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Claus’s Recap of Week Four

By Claus Whiteacre

It was the week that wasn’t.

A senator introduced a “zombie bill” to once again try to kill greenhouse gas emission rules. Harrison Schmitt withdrew his name from consideration as Secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. Uranium boosters and conservation advocates united to defeat a uranium-mining bill. And the week culminated with the Rev. Al Sharpton addressing a joint session as part of the annual African-American Day at the Legislature.

Immigration Issues

The week kicked off Monday with a sizable immigrant rights rally at the Capitol to protest Gov. Susana Martinez’s executive order mandating inquiry about immigration status of criminal suspects and her plans for legislation to revoke driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants.

The first of the bills to strip immigrants of licenses, HB 261, died Thursday in a House committee.

Rep. Andy Nunez, (I- Hatch) has announced that he will sponsor HB 78, which, in addition to containing language similar to HB 261, also includes a measure to cancel existing licenses that have been issued to illegal immigrants.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

In yet another effort to kill greenhouse gas emission rules, Sen. David Ulibarri (D-Grants) introduced SB459. His bill was a carbon copy of SB190, which had been tabled by the Senate Judiciary committee. After lengthy debate about rules and procedures regarding the appropriateness of trying to reanimate an identical bill, the Senate decided to refer Ulibarri’s “zombie” bill to Senate Judiciary, the committee in which its twin was tabled.

Confirmation Drama

Senate Rules committee chair Sen. Linda Lopez (D-Albuquerque) dropped a bomb on Thursday when she sent out a news release saying she would oppose EMNRD Secretary-designate Schmitt’s confirmation because he refused to submit to a background investigation.

When asked about it Thursday by reporters, Gov. Martinez said she had just learned of Schmitt’s refusal.

But a Saturday story by Santa Fe New Mexican reporter Steve Terrell revealed that Schmitt had informed top Martinez staffers days before that that he would not sign off on the investigation.

This prompts two questions – did Martinez lie outright or did her staff just not communicate with her?

Uranium Mining

Longtime observers thought hell froze over when the conservation community and the uranium industry united to oppose and defeat HB111, the “Uranium Legacy Cleanup Act,” an underfunded bill that would only have received additional
funding if new mining occurred.

Corporate Income Taxes

On a six to four vote the House Business and Industry committee moved forward a bill to lower corporate income taxes, which will cost the state $267 million over the next five years in lost revenue.

African American Day

As part of the annual African-American Day at the Legislature, the Rev. Al Sharpton, addressed a joint session of legislators.

One of the many notable parts of his speech was this:

“We cannot tell the children to not engage in youth gang activity when they see adults and public officials gang banging in legislative halls.”

Sharpton received several standing ovations. Notably absent from the chamber during the speech was Gov. Susana Martinez, who did not make time to meet with Sharpton at all during his visit.

Gov. Martinez did have time later that afternoon to hold a press conference imploring the public for help in her effort to take driver licenses away from undocumented workers.

Looking Ahead

No doubt next week will bring some more excitement.

For one thing, HB 308, a bill to require Voter ID, is scheduled to make its way through House committees, starting Tuesday in House Voters and Elections.

Perhaps we’ll see Gov. Martinez and new Secretary of State holding a joint press conference asking for the public’s help to pass it, since they seem to be Voter ID’s biggest cheerleaders.

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