February 18, 2016

House leaders talk successes, failures of session

Andy Lyman

Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque

House leadership, from both sides of the aisle, called the 2016 Legislative session an overall success—with a few exceptions.

Both Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, and Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, held press conferences immediately following the end of the session and said they worked together, but also criticized each other’s party for not doing enough.

Egolf said there were “moments of important bipartisan compromise,” namely compromise bills for bail reform and driver’s licenses.

Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe

Andy Lyman

Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe

“Those have all been done and those are good examples of reaching across the aisle,” Egolf said.

But, he said, action on those proposals could have been handled sooner.

“Those issues could have been dealt with in two or three days leaving the rest of the session to do what New Mexicans expected and demanded, which was focusing on improving New Mexico’s job situation, economic growth and economic diversification,” Egolf said.

Egolf said Republicans failed to hear job bills put forward by Democrats while the minority accepted many crime bills pushed by Gov. Susana Martinez and House Republicans.

“We dealt with their all-crime-all-the-time agenda,” Egolf said, “while they absolutely refused to work with us on the issues that matter most to New Mexicans.”

Gentry called the session an overall win.

“It is a very, in my mind, a very productive session in many ways,” Gentry said.

Gentry also cited the bail reform and driver’s license compromise as proof that the two parties worked together.

Like Egolf, Gentry said there were a number of failed opportunities this session.

Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque

Andy Lyman

Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque

“With all those wins,” Gentry said, “I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t disappointed.”

Gentry cited a number of crime bills that were not passed such as an expansion of the state’s three strikes law, an option for local curfews and including police officers in the state’s hate crime statute.

Egolf and Gentry also agreed on the necessity to compromise on the two major crime bills that passed on bipartisan votes.

The bail reform resolution and a bill increasing penalties for child pornography both saw significant amendments that, in turn, caused advocacy groups to remove their support.

Of the amendments, Egolf said it is better to take what you can get.

“It’s more important to get the things done that you can and have those accomplished and leave the other things for another day,” Egolf said.

Gentry said compromise is part of legislative process and some change is better than no change.

“At the end of the day the analysis you have to make is, ‘Are you better off than you were?’” Gentry asked. “In every case, in all the bills I’ve referenced, we’re far better off than we were.”