Lobby group encourages political involvement among local business owners

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

Association of Commerce and Industry President Beverlee McClure told area political and business leaders Thursday it’s time they get involved in the political process to protect their interests.

Environmental legislation, taxes, health care, regulatory and legal reform and other legislative moves, she said, are continually impacting business.

“We are actually beginning to regulate businesses out of the state of New Mexico,” she said to a group of about 50 at the Clovis Civic Center during the weekly Rotary Club meeting.

McClure gave a brief rundown of how legislators stand on issues affecting businesses.

McClure said out-of-state, nonprofit funding supported and led to the election of 10 “progressive Democrats.” She described them as an “anti-business group”, who are now part of 17 freshmen in the Legislature.

However she told the group, “The power in the House and Senate actually lies in rural areas.”

Recent legislation causing concern for business owners includes taxes for businesses that franchise out of the state and a law requiring vehicle emissions standards to mirror those in California without local discretion.

McClure called the emission law a hardship for already hard-hit dealerships across the state.

New laws also require construction companies to pay the same wages received by union members even when only a small percentage of construction workers on the job are union, she said.

Forcing efficiency and accountability in education also needs to happen, she said.

McClure said ACI does not believe a $350 million request for the public school fund is really needed to correct and forward education in the state.

That money is drawn from taxes paid by business owners, she said.

“If our voice is not heard, we’re going to feel more of this anti-business trend in the state,” she said.

State Sen. Clint Harden also addressed the group, assuring that he continues to work to advance the interests of eastern New Mexico.

Harden said 67 percent of the revenue in the state is generated by the agriculture industry on the eastern side of the state. He noted, however, the region is only represented by four senators.

“We hear you and we support you,” Harden said. “But we need help.”

“The political landscape has become so closely tied to public policy, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference,” he said.

Harden said there are powerful forces in the legislature that are often difficult to defeat.