Thursday, February 03, 2005

ROUNDHOUSE ROUND-UP: THE KOMADINA FACTOR

As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Feb. 3, 2004


From hot air balloons to horse meat. From cockfighting to enchiladas. From drug-testing state officials to legalizing medical marijuana.

There is never any shortage of controversial bills and sometimes even some quirky bills during a legislative session. But this year some of the most controversial and quirky — and headline grabbing — have come from a colorful two-term Republican senator, Steve Komadina of Corrales.

In general Republicans don’t introduce many bills. For one thing, adding large numbers of new laws to the books goes against their small-government philosophy. Secondly, being in the minority party in both chambers of the Legislature — and these days having a Democratic governor — some Republican lawmakers get rather fatalistic about the chances of their bills passing. Thus, they tend to play defensive during a session, concentrating on a couple of pet issues.

But that’s not the case with Komadina, who has introduced 30 bills so far this session. That’s not as many as some Democrats, more than any other Republican in either chamber — even more than prolific bill author Sen. Joe Carraro, R-Albuquerque, who as of Tuesday night had only dropped 23 bills.

"I always introduce a lot of bills," Komadina said Wednesday. "During my first session I introduced 20. That’s a lot for a freshman."

Komadina said he doesn’t introduce bills for the sake of introducing bills. “These are my issues or those of my constituents. I’m their voice when I’m up here.”

Thus there is the "Right to Eat Enchiladas Act" (SB 291), "tort reform" bill that would prohibit overweight people from filing lawsuits against restaurants for causing obesity and the Elected Official Drug Testing Act — which would set up a state Web site publishing the results of state officials who agree to submit to random drug tests. (Those leaders who refused would be allowed to explain why on the proposed Web site.)

Drug-reform advocates are bound to fight that one. But Komadina is their hero in another issue. He plans to introduce a medical marijuana bill, to legalize the drug for treatment of specific serious ailments. Komadina said his bill would have criminal penalties for unauthorized people using or selling medical marijuana.

Many Komadina bills deal with animals.

Senate Bill 72 would make federal or state wildlife officials personally liable for criminal penalties if any of the wolves they release into the wild attack humans or livestock.

SB 67 would prohibit the slaughter of horses for human consumption.

SB 66 would prohibit cockfighting in New Mexico — one of the last two states in the union that allows the sport.

A couple of his bills add to the ever growing list of state symbols. SB 13 would make the hot air balloon as official state aircraft. Komadina is a past president of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

It’s not certain whether making the balloon the official state aircraft would conflict with another Komadina bill, SB 159, which would limit hot air balloon tort liability. (Brace yourself for the "Right to Eat Enchiladas on Hot Air Balloons Act.")

And this week he introduced SB 585, which would make the New Mexican horse the official state horse.

"This is one I’m really excited about," he said. The New Mexican horse is a breed that is descended from horses belonging to the Spanish conquistadors.

Komadina pointed out a group called the New Mexican Horse Project, founded by historian Carlos LoPopolo, which is dedicated to preserving the original bloodlines of the Spanish Mustang horses and is building wild horse preserves.

When someone introduces this much talked-about legislation it’s natural to wonder whether a lawmaker is considering a stab at a higher office.

Not so, says Komadina. "I’m not running for anything. I have no ulterior motives. I love being in the Senate."

A river runs through it: My old friend Erik Ness, longtime spokesman for the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau, brought my attention to a “Quote of the week” in a recent edition of his organization’s newsletter, attributed to Ramblin' Lee Reaves, a now-retired country disc jockey at KGRT AM in Las Cruces.

"The legislature is a lot like the Rio Grande. Clear and murky, cold and hot, shallow and deep, fast and slow and with just enough quicksand to keep you honest."

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