House committees pass Senate bills, with one key amendment

Two House committees passed four Senate bills, three with no changes, but the one bill that must pass this year to balance the books on the budget for the year that ended three months ago passed with a change. If the bill passes in the amended form, the Senate would need to resolve the differences created by the House Appropriations and Finance Committee before it heads to the governor. In a bill that moves over $200 million from various funds, largely the tobacco settlement permanent fund, the change moved $1 million more from a legislative account. “I don’t want to say it’s a political movida, but it sounds to me like it’s a political movida,” Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, said before the committee approved the changes. “If we don’t make an effort to increase our reserves, our bond rating is in danger of being down-rated,” committee chair Larry Larranaga, R-Albuquerque, said.

Capital outlay projects dead on arrival

Proposals for statewide capital outlay were left languishing Saturday as a bitterly divided battle over funding methods consumed the state House of Representatives’ last day of the 2015 session. A narrow 36 to 32 vote minutes before the House adjourned sine die meant approval of late-hour committee changes to a capital outlay plan favored by the Senate, but that chamber ran out of time to concur with the House adjustments. The Republican-controlled House Ways and Means Committee made the controversial amendments Friday, adjusting road improvement funding mechanisms to honor preferences of the governor’s office. The committee changes would fund road improvements through $45 million in severance tax bonds rather than drawing down reserves from the state’s general fund. Rep. Larry Scott, R-Hobbs, described the measure as state government “borrowing short to build long-term assets,” adding it constituted “a sound practice from a business perspective.” Democrats vehemently objected to the changes, which they said would result in the denial of tens of millions of dollars from high- and critical-priority projects identified over the last year by local governments.

Previous conservative House leadership changed committee names

The New Mexico Political Report staff spent much of Friday and Saturday last week looking in the Albuquerque Journal and Albuquerque Tribune archives at an interesting time in New Mexico House history — the beginning of the “Cowboy Coalition” in the state House from 1979-1982 (and again from 1985-1986). There will be more looks back at this tumultuous time in the state legislature from New Mexico Political Report in the days and weeks to come. It was the most recent example of conservatives taking control of the House of Representatives until Don Tripp, R-Socorro, took the Speaker’s gavel just a week ago. While this is the first time in decades that the House has had a Republican Speaker of the House, the House was run by Gene Samberson from 1979-1982. Samberson was a conservative Democrat from southern New Mexico who was voted into power thanks to a coalition made up of nearly all of the Republican caucus and a small group of conservative Democrats.