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Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Cockfighting Ban Clears 2nd Panel, Faces More Hurdles

By David Miles
Journal Capitol Bureau
    SANTA FE A House bill to ban cockfighting in New Mexico cleared its second committee Tuesday, but the measure faces several more hurdles.
    The House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee forwarded the bill (HB 559) to the House Judiciary Committee on an 8-1 vote but did not issue a "do pass" or "do not pass" recommendation on the measure.
    "The lopsidedness of the vote on behalf of stopping this horrible practice was most encouraging," said bill sponsor Rep. Ron Godbey, R-Cedar Crest, after the vote.
    Godbey predicted that the House will approve the bill before legislators adjourn their regular session on March 22. But Godbey acknowledged that the bill would face an uphill battle in the Senate, where that chamber's Conservation Committee last month tabled a similar measure (SB 64).
    Both bills would amend the state's criminal code to make cockfighting a fourth-degree felony, punishable by a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.
    New Mexico and Louisiana are the only states that allow cockfighting.
    Rep. Bengie Regensberg, D-Cleveland, who voted against the ban, said cockfighting is a long-standing Hispanic tradition.
    He said New Mexico could market the sport as a way of attracting tourists.
    "For us to be one of only two states makes us really unique," Regensberg said.
    Rep. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, said that as a child growing up in rural New Mexico, he was taught to kill livestock in a humane manner.
    "I didn't grow up with the culture of cockfighting," Cervantes said.