Proposal aims to keep legislators from drinking while on the job

Senator Harold Pope Jr. (D-Albuquerque) is at his desk on the Senate floor at the Roundhouse on Monday. He proposes a rule banning members of Congress from drinking alcohol before or during legislative sessions. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Copyright © 2023 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – For some lawmakers, drinking is part of the Roundhouse culture.

At least a few people are known to keep alcohol in the Capitol.

It is also common for members of parliament to head out to dinner at a restaurant that serves liquor before the late-night floor session.

But Senator Harold Pope Jr. said he’s seen enough.

Albuquerque’s first-term congressman proposes a Senate rule banning congressmen from drinking alcohol before committee meetings or sessions on the floor. They couldn’t even drink during the meeting.

The Pope, a Democrat elected in 2020, said in an interview Monday, “Frankly, I’ve seen some things that I don’t think are professional in what we do at work. “I think there should be some kind of standard. I don’t think anyone in the state government would allow drinking during breaks before doing state business.”

It is unclear what kind of reaction the Pope’s proposal will get from his colleagues. Alcohol is not mentioned in House or Senate regulations.

His bill, Senate Resolution 1, was referred to the Senate Rules Committee.

If passed there and passed unanimously, it applies only to Senators.

The House has its own rules, but at least one lawmaker has said he also supports a ban on alcohol on the floor.

Senator Cliff Pertle, a Roswell Republican and member of the Senate Rules Committee, questioned how the ban would be enforced.

“I’ve never seen anything like this being a problem myself,” said Pirtle.

Senator William Sharer of R-Farmington said the rule was unnecessary.

Others were less decisive.

Senate Majority Leader Peter Worth, D. Santa Fe, said the alcohol ban was “worthy of discussion.”

For his part, he said many years ago he decided not to drink at all during legislative sessions. However, he added that he does not look down on members who make different decisions.

“This is a very intense process for me personally and it doesn’t help me do the work I’m trying to do here,” Wirth said.

In 2020, New Mexico had the highest alcohol-related death rate in the nation, according to the state health department.

Since 2018, three lawmakers have been indicted for DUI, two of whom have lost re-election. The third did not run again.

Only one of the deputies’ arrests at the time. Georges Louis last year – It happened during the legislative session, she told police during a traffic stop last year that she was at her friend’s house in Santa Fe for a Super Bowl party.

Lewis later filed a petition not to indict him on a DUI charge.

Also last year, a harassment complaint filed by lobbyist Marianna Anaya against Albuquerque Democratic Senator Daniel Ivy Soto referred to alcohol at the Roundhouse. Ivey-Soto denies the allegations.

The Pope said Monday his rules were not directed at anyone in particular.

“We have to be focused and ready to do the work. Nothing can get in the way of that,” Pope said.

Alcohol, he said, was unwise to add to an already well-controversial legislative debate.

Mario Jimenez III, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico, an ethics and campaign finance lobby group, said he welcomed both houses’ rules banning alcohol consumption before the legislative session.

“We should expect cool, clear decision-making from all members of Congress, not just senators,” he said.

Jimenez said drinking is “something we all know for sure that takes place within the legislature.”

Alcohol consumption is generally private. But parliamentarians’ offices are scattered throughout the Capitol, and many have their own refrigerators.

Legislators are also invited to a series of social events in the evening, and dinners at restaurants that serve alcohol are common.

Towards the end of a session, legislators are often summoned late into the night for committee hearings and debates in the floor.

The Pope’s bill would be codified into a Senate regulation stating that “senators may not consume alcohol before or during the session or meeting of the committee to which they are nominated.”

State legislator Patricia Roybal Caballero (D-Albuquerque) said she would support a ban on alcohol if it was introduced into the House of Representatives. Avoiding alcohol is a way to respect the severity of the legislative mandate, she said.

“It’s already been proven to impair its ability to function,” she said.

The Pope said he wasn’t trying to stop anyone from drinking when the day was over.

“There is only time and place,” he said.

An Air Force retiree, Pope likes vodka martinis.

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