March 10, 2015

Senate GOP attempts fail to change committees for abortion bills

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New Mexico State Senate. Wikicommons

A Republican Senator made a series of moves this afternoon to transfer two controversial House bills related to abortion out of their assigned committees. All of his efforts failed.

New Mexico State Senate.  Wikicommons

New Mexico State Senate. Wikicommons

Senator William Sharer, R-Farmington, first requested that HB 391, a bill sponsored by House Majority Whip Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas, requiring parental notification of minors seeking abortions, be moved to a Committee of the Whole in the Senate.

The move incited spirited party divisions as Republican lawmakers rallied behind the motion, saying that the parental notification bill has major public importance and faces the danger of getting lost in committees as the 60-day session narrows in on its final days.

Democrats, on the other hand, disparaged the move as contrary to the Senate’s conventional processes.

Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, said he was concerned that a circumvention of the bill’s committee assignments could cut out public input. “I want to make sure that New Mexicans from every nook and cranny have the ability to come up here and share opinions on this matter,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, said during the course of his tenure in the Senate, “We used to take bills out of committees and kill them on the floor. My side of the aisle was doing that, and that was damn sure wrong.”

Issues need to be heard, he added, “and this is an issue that needs all of us and all our votes.”

Sharer didn’t shrink in his response. “This particular bill is life or death, and for those of you out there, I ask you, is the committee system more sacred than life itself? Because that’s what this is all about.”

A straight party-line vote stymied his original motion, but Sharer responded with another, requesting that the parental notification bill be referred to an alternate committee. He pointed to the full schedules of the original committees scheduled to hear the bill and argued it would be better served by a hearing in the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee because it has “the time, space and knowledge” to make a solid decision.

That move was also rebuffed on a party-line vote, but Sharer raised a similar motion when HB 390, Rep. Yvette Herrell’s Late-Term Abortion Ban, was read on the floor. Sharer asked that it be re-assigned to the Senate Finance Committee.

Democratic Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, repeated his earlier plea to members to “respect the process.”

Sharer’s motion was defeated on a nearly party-line vote of 24 to 18, with Sen. George Munoz, D-Gallup, offering the lone dissenting Democratic vote.

Minutes later, senators gave unanimous consent to remove the Senate Judiciary Committee assignment from HB 144, the proposed Teacher & School Leader Effectiveness Act.

However, Sharer raised an objection when Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino asked senators to approve the removal of six pending proposals on the Senate Public Affairs Committee roster. Ortiz y Pino said he made the request because the bills either mirrored others the Senate had already passed or they’d been reviewed and found to be straightforward.

Sharer said Ortiz y Pino seemed to contradict Democrats’ contentions in the previous debate that original assignments were an important part of the Senate process. Ortiz y Pino shrugged and withdrew his request.

Last week, Senate Republicans tried to move right-to-work legislation to a Committee of the Whole and bypass the other committees. That effort failed on a party-line vote, with Democrats in opposition.

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