By Claus Whiteacre
In week six, we expected to see discussion of the budget in the House of Representatives.
Alas, it was not to be.
On Tuesday, the budget was referred back to the House Appropriations and Finance committee.
Discussion on that most important of bills will continue this week.
The Driver’s License Bills
Several attempts by Republican lawmakers to restrict or revoke driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants failed once again.
On Monday afternoon, Republican lawmakers offered several amendments to a bill sponsored by Sen. Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe) that would extend provisional driver’s licenses for teenagers under certain circumstances.
These amendments failed, but only after lengthy and often convoluted discussions that focused equally on Senate rules and the need for the amendments.
On Thursday afternoon in the House Consumer and Public Affairs committee, Rep. Dennis Kintigh (R-Roswell) tried to bring back a bill sponsored by Rep. Andy Nunez (I-Hatch) which required people to have Social Security numbers to get a license. The same bill had been tabled in the same committee previously. After a brief recess of the committee, Rep. Kintigh dropped the attempt.
In a reaction to Governor Susana Martinez’s decision to selectively videotape committee hearings – most notably the driver’s license debates – the Senate passed a rule requiring anyone but the news media to get permission from the chair and ranking member before photographing or filming a committee meeting.
This new rule immediately generated concerns and questions from some in the media and at least one First Amendment watchdog group.
The Campaign Continues?
Governor Susana Martinez’s efforts to lobby legislators and the public to support some of her favored bills drew a few responses this week.
The Governor aired radio spots urging voters to call their legislators and tell them to support her position on the driver’s license issue.
Late in the week, the good-government group Common Cause asked the attorney general to investigate the radio ads, which were paid for by her gubernatorial campaign fund. The immigrant’s rights group, Somos Un Pueblo subsequently joined in the complaint.
The Budget, Again
The entire discussion about the budget has been a decidedly one-sided affair about what to cut and how much. Since Day One, the legislative leadership conceded to the Governor’s position that no revenue proposals would be considered.
A Wednesday night forum in Santa Fe entitled “Cut Education and Public Services, or Raise Revenue” represented a break from the ban on revenue talk. The event was co-hosted by NM Progressive Action and the Rio Grande Foundation.
The forum, which was fashioned in the way of two debate teams, did not present many surprises.
However, during one of the rebuttals, Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino provided a great quote:
“So that industry can rise in the full flower of its manhood and do what it does best, which is pollute.”
Thus went week six of the 2011 Legislative session. With any luck, we’ll see a budget proposal debated on the House floor this week.