NM Capitol Draws More Than Just Politicians
Even from curb at the intersection of Paseo de Peralta and Old Santa Fe Trail, you can hear the passive aggressive bickering of seemingly bored politicians from inside the New Mexico Legislature. Upon entering the grand rotunda, you are quickly glanced upon by the pampered-up middle-aged tour guides, but since it is a public building, the idea of free reign to walk wherever one pleases is a much more tempting offer.
The police presence was reasonably heavy inside of the Capitol itself, but whether they were all working security was another question. An Officer P. Flores, an 11-year veteran of the Rui Doso police force, had been working in the capitol for about a year.
“Most of the time, it’s pretty mundane here,” he claims. When asked about the political bawking in the committee hearings, he simply smiled and said,
“Everyone expresses themselves differently.”
He then went on to add that the majority of the politicians are incredibly nice and polite to the officers. As far as safety goes, Flores says the most he’s had to do is escort young women to their cars after some blank threats were delivered to them by passerby, “just to be safe.” Then, of course, whenever a gun bill is introduced, proud gun-owners will display their legally certified pistols on their side-holsters. “Hey, it’s their right.” Flores goes on, “but it’s still a little intimidating.”
Another police officer was waiting by the railings, looking down on the center of the lobby, but he wasn’t running security. Daniel, as he introduced himself, was there to testify for a bill clarifying the language in the arresting procedure for domestic violence offenders. As it stands now, law enforcement is not allowed to arrest perpetrators of domestic violence without a warrant if they have fled the scene where the offense took place.
Upon researching this bill, I realized that Daniel, the welcoming police officer who seemed more than happy to help a student journalist, was the same Daniel Almanzar listed on the bill, State v. Almanzar.
The call for Daniel’s testimony came when an Albuquerque man abused his significant other, resulting in the police being called. The man fled the fairgrounds, where the violence took place, but was seen in a nearby Circle K. When the arresting officers searched him, they found cocaine. When the case went to trial, his defense claimed that the law did not allow the officers to search him and therefore the evidence was inadmissible, prompting Attorney General Gary King to amend the law. Daniel was there to clarify the language in the law so that a situation like this would not occur in the future.
Inside the actual houses, a completely new atmosphere emerges. To the left of the main lobby is where the House of Representatives squabble over the bills being presented. The issue being pushed was over the state’s lesser prairie chicken and the involvement of New Mexico Oil and Gas in their endangerment. While opposition to the bill was looking for clarification in the animal’s breeding season, they were not against cracking jokes, claiming that they should check the menu for dinner tonight to ensure that the bird was not included.
Across the way was the Senate and not much was different from the house. Bored glances from their iPads and bickering over pasteurized goat milk seemed to be the most exciting thing happening until State Sen. John Ryan, R-Bernalillo, triumphantly objected to Bernalillo Democrat Sen. Michael Padilla’s motion to call in two expert witnesses who could testify on behalf of the proteins in said goat milk. Interestingly, after a few confused glances and motioned nudges from the president of the senate, Sen. Ryan retracted his objection and let the presentation proceed. The police officers inside running security exchanged looks with the spectators as if to say, “Yeah, this shit happens all the time.”
A diverse group of people make up the employees of the New Mexico State Legislature, ranging from young professionals to seasoned veterans. While the folks buzzing from office to office appear to be busy and stressed, after looking into the committee rooms, one can only help but ponder whether it is genuine or just a George Costanza-type front, where stress is portrayed but not actually felt. But, there are those folks who aren’t just buzzing around the capitol with a look of stress and sense of urgency in their step so they don’t get approached by the average, inquisitive citizen.
People like Officer Flores and the dolled-up tour guide ladies are working for a paycheck while maintaining a healthy respect for the politicians they are essentially working for. Then you have folks like Daniel Alamanzar who is not only spearheading the issue he is personally effected by, but is truly there for the victims of domestic abuse.