"Taos, we're in a good position," said state Representative Roberto "Bobby" Gonzales amid the fanfare of a recent swearing-in ceremony.
"Taos, we're in a good position," said state Representative Roberto "Bobby" Gonzales amid the fanfare of a recent swearing-in ceremony. Indeed, Gonzales (D-Taos) was elected for a 13th term in November and when the legislative session was gaveled on Tuesday (Jan. 15), he was the senior-most member in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.
At the same time, the state Senate is also under the leadership of Democrats and Taos's senator, Carlos Cisneros (D-Questa), is second in seniority of that body. And with a Democrat in the governor's house and former University of New Mexico-Taos director Kate O'Neill now heading the state's higher education department, local lawmakers seem excited to get to work.
The Taos News asked both of the area's legislators about their top priorities for the next 60 days.
"There is good reason to be excited about the upcoming legislative session," said Cisneros.
"[We] will be working with a new administration that I believe is going to be much more favorable to the needs of our community. Secondly, we have an abundant amount of surprise monies, [which is] good for general fund appropriation, [and a] significant amount for capital outlay.
"I have already prefiled several bills but I want to focus on the Taos Veterans Cemetery," he said.
The cemetery was established by Taos County several years ago. Local politicians and government administrators have been looking for the money to finish it to federal standards.
"We need $4 million for the … shelter, the columbarium wall and flagpole structure. This is important to our veterans [who] need a resting place in Taos."
Cisneros said other issues of importance are " to have a sustainable substance-abuse treatment facility that will provide long-term treatment and needed relief." A Taos-based detox center closed in 2015 and has not reopened; at the same time, other detox facilities have closed or shrunk services around that state.
Cisneros indicated that the capital projects bill will include money for UNM-Taos. "I am considering a human trafficking and child exploitation prevention bill, and a tax reform bill," he said. "[I] look forward to hearing from constituents on any concern or issue."
House of Representatives
"One of my top priorities is to support education at all levels, from early childhood education to UNM-Taos," said Gonzales ahead of the start of the session.
The Legislature will need to adequately fund education in accordance with [a recent New Mexico] Supreme Court judgment," he said.
Adequate funding, he said, includes several measures. First, it means "directing funds to districts in order to get more dollars into the classroom and increase the salaries of our teachers." But it also means "not aimlessly funding [measurement] programs that will not benefit our students" -- the governor has already signed an executive order eliminating the controversial and expensive standardized tests used in New Mexico over the last several years.
Last, he said "the educational retirement fund also needs to be supported and the current status reviewed."
Gonzales's other priorities for the year include continuing "to support our rural hospitals," such as Holy Cross. "We need to work with our hospitals to create a framework to attract and retain medical professionals."
His last major priority is an old standby: roads. "Infrastructure is at the foundation of economic development. Having quality county roads and other transportation modes will aid our ability to spur economic development opportunities in our community," he said.
To reach Cisneros: (505) 986-4362 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Office at the Capitol, Room 325A
To reach Gonzales: (505) 986-4333 or email@example.com, Office at the Capitol, Room 327
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