March 21, 2015

Session recap: Sanchez says Senate effectively passed their legislation

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New Mexico State Senate. Wikicommons

In a press conference following the Senate adjourning sine die, the Senate Majority Leader said he believed that the chamber had a productive session, at least when it came to passing Senate legislation.

New Mexico State Senate.  Wikicommons

New Mexico State Senate. Wikicommons

He repeatedly said that he wasn’t sure what happened when bills went over to the House once the Senate passed the legislation, which he said the Senate did effectively.

One highlight that Sanchez mentioned was the economic bills that passed the Senate.

“I think the Senate Democrats had a good economic plan, a ready to work plan,” Sanchez told reporters in his office. He said they passed most of the plan, though the controversial increase in the gas tax did not pass.

The Senate Republicans typically have not held a press conference following the session and 2015 was no exception. However, the Senate Minority Leadership Office sent a press release shortly after the end of the session.

“The main responsibility of the state Senate was to pass a balanced budget, and we did that,” Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, said. “But as a minority, it is difficult with only 17 votes to pass many of the initiatives we believe will improve the state. We will return another day to work on the issues we feel are important to the state.”

Another major talking point was the implosion of the bill for capital outlay.

The Republican release mentioned the short filibuster of a tax package that was sponsored by Ingle. The filibuster by Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, closed out the session.

The release said, “a  significant tax package died in the Democratic-controlled Senate while  time ran out before  a $264 million dollar capital outlay package could pass both chambers.”

“There is no money to go into our individual districts, which hurts our individual districts but what they did was irresponsible,” Sanchez said of the failure of capital outlay.

He said the extensive amendments put in place by the House Ways and Means Committee were a “sucker punch” to the Senate.

If capital outlay had been sent to the Senate with more time, Sanchez said that the bill would have been sent to the Senate Finance Committee, which would have stripped the House amendments from the bill.

With less than half an hour to go in the session, the Senate did not hear the capital outlay bill.

He blamed the House Republicans for adding priorities of Gov. Susana Martinez and particularly opposed the use of severance tax bonds for building roads, saying that the state was still paying for funding a highway in this fashion when Gary Johnson was governor.

One Democratic priority that did not pass the Senate was a minimum wage increase.

“If you put in a minimum wage bill then they’re going to put in a right-to-work bill,” Sanchez said of the House Republicans. Sanchez said the House would do that for political purposes “and we were not going to let that happen.”

Sanchez was asked about how he would see the inevitable blame from House Republican leadership and the governor on holding up legislation.

“I’ve been around for a few years and I can take the criticism,” Sanchez said. He also reiterated that he believed the Senate worked together to pass good legislation.

Post-adjournment floor speeches

Another Senate tradition after the session is speeches by Senate leadership and the Lieutenant Governor.

Lt. Gov. John Sanchez spoke about the Senate working together.

“If there was ever a time that this body had to come together, both Democrats and Republicans, and I, as I represent the executive branch in this body, it was this session,” Sanchez said. The Lieutenant Governor presides as President of the Senate.

Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, also mentioned the chamber working together.

“We don’t always agree, we don’t always vote the same, I don’t question your vote, I hope you don’t question mine,” Papen said.

Ingle called Senators “the only lobbyists for the people we serve” and said,  “The people who are home working, we are their only spokesman.”

Sanchez spoke about the Senate being family.

“Sometimes we love family more at one time than we do other time,” Sanchez joked.

“We are family and we always will be. I think we became closer,” he said.

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