March 4, 2015

Greater ABQ Chamber of Commerce raises idea of special session


A prominent business group in the state raised the possibility of a special session following this year’s 60-day legislative session.

RoundhouseThe Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce made this statement in the nightly legislative news roundup sent out on Tuesday night.

“The business community doesn’t like the idea of a special session any more the the Legislature,” a section of the newsletter read, “but if that means we finally get a fair hearing or fair shot at some of the public’s most important and most favored initiatives… we’re in.”

New Mexico Political Report reached out to the governor’s office throughout Wednesday afternoon to see if any such discussions had been held. The governor’s office did not respond but if they do, the response will be added to this story.

So far, there has only been one special session under Gov. Susana Martinez, and that was for the decennial redistricting in 2011.

A spokeswoman for the Senate Democratic caucus said the caucus had no comment on the possibility of a special session.

The GACC wrote this in the newsletter:

The standoff is creating an impending train wreck, and it’s going to be messy. And let’s face it… if the Senate Democrats refuse to compromise at all on the priorities of the House Republicans or the Governor’s Office, we’re likely headed for a special session. After all, whether it’s ending social promotion or passing right-to-work legislation, the public is in strong support of these issues. And a special session would only highlight the Senate’s obstruction on these issues, and the fact that the House and the Governor are continuing to push for them.

The business community doesn’t like the idea of a special session any more than the Legislature but if it means we finally get a fair hearing or fair shot at some of the public’s most important and most favored initiatives… we’re in.

In recent days, House Republicans have been pushing heavily the idea that Democrats in the Senate have been obstructionists and are not hearing bills that have passed the House.

House Majority Leader Nate Gentry sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez complaining about the slow pace of assignments of House legislation and Sanchez responded, saying the Senate traditionally hears Senate legislation before House legislation.

Neither chamber has been hearing bills passed by the other chamber at any great rate.

Only one Senate bill has been heard in a House committee this year, a bill to ban coyote-killing contests that was tabled. The Senate has yet to hear any legislation that has passed the House.

Two Senate bills are on agendas for House committees later this week.

Special sessions are often criticized for their cost; the commonly-cited number is $50,000 per day. This includes per diem for legislators, funds for staff and other expenses related to running the Roundhouse.

From a 2011 Santa Fe New Mexican story:

It’s also not clear how much the special session will cost taxpayers. “The per day cost of the last eight special sessions, which actually includes the one-day extraordinary session in 2002, ranged from about $28,000 to $65,000 a day,” John Yaeger of the Legislative Council Service said. “It’s not unfair to say the cost would likely be in the $40,000 to $50,000 per day range.”

Special sessions were more common under Martinez’s two predecessors, with 12 special sessions (and one extraordinary session) between 1996 and 2010 when Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Richardson sat in the governor’s mansion. One of those was for redistricting, but the others were for priorities that the governor was not able to pass during that year’s regular session.

A special session is called by the governor, while an extraordinary session can be called by two-thirds of members of both chambers.

Executives from the GACC backed a more ambitious agenda for the 2011 redistricting special session. Democratic leadership in each chamber, Democrats then controlled both chambers, did not hear any legislation not related to redistricting during that session.

Republicans objected to that limited use of a special session.

Last year, Martinez floated the idea of a special session for incentives to draw Tesla to the state but later her office said Democratic calls for a special session for Tesla incentives was a political stunt.