Heinrich: Act on energy, education

By:  Dan Boyd

SANTA FE – U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich called on state lawmakers Friday to pass legislation dealing with renewable energy, climate change and early childhood education during their ongoing 60-day legislation.

In a 20-minute speech, Heinrich, a Democrat, said the session represents a “once-in-a-generation opportunity,” due largely to an unprecedented state revenue windfall.

He also said state voters sent a clear message during last November’s election – they’re tired of the status quo.

A former Albuquerque city councilor and U.S. House member, Heinrich defeated two opponents last fall to win election to a second six-year term in the U.S. Senate.

He said he plans to introduce federal legislation this year to convert Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos and White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico into national parks.

Such recognition would lead to higher visitation rates and possibly more federal spending on upgrades, Heinrich said.

On a state level, Heinrich urged lawmakers to approve legislation to create a state outdoor recreation office, reinstate an expired solar energy tax credit and establish new renewable energy standards before adjournment on March 16.

“Although we have some of the best renewable resources in the nation, we are behind many other states in terms of clean energy targets and investments,” Heinrich said.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who took office at the start of the year, has also called on legislators to pass those initiatives.

Meanwhile, Heinrich also voiced support for a plan to take money from the state’s $17 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund for home visiting and other early childhood programs, a proposal that some moderate Democrats in the Legislature have opposed.

On the subject of border security, Heinrich told reporters after his Friday speech to lawmakers that federal dollars should be spent wisely, and not on a border wall proposed by President Donald Trump.

Most heroin and fentanyl brought into the United States from Mexico is smuggled through ports of entry, Heinrich said, and additional federal dollars should be targeted at technological upgrades at those facilities.

“By investing in our ports of entry, we would make the entire border safer,” he said.

Although Trump’s decision to end a partial federal government shutdown was not announced until after Heinrich’s speech, the senator released a statement later Friday describing the shutdown as “unnecessary” and saying affected workers should receive any back pay owed to them as quickly as possible.

New Mexico’s other U.S. senator, fellow Democrat Tom Udall, previously addressed the Legislature on Tuesday.