New Mexico Rep. Alan Martinez just wrapped up his first session as a legislator Saturday. There was good policy and bad policy that came out of the 2023 session, he said in a wrap-up interview with the Observer Thursday.

“I had a good time. I enjoyed myself because I love policy,” the Republican said of serving District 23. “Throughout the campaign, one of my messages was good policy will always produce good results; bad policy will always produce bad results. And this year, I think we had a chance to look at both.”

Listen to the full interview

Editor’s note: Due to a glitch with reporting software, there are two segments to this conversation.

The good

  • Medical malpractice: “I was privileged because that bill for medical malpractice actually came through one of the committees that I sat on, which was Commerce and Economic Development, so I was able to hear the details of that bill and how we are actually going to help medical practitioners, especially the small, independent practitioners, with the problem of how much medical malpractice was going to be required by the state,” Martinez said. He said the $4-5 million insurance requirement was putting a lot of private clinics out of business and the change to $1 million will be more affordable.

“I hope that that it’ll attract medical practitioners to the state to the state because we have a serious shortage of medical practitioners and specialists,” he added.

  • Tax bill: Martinez said the work done on this bill shows how Democrats and Republicans “can come together, work on an issue and do what’s right for New Mexico. People will see lower personal income tax rates because of it. People will see that the tax bill, the tax policy is a little bit more business friendly.

While neither side got everything they wanted in the bill, Martinez says that’s a sign of good negotiation. “I think it gave me hope for the future that both Republicans and Democrats, when they work hard for what’s good for New Mexico, we can come up with some good policy,” he said.

The bad

  • Abortion funding: Martinez took issue with $10 million being earmarked for an abortion clinic in the southern part of the state. “Wherever you stand on the abortion issue, I think using $10 million of taxpayer money to build an abortion clinic is just bad policy,” he said. “I think that $10 million could have gone to much-needed programs.”

One example he gave was mental health. “One of the things that I was very disappointed in is that once again, New Mexico has failed to fully fund mental health programs. I think if we took a hard look at that, we could solve a lot of society’s troubles,” Martinez said, saying addressing the root causes of issues rather than the symptoms could help with crime, dropout rates, domestic violence and substance abuse. “I think that $10 million could have been better used, but once again, for me, that’s a bad policy issue.”

  • CYFD: Martinez said that he was disappointed in the lack of movement on bills regarding the Children, Youth and Families Department. He said a bill he introduced regarding transparency on the rules, requirements and foster parents got tabled in the first 10 days. “I don’t think we did our best to protect the most vulnerable members of our society, and it’s the kids involved in CYFD … Unfortunately, the task to reform CYFD is a difficult task. It’s a huge organization … It just really bothered me to see a lot of the bills that were introduced to protect those kids just almost immediately were tabled in committee, not given a fair hearing, and I was very angry about that,” he said.
  • Public safety: “I was also very disappointed in the fact that a lot of people, during the campaign, said we’re all about public safety, and we saw one crime bill pass,” Martinez said. While the retail crime bill that gave “more teeth” to public officials to help solve the issue is a step forward, he said he was disappointed there wasn’t more action. “I introduced a bill to reinstate qualified immunity or law enforcement, and that was tabled with very little debate,” he said.

“So many bills that were introduced to give law enforcement and the courts the tools that they need to help solve the crime problem [were tabled],” he continued. “Here in Rio Rancho, we’ve been lucky. We have a great police force and we’re probably the safest city in New Mexico. But we’re starting to see that crime creep up the hill from Albuquerque, and if we don’t do something about it — if we as a legislature do not do something about it — we’re only going to see the problem grow.”

Looking ahead

  • Mental health: Martinez says, looking to the 2024 session, he wants to pursue funding for mental health services. “People need help,” he said. “We saw the problems with the shutdowns of the schools, the rise in suicide rates among teenagers … I want to fully fund mental health across the state for the schools, for families, for veterans. I just think we could solve a lot of problems I we really took a hard look at how we do mental health here in the state of New Mexico.”
  • Economic development: “We’ve heard for years that we need to diversify the economy,” Martinez said, “but as a legislature really need to take a look at how we support small business, how we support the efforts to attract new businesses to the state of New Mexico.”

He said for Rio Rancho specifically, with the expansion of Paseo del Volcan, that the community needs to look at attracting manufacturing. “We can’t just look at purchasing from other states or other countries,” Martinez said. “We need to start building here in the United States, we need to start building in New Mexico and we need to especially start building here in Rio Rancho.”

Career-technical education could be key to that, he said, noting his support of adding funding to the programming coming to Rio Rancho Public Schools. Those specialized career fields, such as plumbing, welding and electrical, are going to be in demand. He thinks such programs will be key across the state. “I don’t think every kid in high school needs to go to college. I think sometimes by pushing some of these kids into college, we set them up for failure,” he said. However, offering up trades programs through CTE could set them up for success, he added.

  • Listening sessions: During the interim, Martinez said he plans to hold monthly listening sessions with his constituents. Once details are finalized on where and when, he will make an announcement.