Serving the High Plains

Officials discuss legislative priorities

Quay County commissioners and the commission’s lobbyist on Monday discussed state legislative priorities for the upcoming 60-day session in January, including the possibility of scaling back the governor’s powers during public health emergencies.

Kathy Elliott, a lobbyist at Clinton D. Harden & Associates of Clovis, said she wanted to hear counties’ concerns earlier than normal because of additional difficulties in contacting legislators during the COVID-19 pandemic. Harden is a former state senator.

County commissioner Sue Dowell said state law that gives the governor wide authority during a public health emergency “needs a revamp,” noting Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has extended the order several times with little to no advice from lawmakers.

Elliott agreed, noting a few of Lujan Grisham’s fellow Democrats have questioned her authority.

“She’s treating her office as a queen,” Elliott said, adding Lujan Grisham has acted as “a monarchy over the entire state.”

“All parties and senators have learned how decisions (from the governor) have impacted the economy of this state,” she said.

Commissioner Mike Cherry said the No. 1 concern of rural counties is unfunded mandates. He added most counties “are against any changes” on qualified immunity on tort claims filed against police officers.

“It’s a huge impact on cities and municipalities,” Cherry said about proposals to end such immunity. “It’s a huge impact on insurance.”

Cherry noted lawmakers likely won’t pass many bills because of the budget crunch amid the pandemic and the collapse of oil and gas prices. He said there’s disagreement how bad it is, but the state is looking at a deficit of $2 billion to $2.5 billion.

“As much as it felt like Christmas last year, it’s the opposite now,” Elliott said.

Dowell said she appreciated the Harden firm’s efforts to pass along smaller counties’ concerns.

“Rural counties are sure in agreement they’re not being listened to by state government,” Dowell said.

Elliott said rural counties need to come together as a unified force, or they won’t be as effective in the Roundhouse capitol in Santa Fe.

Elliott said the Roundhouse likely will remain closed because of the pandemic when the 60-day legislative session opens in January. She said legislators plan to use a videoconferencing, but it lacks the infrastructure and security to respond during committee meetings.

She said that will make lobbying more of a challenge. Instead of buttonholing lawmakers in the Roundhouse hallways, Elliott said “we’ll find where they’re eating” to discuss issues.

“We’ll track them and try to influence them as best as we can,” she said.

The county pays Harden and Associates $1,000 a month for its services.

In other business:

• C. Renee Hayoz, administrator at Presbyterian Medical Services, said the clinic at 1302 E. Main St. will host a free, drive-through COVID-19 screening event from 9 to 11 a.m. Friday. Hayoz recommended those interested in participating call (575) 461-2200 to ensure their insurance accepts it.

Answering questions from Dowell, Hayoz said the clinic is working on adding dental services, but funding remains an issue. Hayoz also said the clinic also lacks equipment for OB-GYN services. Dowell said Quay County lacks services for pregnant women, and the recent death of Dr. Bruce Cross of Clovis has made that shortage more noticeable. Hayoz said she would pass along those concerns to Presbyterian’s advisory board in November.

• Commissioners without discussion approved two $275,000 payments from mill levy and gross receipt tax funds to Trigg Memorial Hospital for the first and second quarters.

County manager Richard Primrose also complimented hospital staff for their speed during a recent drive-through flu-shot clinic at the Quay County fairgrounds.

• Primrose said a letter and application for COVID-19 expense reimbursements were mailed last week to each entity in Quay County with a business license. The county received $370,000 in federal money from the CARES Act that allows the reimbursement of COVID-related expenses from March to October. Each application comes with a $10,000 cap, but Primrose said the county can do another round of applications if money is left over.

• Commissioners approved three resolutions that request a one-year extension of funding sources for county road projects.

• Brenda Bishop, coordinator of the Quay County Health Council, said in her annual report the council set up an Instagram page, posted more on Facebook and created short videos after the cancellation of events by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council has logged about 3,500 online interactions per month.

Bishop said a pedestrian trail would be developed at Five Mile Park, and the council recently received a grant to lower drug and alcohol abuse in the county.