Next Tuesday the gavel comes down at the state capitol, signaling the opening the 2020 session of the New Mexico Legislature. As State Senator for the 28th District, Gabriel Ramos represents Socorro, Catron and Grant counties, and last week outlined his priorities for the 30 day session.
It all has to do with how much money is in the state coffers this year.
“There’s definitely a surplus again, but we don’t know right now how much we’re going to get,” Ramos said. “The projections show us getting little less for our district than we did last year, so that will be a concern. Hopefully those projections are wrong and we’ll get more than what we’re planning on.”
At the top his list is a bill he is sponsoring to control underage vaping. Senate Bill 9 – the E-Cigarette and E-Liquid Act – will prohibit anyone less than 21 years of age from being sold vaping products. “This has become a major problem with our youth and we need to prevent kids from getting their hands on it,” he said. “We’re never going stop the black market, but with this we can control the sale of it.
“We’ve already pre-filed that bill,” Ramos said.
Another bill Ramos is working on concerns feral cattle in the district.
“Right now I’ve got a bill that we’re working on is for the removal of feral cattle on the Gila and the Tularosa River,” he said. The feral cows out there are running wild and have been for many years. They’re not branded and can carry and spread disease.”
Feral cows can also affect agricultural productivity by competing with domestic cattle for food and water. “We want to do our best to see if we can get them out of the forest,” Ramos said. “They are property of the state so we do have to take care of that problem.”
Appropriating funds for combating narcotic and drug trafficking is another priority.
“I’ll be asking for $100,000 for Socorro, Grant and Catron counties’ Sheriff’s offices that would help them fight the drug problem,” he said. “Last year we got $50,000, so this year we need twice that.”
Ramos said he will be asking for funds in the neighborhood of $100,000 to conduct further testing by The New Mexico Environmental Department at the Eagle Picher Carefree Battery Superfund Site. “And another $50,000 to construct a fence around that area.”
As a member of the Senate Education Committee, Ramos favors revamping New Mexico’s education polices, including increasing pay for teachers.
“On the Education Committee, we submitted a budget that would give teachers and faculty an average of a six percent raise,” he said. “It ranges from nine percent to three percent with the average at six percent.
“We’ve got to revamp our education policies,” Ramos said. “There are plenty of funds in the budget which we passed in the Senate Education Committee.”
As for the two universities in the district – New Mexico Tech and Western New Mexico University – Ramos said he will be looking to build STEM education and outreach in the district.
In addition, at Western, there has been an initiative to open a food bank for students.
“They have one in place but we want to make sure we can put sufficient funds into it.”
He said he also looks to supporting one at New Mexico Tech, “if the pilot program at Western works.”
“They can’t study if they’re hungry,” Ramos said. “We’re always working to do what we can for New Mexico Tech.”
As for the pending marijuana legislation, “I have a feeling that it’s going to pass, with restrictions.”
“We’ll have to look closely at those restrictions, what they’re going to be,” Ramos said. “I know there’s a lot of concern from the legislators that I’ve talked to, but if we got a good bill with restrictions, I think it could pass.
“One thing that I’ve seen is gross receipts tax the county and municipalities would be receiving. I believe, seven percent each. That would go to Socorro and the county,” he said. “On the state level we’re looking at taxing it at over 17 percent. Those are the numbers that have been thrown around.”
The proof will be in the pudding, he said, when it goes through the committees and then to the floor.
“These things we’re starting out with, and there are a few others we’ll be trying to get done as we go through the session,” Ramos said. “And of course we’ve got a lot of capital outlay projects that are being requested all the way from Quemado and Datil, Magdalena, Socorro. We’ll what we can to bring home as much money as possible.”
Ramos is Vice Chair on the Senate Indian and Cultural Affairs Committee and a member of the Senate Education Committee.
He also co-chairs the Tobacco Settlement Revenue Oversight Committee.
“If people have any questions or comments to please don’t hesitate to call, especially during the session,” Ramos said. “If we can’t answer the phone we’ll get back to them as soon as possible.”
His capitol phone number is 505-986-4863.