April 1, 2015

Senate Dems, business groups want special session for capital outlay

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Photo Credit: MTSOfan cc

One of the biggest stories of the 2015 legislative session was the failure to pass a capital outlay bill. This may result in a special session.

Photo Credit: MTSOfan cc

Photo Credit: MTSOfan cc

The day before the end of the session, House Republicans made major changes to the capital outlay legislation in the House Ways and Means Committee. The next day, the legislation passed the House with less than 20 minutes to go in the session and was never heard in the Senate before the chamber adjourned sine die at noon.

The fingerpointing began immediately, with Republicans—including Gov. Susana Martinez—blaming Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, and Democrats blaming House Republicans and Martinez.

Martinez, according to two Democratic Senators, was furious after the session and capital outlay was one reason for her anger.

In the nearly two weeks since session ended, business groups have been increasingly vocal about pushing for a special session for a capital outlay bill.

Capital outlay pays for public works projects throughout the state, which aids construction companies and others.

Associated General Contractors of New Mexico, Associated Builders and Contractors, NAIOP and Albuquerque Economic Development have all signed letters this week encouraging the governor to call a special session to pass a new capital outlay bill. Contractors in particular are worried the lack of capital spending in the state this year will cost their industry thousands of jobs.

However, Martinez said she would not call a special session unless an agreement could be reached with Senate Democrats.

The Albuquerque Journal reported on a speech Martinez made this week to one of those business groups:

However, she said if Democratic leaders in the Senate commit to working with her to develop and pass a capital outlay bill, she would consider a special session. Without that commitment, Martinez said, there was no point in holding one.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, said Senate Democrats would be open to a special session but only if “the Governor is serious about coming to a compromise.”

“The Senate’s bill must be the starting point for negotiations, because it was the only plan that had bipartisan support,” Sanchez said. “Both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate rallied around that bill and passed it 40-1. That kind of spirit – doing what is best for the people of our state, politics aside – will be absolutely necessary for a special session to be worth it.”

The legislation actually passed 40-0, with Sen. John Ryan, R-Albuquerque, excused.

Martinez has only called one special session during her time in office, a change from her predecessor Bill Richardson who called six special sessions. Gary Johnson, who preceded Richardson, also frequently called special sessions.

Martinez’s special session was in 2011 and focused on redistricting. She added other items to the call, but Democratic leadership in each chamber decided to only hear legislation related to redistricting.

Correction:

This post was updated to show that the vote was 40-0 on capital outlay in the Senate, not 40-1.

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