February 16, 2016

Odds and Ends: Pharma beats back memorial

The seal of the state of New Mexico in the House

—It isn’t often that a memorial gets a lot of discussion in the Legislative session. It is even rarer when they receive two committee assignments. Such was the fate of a memorial by Reps. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, and Paul Bandy, R-Aztec.

State Rep. Jeff Steinborn

State Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces

The two sought to introduce a memorial to call for a study by the Legislative Finance Committee for ways to bring the cost of prescription drugs down. Steinborn noted that it was just for research and did not presuppose an answer.

Still, the pharmaceutical industry came out, with lobbyists for large corporations opposing the memorial. And some legislators listened; the memorial failed to pass on a tie vote.

“If it ties, it dies,” Chair Larry Larrañaga, R-Albuquerque, said. The committee then tabled the legislation.

Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, said that she believed this should be a bill and not a memorial, and said the memorial didn’t even bring the pharmaceutical themselves companies into the discussion (Steinborn pointed out they were included).

“I see this memorial as doing more of the middleman intervening between the drug manufacturers and the patients,” Rep. Conrad James, R-Albuquerque, said.

Afterward, Steinborn told NM Political Report that the effort wasn’t quite dead yet. He said that they would still look to have LFC look into the idea. But, he noted, the pharmaceutical industry wouldn’t just stop once the session ended.

—It was an emotional afternoon/early evening in the House, as they House debated HM 99: “Speaker W. Ken Martinez, In Recognition.” Martinez is leaving, after his 16th regular session.

State Rep. Ken Martinez

State Rep. Ken Martinez

Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan, recounted when he was presiding as Speaker for the first time.

He received a phone call, which usually only comes from the House Majority Leader or other leadership. Instead, it was Martinez: “I still remember the phone number up there.”

Others spoke of his long service and his time as Speaker. They spoke about what he meant to the chamber, and his high profile time as Speaker and House Majority Leader.

“There’s something to be said for a gentleman who rides a Harley,” Rep. Patricio Ruiloba, D-Albuquerque, said.

Dona Irwin, D-Deming, said that Martinez sent her a text before the session saying, “We came in here together and we’re leaving together.” The two came into the House together. Irwin is also retiring after this legislative session.

In all, it took over two hours for the House to finish honoring Martinez.

—You Mean I Have To Pay For Towing? Seriously? If your stolen car is recovered by police, the answer is apparently, ‘yes.’ The question is also the title of a memorial sponsored by Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque.

Ortiz y Pino is the chairman of the Senate Public Affairs Committee, where his legislation was heard. The memorial’s title was also deemed the most unique by a NM Political Report reporter and Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, almost simultaneously.

Minutes after NM Political Report’s Andy Lyman tweeted his thoughts on the memorial, Stewart added similar thoughts.

“Mr. Chair, I think you win for the most unique title,” Stewart said.

The memorial essentially asks the Department of Public Safety to look into fees regarding recovered stolen cars. According to the memorial, when a stolen car is recovered the owner must pay towing and impound fees in order to get it back.

To be fair, journalist Gwyneth Doland drew attention to the bill on Twitter before NM Political Report or Stewart.

The memorial passed the committee unanimously and heads to the Senate floor next.

—“Is it fair?” Rep. Eliseo Alcon, D-Milan, asked about the House, Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee taking up House Bill 122 despite it not being on the agenda on Monday.

Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert, R-Albuquerque, moved to make it happen.

So Alcon walked out of the committee, breaking the quorum.

“I don’t know what else is on your list, maybe you should break the quorum for it too,” Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, said.

—A class of elementary school age students came through the House Appropriations and Finance Committee on Tuesday. Larrañaga invited one child to speak to the committee.

“We do magic here,” Larrañaga told the student (named Jack). “We take all of the money from your parents and we make it disappear.”

—No Seat Saving. The Senate Public Affairs Committee voted unanimously to pass a Senate concurrent resolution that would change legislative rules to not allow saved seats in the House gallery during a joint session.

At the start of this year’s session, many seats in the House gallery were reserved before Gov. Susana Martinez’s State of the State Address and some members of the public were reportedly turned away.

This is not a new practice, as seats in the gallery have been saved for the State of the State for years.

Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, said he supported the rule change but not in reaction to the Governor’s address.