October 1, 2016

Lawmakers point fingers during special session

The New Mexico State Capitol, or Roundhouse Wikicommons.

By the second day of the special session, the Senate has gone home, the House is setting themselves up to start looking at budget fixes and everyone is pointing fingers and placing blame. It seems both Democrats and Republicans are using similar arguments to discredit the other side.

The New Mexico House of Representatives.

The New Mexico House of Representatives.

House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, told reporters that he was disappointed to find out that the Senate adjourned before hearing any of the House Republican’s crime bills.

“It shows an incredible disservice to the people of the state of New Mexico, as well as just a lack of basic dignity that the Senate would close up shop and go home,” Gentry said.

Both Senate and House Democrats have continually criticized Gov. Susana MArtinez and Republican lawmakers for pushing criminal penalty increases and reinstating the death penalty during the special session, which is often used to fix state money problems.

Earlier in the day, the House debated a bill that would expand the law commonly known as Baby Brianna’s Law. The name refers to Brianna Lopez who was brutally killed by relatives when she was five months old. Martinez prosecuted the case when she was the District Attorney in Dona Ana County and used the case while campaigning for her first election for governor.

On Saturday morning, during debate to include tougher penalties for abusing children who are 12 to 18 years old, Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, took another chance to question the motive for pushing crime bills right now.

“The radio ads have been purchased the postcards are at the print shop and we all know what they’re going to say,” Maestas said. “They’re going to say the Senate failed to act or the senate fails to care or blank Senator sided with child killers over our children.”

Within the first few hours of the special session, House Democrats made it known that they did not receive ample time to review Republican sponsored bills before they went to committee.

Gentry criticized House Democrats and accused them of playing politics.

“There’s a bit of a double standard coming from the other side,” Gentry said. “They said we don’t have time to review these bills two of which were identical to bills we considered and passed with overwhelming margins just six months ago. Today we heard ‘we need to hurry up’ and

I think it’s a little bit of election year hyperbole,” Gentry said referring to earlier calls from House Democrats to swiftly pass the Senate’s budget bills.

Gentry’s not the only or first lawmaker to accuse the other side of gearing up for the upcoming election in November.

Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, said Republicans are being disingenuous.

“Obviously for other people, including house R’s this is all about the election,” McCamley said. “If we are truly interested in solving the budget deficit and funding programs for homeless veterans, domestic violence shelters for abused women, our schools, then we would start working on it.”

The House Appropriations and Finance Committee is scheduled to meet Saturday afternoon to ostensibly discuss and vote on their own budget fix. Gentry wouldn’t say exactly what cuts Republicans are willing or planning to make, but said they were looking towards replacing cuts to the Children Youth and Families Department with cuts to higher education costs.

Still, there is the question of when or if the Senate will come back to session. If the House makes any changes to the Senate budget bills, they will go back to an empty chambers for concurrence. The Senate would have to come back if the House continues to work for three days, excluding Sunday. When asked whether the House would continue working to get the Senate back, Gentry replied, “We have to.”

Senate Democrats haven’t said much since they left except to say they already finished the work they were called to do. Senate Republicans publicly called on their counterparts to return and hear more bills.

If the Senate is called back on Thursday, they would still need to go through the bills sent to them by the House.

Correction: Fixed typo in the headline.