Inside the Capitol

Saturday, March 26, 2011

3-14 Beware of geezers

MON, 3-14-11

SANTA FE – Hey. You young whippersnappers better be careful who you're picking on. We old geezers still have plenty of political muscle.
Two young lawmakers have introduced legislation to deprive senior citizens of their seat on the governor's cabinet and to make it tougher to get driver's licenses.
Rep. Al Park has introduced House Bill 189 to merge the Department of Aging and Long-Term Services into the Human Services Department. It takes away our seat at the table when top New Mexico officials are discussing important matters. Don't want our opinion, huh? We still have some pretty good ideas.
And Sen. Peter Wirth has introduced Senate Bill 125 to make us take a slew of additional tests when we renew our driver's licenses when we turn 75. He wants the Department of Motor Vehicles to test our reflexes, reaction times, motor skills, coordination and possibly other tests of our physical and mental abilities.
Sen. Wirth's idea is to increase the safety of our roads. But I can tell you there are a whole lot of other steps lawmakers can take to make our roads safer that don't involve more tests for the group of people who already are the safest on the road.
We may drive slower but that's usually because we are driving the speed limit. When you read about horrible auto wrecks, they usually don't involve old folks. It's much more likely to be someone who has 10 drunken driving violations on his record already. Do something about the judicial system to correct that before coming after us.
Or how about all those inattentive drivers who are gawking at something on the side of the road, tuning their radio, changing a CD, or worst of all – texting. Next to drunk driving, texting is the most dangerous thing on the road. Old folks don't do a lot of texting.
There is no word on who will be administering the tests if the measure passes. But thses tests take more than a entry level clerk to administer. They sound more like tests a person is administered in a doctor's office.
Those of us who have endured the long waits in Motor Vehicle Department offices know this extra work can't be done without hiring additional employees with health diagnostic training.
And what about the problem of unequal treatment? We may decide that you had better test everyone since seniors already are the safest drivers on the road. Oh, we may drive a little slower but that usually is because we are driving the speed limit.
This may be one of those bills we really don't have to worry about too much.

The Legislature contains many of our fellow senior citizens, who may not be too impressed with Sen. Wirth's thinking.
And selling the whole idea to senior voters next year may not be too easy either. Besides being the safest drivers on the road, we're also the most frequent voters.
While we're talking about us old folks, I saw quite a few of them on the basketball court for the annual house-Senate game recently. Some of those folks have stayed in very good shape.
The lawmakers put on a very impressive show, with Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino demonstrating that even guys almost my age can still get up and down the court.
The games have livened up over the years. University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University, a;pmg woth Santa Fe High School cheerleaders added to the fun, along with former NMSU and Illinois University coach Lou Henson coaching the House and UNM football coach Mike Locksley coaching the Senate.
Coach Locksley's luck hasn't changed since football season. The Senate, which won last year's game, managed to lose this year.
It is nice to see womenbreak into the lineups of the House-Senate game. Rep. Rhonda King, a high school star at Moriarty, displayed her skills for the fans.


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