March 9, 2021

Senate Republicans stall environmental protections

A bill that would allow the state and certain local authorities to enact environmental protections more stringent than federal regulations stalled Monday when Republicans pulled a legislative maneuver that requires every member of the chamber to be physically present in the Roundhouse.

“We’re gonna roll over this bill,” said Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe. “At this point, it doesn’t make sense to have us just standing in place.”

Wirth, who is sponsoring Senate Bill 8, said the “call of the Senate” will remain on the measure. He noted that “this little procedural maneuver is certainly part of the rules.”

With at least one member missing from the building, senators moved forward and continued to consider other bills that were up for a third reading.

It’s the second time the legislative maneuver has been used to derail a bill on the Senate floor during this year’s legislative session. In the first instance, Wirth angrily confronted Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, who requested the call of the Senate on a bill he opposes.

“Why don’t you just [expletive] off and put an amendment on like the rest of us?” Wirth told Candelaria, according to Candelaria.

Monday’s call of the Senate, requested by Sen. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, was less dramatic.

Wirth’s bill would amend the Air Quality Control Act and the Hazardous Waste Act to allow rules more rigid than federal standards.

“Why is this important?” Wirth asked. “Under current law, we can be no more stringent than federal regulations. As a result of that, when you have huge fluctuations in the federal environmental laws as we saw during the last administration, there is real regulatory uncertainty.”

Republican lawmakers, however, said the bill could hurt business.

“We are a state that loves to attract industry but invariably we change the rules,” said Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales. “It just astounds me that we constantly talk about doing good things for New Mexico and in reality what we are doing is making this state that is not business friendly in any sense or fashion.”