About 200 people, including legislators from both sides of the aisle, came to the Capitol Rotunda Tuesday to pay their respects to Rep. Stephen Easley, D-Santa Fe, who died unexpectedly last week.
Easley, a freshman lawmaker who lived in Eldorado, was praised by his colleagues for his hard work, his analytical mind his dedication to serving his constituents and his sense of humor.
He died from what his family described as “complications related to an infection.” House Speaker Kenny Martinez, who presided at the memorial service, told a reporter that Easley had been hospitalized twice in recent weeks, but had thought he was "on the mend."
Martinez praised Easley for his work on a subcommittee looking into mental-health issues. "In the midst of his own crisis, he was most concerned about the crisis for New Mexico's most vulnerable citizens," Martinez said, referring to Easley's health problems.
Martinez described Easley's humor as "high-level," "bright" and "highly infectious." He joked that he was the "victim" of Easley's wit more than once.
He recalled Easley's barb after the controversial last-minute vote on the tax-cut package that passed the House in the final seconds of the session last March. “Does the speaker have an atomic clock? I think not.” Easley said to Martinez that day. (Some opponents, including Easley, believed the vote was taken after the session should have ended.)
Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, praised Easley for not giving on trying to pass a bill that requires insurance to cover "telemedicine" — the use of audio and video technology to deliver healthcare services over a distance."This is essential for physicians reaching out to the Indian Pueblos and to rural New Mexico," Egolf said.
He described how it looked as if the bill was going to be defeated by the insurance lobby. But, Egolf said, Easley teamed up with Rep. Terry McMillian, R-Las Cruces, who is a physician, to fight for the bill.
Gov. Susana Martinez signed a Senate version bill that passed, not Easley's. But Egolf said it wouldn't have become law without Easley's effort.
So far no candidates to replace Easley in the Legislature have come forth. Because the sprawling District 50 includes more than one county, the boards of commissioners in all four counties will nominate possible replacements to serve out the remainder of Easley’s term. The governor will make the appointment from among the nominees sent to her by the commissions.