the small group has been taking actions since 2009.
According to its website, the function of the Animal Sheltering Board is to license euthanasia technicians and euthanasia agencies (animal shelters that perform euthanasia) and will certify euthanasia instructors who teach euthanasia technician training courses. The Board’s rules set requirements for obtaining a license or certificate and set forth duties of the licensees and certificate holders. The Board will inspect licensed euthanasia agencies, investigate complaints filed about the provision of euthanasia services at a euthanasia agency, hold hearings on complaints as needed, and take disciplinary action as appropriate for violations of the Animal Sheltering Act or the rules under the Act. In July 2009 the Animal Sheltering Board adopted rules to regulate the provision of euthanasia services at animal shelters in New Mexico.
Other functions of the Board are to develop recommended shelter standards for infrastructure and operations and to address companion animal overpopulation and spay/neuter programs. Note that the standards for shelters will be recommended, not mandatory. The Board will not, unless its enabling legislation is changed, have the authority to enforce the recommended standards. The Board doesn’t have authority to investigate complaints about shelter standards.
The Environment Department didn’t take a position on the move. Although the NMCGA quietly worked against the bill, it sailed through the House.
Then the plot thickened. About the same time as the transfer bill started through Senate, HB 415, Statewide Dog & Cat Spay & Neuter Program, popped up on the radar. It had been called to our attention during the coyote/trapping wars and we didn’t pay enough attention.
This little gem started out with “new material” of an optional designation of tax refund contribution and looked benign enough. It become more sinister as it created a sub account and fund to carry out a statewide spay and neuter program. But remember, the Animal Sheltering Board can only recommend.
The killer came at the end where it took the Animal Sheltering Board’s duties from recommending spay and neuter plans to implementing a statewide spay and neuter program. The diabolical plan came to light.
The Regulation & Licensing Department doesn’t really have enforcement powers. The Environment Department does. If the Statewide Spay & Neuter bill, with its funding, passed AND the Animal Sheltering Board was moved to the Environment Department, that Board would be in a much more powerful position in terms of enforcement.
The Rest Of The Story…
Then came the final Tuesday of the Legislature and the final meetings of the Senate Conservation Committee and the Senate Public Affairs Committee. HB 147, the transfer to Environment Department bill showed up on the Consent Calendar for the Conservation Committee.
A bill can move by consent, with no need for a hearing, when there is no one in the room opposed to the bill. Michelle was in Albuquerque working and recovering from a bad bout of the flu. I was in Albuquerque taking my FBI Citizens Academy Class (more on this topic later). President-Elect Pat Boone was in Stephenville, Texas, watching his son, Cinco, coach the Angelo State Rams in the NCAA Division II Sweet 16. Alicia was in Santa Fe with NMCGA Director Alfredo Roybal.
When Alicia saw the Consent Calendar, she texted Michelle for direction. The answer was at least get HB 147 pulled off of consent and get a hearing. Sweet, innocent looking, demure Alicia and Alfredo stood up to oppose the bill on consent. That led to a Committee discussion and the realization that the Animal Sheltering Board was agency shopping – a practice generally frowned upon by the Legislature without a valid reason for a move. That led to the bill being tabled and effectively dying.
A bit later in the evening the Senate Public Affairs Committee took up HB 415, the statewide spay and neuter program bill. The National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA) Albuquerque Kennel Club’s Robert DeYoung arrived with an amendment in hand to at least make the program a voluntary program, taking away the teeth of the bill. The Kennel Club and many other dog and cat owners had primed the Committee with the problems in the bill.
Alicia and Alfredo arrived on the scene and took up the cause. The result was the bill was amended to require the Animal Sheltering Board to develop criteria for individuals, groups, animal shelters, and euthanasia agencies to receive assistance for dog and cat sterilization. The amendment also required the Board to develop a voluntary statewide dog and cat spay and neuter program.
To say APNM was livid with rage would be an understatement. The group’s executive director attempted to keep Alicia from leaving the hearing room and berated her. If there is a badge of honor at the Legislature, Alicia earned it in her first year! I am sorry I missed it.
One might wonder why NMCGA would spend time on dog and cat specific legislation. There are many reasons. The most successful folks in the Legislature are those who can build broad coalitions on a wide variety of issues. Bob DeYoung has his hands full with his full time job and his dogs. But he took time out of his schedule to support NMCGA, all of agriculture, and the hunting and trapping folks, in the fight against anti-coyote and anti-trapping. He showed up for Right to Farm and made calls and emails on most of our issues.
Additionally, the assault against pets is one that is coming to animal agriculture faster than anyone thinks. If you can tell people whether or not they can own intact animals or require a fee to own and possess such animals and the principle will remain with dogs and cats, you might think again.
In retaliation, APNM openly joined forces with the trial lawyers, conservation voters, the Sierra Club and other opponents of the Right to Farm Bill. While it was disappointing that this bill didn’t make it through its last committee in the Senate, it wasn’t because of opposition. It just ran out of time and didn’t get heard.
Some may wonder why Right to Farm was an issue for yet another year. It is because there is a long way to go until agriculture is protected against those who want animal agriculture stopped. This was the third or fourth year there has been a right to farm bill.
The first year(s) the measure died. Last year we were successful in get only one word, yes, just a single word was changed.
It generally takes at least five (5) years to get a measure passed. So, we have a few years to go.
I am out of space and out of time. Watch next month for updates on the wolf, elk, mountain lion and horse issues that were taken up in the 2015 Legislature. n