February 1, 2016

Odds and Ends: Rules debate, former Majority Whip passes away

—During a hearing in Senate Rules Committee, during a hearing on a proposed constitutional amendment to divert money from the land grant permanent fund to early childhood programs, conversation continued to go back to the parliamentary procedure instead of the bill itself. At issue was how Chairwoman Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, proceeded with adopting a substitute bill.  Sens. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, and Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, raised their concerns numerous times that Lopez was not following procedures when she did not take a vote to adopt a substitution. The dust-up came to a head when Lopez admonished Moores for not addressing her before speaking to the sponsor—something that is expected in committee but rarely enforced.

—In other Senate Rules news, Chair Linda Lopez addressed comments made by Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, criticizing the lack of confirmations by Lopez’ committee. On the Senate floor, Lopez read a long list of people her committee confirmed last year. She told her colleagues that the committee relies on information from Gov. Susana Martinez’ office that is not always provided.

“We do the best we can with the timeframe that we have,” Lopez said.

Sharer took an opportunity to thank Lopez for the work that she has done, and said his intention was simply to move things along.

“I was simply trying to speed up the process,” Sharer said.

He went on to call out the Senate as a whole for not moving on legislation in a timely manner.

“We spent the first two whole weeks here doing just about nothing but memorials,” Sharer said.

Lopez came under fire in previous years for how long it took her to confirm certain appointments by Martinez, particularly Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera.

—Former House Majority Whip Benny Aragon passed away. Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, announced this and the House held a moment of silence on Monday night shortly before adjourning.

— A piece of legislation to protect ‘cultural items’ passed the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on Monday, with support from many pueblos and sovereign nations around the state. Rep. James Smith, R-Sandia Park, brought the bill in part because an actor from the Mazerunner movies (ask your kids) bragged about taking items. The studio later said no one took any items.

—Legislators have until Wednesday to introduce new legislation. After Feb. 3, the midway point of this year’s legislative session, it will be too late. Of course, at that point they can use dummy bills… look for an explainer on that coming later this week.

—If you go to a Judiciary Committee hearing, there is a good chance that you’ll get to see debate on minutiae that only attorneys could understand or appreciates. Such was the case in House Judiciary Committee, where the committee struggled with where to add “knowingly” into the bill to make sure it was clear. The amendment passed unanimously, but not after a lot of discussion between the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, and the members of the committee, especially Rep. Ken Martinez, D-Belen.

— “Surprise, surprise,” is what Senate Majority Leader muttered under his breath after he discovered that Gov. Susana Martinez, pocket vetoed a bill sponsored by Sen. Steven Neville, R-Aztec. This year, Neville is trying again to pass a bill that would change the state’s children’s code and substitute care act. When Sanchez asked Neville what happened to the bill, Neville answered that it was vetoed.

—“Actually first cousins can get married in the State of New Mexico,” Richard Martinez, D-Espanola, said after conversation surrounding Neville’s bill came to who is a relative and who isn’t.