Thursday, February 12, 2004

Roundhouse Round-up: Down on the Farm

As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican,

Senate Democrat Leader Manny Aragon of Albuquerque has been known to make jokes about farmers. During this session he had a little fun on the Senate floor at the expense of Senate Bill 108.

Introduced by his colleague, Senate Democratic Whip Mary Jane Garcia of Doña Ana, the legislation calls for $150,000 for a marketing plan for "socially disadvantaged farmers."

A few days later, Aragon introduced his own bill to help the farmer.

SB 477 would appropriate $100,000 from the general fund to the state Office of Cultural Affairs "to provide for instruction in manners, dancing and attire for the socially disadvantaged farmers of the state."

In the spirit of bipartisan lampoonery, Senate Republican Leader Stuart Ingle of Portales -- himself a farmer, though he doesn't appear to be "socially disadvantaged" -- signed on to Aragon's bill as a co-sponsor.

The New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau didn't seem overly concerned about Aragon's bill.

"We appreciate Senators Ingle and Aragon for thinking of those in agriculture, as they are sometimes overlooked in urban areas," said the bureau's director of communications, Erik Ness. "However our demographic research shows that most farmers and ranchers are well-groomed, college-educated professionals with impeccable manners and a firm grasp on the mechanics of the two-step and jitterbug."

For the record, there's actually a federal Office of Minority and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers Assistance. I don't think they teach dancing.

Aragon's bill was assigned to three committees and hasn't been heard anywhere yet, so don't expect it to get very far. Garcia's bill got the same number of committee assignments, but it sailed through the first two and now awaits action in the Senate Finance Committee.

Break a leg, Joe: Rep. Eric Youngberg, R-Albuquerque, was trying to put a positive spin on the fact that House Republican Whip Joe Thompson broke his leg during Monday's annual House-Senate basketball game.

The game was fairly close until Thompson's injury, Youngberg said. But Thompson's loss inspired the House team to hustle, spurring them to defeat the Senate 57-38.

Maybe it was a case of "win one for Joe." Or, as one wise guy observed, maybe they just got better when Thompson wasn't playing.

A sweet pill to swallow: Walk through the Capitol Rotunda during a legislative session and you'll undoubtedly find several tables where organizations are giving away some kind of candy along with their pamphlets and literature.

But representatives of a Northern New Mexico health-care provider recently had a curious way to package their giveaway treats.

Las Clinicas del Norte offered pill bottles labeled with the clinic's name and other information. The bottles were filled with little Valentine's Day candy hearts.

I'm not sure whether the bottles had child-proof caps.