The Senate Rules Committee sliced and diced a proposed constitutional amendment to create an independent ethics commission and delayed a decision until Tuesday. The discussion on the independent ethics commission proposal by Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, went so long that the committee rolled the legislation over until the next meeting so Senators could join the rest of the chamber on the floor. “Please do not mistake the deliberative nature of the Senate for trying to kill something,” Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, said, referring to tweets he saw that said the Senate Rules Committee was trying to kill the bill. “We’re trying to get it right.” He mentioned that because it is a constitutional amendment, it is particularly important to get the wording right.
A Senate committee passed two bills that would increase DWI penalties on Wednesday evening. One bill is sponsored by both Sen. George Munoz, D-Gallup, and Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque. The other is sponsored by Maestas Barnes and Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington. Maestas Barnes and Munoz presented both of their bills to the Senate Judiciary Committee together. Both bills passed on bipartisan votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Legislation to create an independent ethics commission passed the House on a bipartisan vote late Tuesday night. Sponsored by Rep. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, HJR 5 would create an independent commission to field and take action on complaints made about state officials. Since it is a proposed constitutional amendment, if both the House and the Senate pass the legislation, the issue would go to the voters in November for approval. Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, raised a number of concerns, one of which was how to fund it. “My concern is this could balloon into significant money,” Brown said.
The House of Representatives passed the state’s $6.32 billion budget Saturday morning amid falling oil prices. The bill passed on a 38-31 vote, with two Democrats joining the Republican bloc in voting on the bill. “We did the best we could with the revenues that are there,” House Appropriations and Finance Committee Chair Larry Larrañaga, R-Albuquerque, said when presenting the bill. Larrañaga said Medicaid, education, public safety, corrections and early childhood funding marked the top priorities. “Almost all of the increases are in five particular areas in this budget,” he said.