Nobody expected any controversy this week when the Senate Rules Committee heard Senate Memorial 4, which would call on The University of New Mexico to devise a plan to create a movement disorders center for thousands of New Mexicans who have Parkinson’s disease or other movement disorders.
That changed when Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, said this: “I do have have to say I love actually talking about stuff with the Parkinson’s folks because I get all this nodding and it feels very affirming as I’m talking.”
A spokesman for Republican Gov. Susana Martinez tweeted a video clip of Ivey-Soto’s observation, asking “Did @NMSenateDems really just make this joke about Parkinson’s?”
A few hours later, the state Republican Party sent a news release demanding an apology. “While we’re all for a healthy sense of humor, this ‘joke’ wasn’t funny nor helpful in dealing with the challenges that come with this serious disease.”
Ivey-Soto said he meant no harm.
“It was not a joke,” he said Tuesday. “It was a recognition of the condition that brought everyone [to the hearing]. If I in any way hurt or offended anyone, I certainly apologize.”
But, he said, he spoke after the hearing with several of the Parkinson’s patients and none was offended.
One of those was former University of New Mexico regent Jamie Koch, who is spearheading the drive to approve the Senate memorial and the identical House Memorial 8, which passed the House on Tuesday.
“I didn’t take it as an insult,” Koch said. “I’m not concerned.”
The Senate is scheduled to vote Thursday on the memorial.
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