Inside the Capitol

Monday, February 06, 2012

2-10 Metal detectors in our state capitol?

21012 Legis 7
SANTA FE – Soon we may have to go through metal detectors to visit our state capitol. It's too bad. New Mexico has always prided itself on having a very open capitol. In some states it is necessary to have an appointment to get into the area where legislative offices are located.
In New Mexico one can stroll into the capitol and wander through the building, admiring the artwork and visiting legislative offices and committee rooms. Apparently we still could do that under rules suggested by legislators fearful of their security. We'd just have to go through imposing metal detectors first to be checked for handguns and anything else dangerous one might be carrying.
The reason for this legislative paranoia is the dubious acts of "occupiers" who disrupted Gov. Susana Martinez's opening address to the Legislature this year. A few days later, these folks burst into a dinner hosted by a national conservative organization for Republican legislators.
The handful of occupiers did a lot of yelling and distributed fake menus stating some of their grievances with the organization. Evidently they threw some of the menus too because a companion of Rep. Bill Rehm, an Albuquerque Republican lawmaker, was hit in the eye by one.
Although the occupiers have caused trouble, they seem more likely to protest gun ownership rather than carry guns themselves. Members of the Tea Party, on the other hand, are more likely to support gun ownership.
But although tea partiers sometimes carry guns to rallies in support of their second amendment rights, they do not seem to be any threat to legislators despite their summer of yelling at members of Congress at town meetings in 2010.
Thus it seems overly cautious to increase security measures beyond maybe adding a few extra state police at times that might be controversial. The police actually are a friendly presence around the capitol, always pleasant and willing to talk. The capitol, by the way, also has surveillance cameras with monitors in a basement office.
But more security seems to be the direction everything is headed. It's likely every courthouse in the nation has metal detectors at every door. When I arrived in Santa Fe in 1965, the governor had one state policeman assigned to him. For years, it was "Red" Pack, who also chauffeured the governor wherever he went. Now the governor has a corps of police, including those housed in a building next to the governor's residence.
So maybe it is only natural that lawmakers want more security too. In addition to a security detail, Gov. Martinez also has what she calls a tracker who follows her around shooting film of all her public presentations. The president has one of those. He also has a photographer whose latest pictures are posted in a hallway in the White House. Will we be seeing that anytime soon in New Mexico?
As of this writing, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez has everyone guessing about his plans for the future. It seems likely he will withdraw from the U.S. Senate race. Filing day is next week, before the Legislature adjourns and he is very busy being president of the Senate.
Some are guessing that it is likely Sanchez will switch to the 1st Congressional District contest. Sanchez says he won't enter the House race. He would have to put a good amount of time into the switch which would require new nominating petitions.
Sanchez never has seemed to put the energy into his Senate race that he put into building his small roofing company into the major business it is now. The explanation can't be that his job is keeping him too busy. Other than presiding over the Senate, he has only the responsibility to stand in for the governor.
That job takes very little time because the governor's staff handles decision making. Maybe Lt. Gov. Sanchez knows more than we do about Gov. Martinez's future.


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