By Matthew Reichbach
The state Senate moved on from redistricting and passed a bill to shore up the unemployment fund as well as the food stamp supplement. Both measures cleared the Senate with significant support, though a competing Republican measure on the unemployment took up much of the time spent debating the legislation.
Republicans introduced a floor substitute that nearly all Democrats said was not a good policy for the state.
The substitute brought by Sen. Steven Neville (R-Aztec) would have transferred money from the general fund to shore up the unemployment fund. Democrats said that this was borrowing from the general fund, which is not allowed by law.
Sen. John Arthur Smith (D-Deming), the sponsor of the original bill, objected to the substitute because it would put the state in debt. Smith also said that the state has never borrowed from the general fund.
Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque) said that borrowing money from the general fund was a “slippery slope” and Sen. Tim Keller (D-Albuquerque) said if this was allowed then he was going to “run a lot of bills like this.”
Neville defended his substitute, saying it was constitutional and necessary.
“This is not about greed or being selfish or taking money from schoolkids,” Neville said. Neville also said that a bill that borrowed from the state’s tobacco fund set the precedent for his substitute.
This bill is necessary during the special session because a similar bill that passed both chambers during the regular session was partially vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez. The issue went to the state Supreme Court and the Supreme Court said that the legislature and the governor should attempt to find a solution before the court ruled.
The bill itself passed the Senate with only three dissenting votes.
The bill to fund the food stamp supplement passed unanimously.