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Friday, March 7, 2003

Future Uncertain for Bill To Ban Cockfighting

By Kate Nash
Journal Capitol Bureau
    SANTA FE Rep. Ron Godbey said two obstacles stand between his bill to ban cockfighting and Gov. Bill Richardson's desk: the House Agriculture Committee and the Senate Conservation Committee.
    "It will pass the House floor, if we can get it there," Godbey, a Cedar Crest Republican said earlier this week. And, if it gets to the Senate floor, "I think it would pass," he said.
    But, in between, the bill (HB 559) is scheduled for stops and consideration in the House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee as well as the House Judiciary Committee.
    Should it make it through those committees and pass the full House, it then would receive its Senate committee referrals. And it likely would go to the Conservation Committee, which last month tabled a Senate version of the measure to join 48 other states in banning the bloody sport.
    Meanwhile, should the long-debated measure get past the House and Senate, it's unclear what Richardson would do.
    A spokesman for the governor said Richardson isn't taking a position on the issue.
    Agriculture Committee Chairman Joe Stell, D-Carlsbad, said he plans to hear the bill Tuesday.
    "We're going to vote it up or down," he said.
    The committee isn't expected to take testimony, Stell said, because its members, as well as members of the Judiciary Committee, were present at a joint hearing on the bill Tuesday. The House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee approved the measure 7-1 during that session.
    Stell wouldn't say how he feels about the measure or what he thinks the prospects are in his committee.
    House Majority Floor Leader Danice Picraux said she's heard some talk of pulling Godbey's measure out of the Agricultural committee a parliamentary move sometimes used to avoid a committee that might be hostile to a certain bill.
    "People have talked about it, but I'm not sure (that will happen)," said Picraux, D-Albuquerque.
    Picraux said she opposes cockfighting but wonders whether a state ban really would do away with the sport.
    "I'd love to outlaw cockfighting, but would that really outlaw it?" Picraux asked.
    Godbey said he doesn't plan to have his bill skip over any committees and he plans to attend upcoming hearings.
    New Mexicans on both side of the sport have strong feelings about the proposed ban. Hearings on the ban have drawn some of the largest audiences during the legislative session, and supporters and opponents have been lobbying lawmakers.
    Ban proponents say the sport is cruelty to animals. Opponents say the sport puts money into rural economies, is a cultural tradition and brings families together.
    Louisiana is the only other state where cockfighting is allowed.