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Lawmakers should keep efforts focused on COVID-19


We will be dealing with the fallout of COVID-19 for years.

The fallout will include nearly immeasurable long-term issues with health (both physical and behavioral), many social issues and far-reaching negative economic impacts, some of which we may not even realize right now. Not since World War II has an event had such far-reaching impact on humanity.

The American and New Mexican responses require urgent action.

Why then, are our federal and state governments spending so much time on things distracting attention away from the pandemic response?

Our U.S. House of Representatives and Senate spent the first six weeks of its 2020 Congress on the impeachment of a man who’s no longer president. And while Americans have strongly differing opinions on what that outcome SHOULD have been, almost everyone knew from Day One what the outcome WOULD be.

Consequently, valuable time working on national pandemic responses was lost.

In addition, Congress has spent time on several other non-pandemic issues.

Our state legislature, which has far less time, has delved into a lot of issues irrelevant to the most pressing issue of the day.

Here are just some of the bills and issues our state legislators have introduced, discussed and debated since they convened Jan. 20 for its 60-day session:

  • Auto racing on city streets
  • Putting the words “In God We Trust” on all public buildings and license plates
  • Confinement of egg-laying hens
  • Creating a state-run bank
  • Abandoned automobiles
  • Barber and cosmetologist duties
  • Habitual offender judicial flexibility
  • Statewide weather stations
  • There seem to be fewer of those notorious non-binding, time-taking measures – memorials and resolutions – but there is one addressing New Mexico/Taiwan relations.

I may be missing something, but I haven’t heard a reason explaining any urgency regarding New Mexico’s relations with Taiwan. Lawmakers believe all their bills are important to constituents, but few, if any, have COVID-19’s urgency. Anything not directly related to getting us out of the physical, social and economic drawdown of the pandemic is not urgent. Almost anything else can and should be delayed.

Both our federal and state legislatures need to be taking an all-out assault on addressing the many aspects of our society under siege due to the pandemic. The efforts need to be well-thought-out, forward-thinking, aggressive and as fiscally prudent as possible. Attention needs to be laser-focused.

One area both our federal and state governments have spent too much time on is the oil and gas industry. For our country, and much more so for our state, revenues from the oil and gas industry are vital to our economy.

I agree we need to address issues regarding climate change. But emissions from U.S. and New Mexico oil and gas extraction are a tiny piece of the worldwide problem. Current Congressional efforts to curtail drilling on federal lands, and multiple New Mexico Legislature efforts to restrict the industry, could add another drastic negative impact on an already reeling economy.

In New Mexico, almost half of our state’s revenue comes from oil and gas taxes. And almost 40 percent of that is from drilling on federal lands such as the Bureau of Land Management. If the harshest of those restrictions, both state and federal, come to pass, it will essentially mean the end of the state of New Mexico as we know it.

We’re already just about the poorest state in the U.S. If we lose nearly half of the revenue we have, what then?

Chances are, you and I won’t be able to stay here and be employed. And there won’t be much consolation knowing we helped reduce the world’s carbon emissions by 0.000001 percent.

Richard Coltharp