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Senate floor action features criticism of Governor’s messages and the Albuquerque Journal’s coverage

By Matthew Reichbach

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings speaking on the floor of the Senate. Photo by Matthew Reichbach.

Two state Senators stood on the Senate floor today and leveled criticism at the Governor’s office for its handling messages to the legislature, and at the Albuquerque Journal for a news story about the controversy. The issue of Governor’s messages has a bearing on on which bills can be ruled as germane for consideration during the session.

In a 30-day session like the current one, the only bills allowed to be considered and acted upon are those that pertain to budget matters — or those that are related to any subject contained in a Governor’s message. Some lawmakers have said that the messages from Martinez are overly broad and would create a logjam of legislation during the 30-day session.

Martinez was criticized last year for adding a large number of subjects to the official call for September’s special session which some legislators, predominantly Democrats, said would distract from the constitutionally mandated task of redistricting — a complicated job that happens only once every ten years.

At issue in the Albuquerque Journal story was a quote from Scott Darnell, a spokesman for Martinez.

“Despite our efforts to be accommodating, they have expressed a desire to be more restrictive and … we will work with that, but members who are unhappy with their bill not being heard would need to speak with their leadership – and not the Governor’s Office,” Martinez spokesman Scott Darnell said.

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings (D-Roswell) took exception to the quote, saying, “There were no errors on the part of the Senate or House. The messages were very broad.”

Jennings explained that the Senate would not ask the Governor to “pull back” her messages to the Senate and issue new, narrower messages, but instead keep the original messages in place and that future messages be made narrower in scope. Jennings explained that the Senate Committee on Committees had already ruled legislation germane based on the original messages, adding that it would be unfair now to pull that legislation back.

“Those messages had gone out and the cards had been played,” Jennings said.

Sen. Cisco McSorley (D-Albuquerque) criticized the Albuquerque Journal for its story, accusing it of bias.

McSorley said the Journal does not get both sides of the story. “They seem to reprint press releases from the Governor’s office and that they’re not really helping people of the state of New Mexico understand how their government functions and how the stakes are made.”

Of course, legislators complaining about the way the media writes a story or about the Governor’s actions is not unusual. However, it does provide an interesting interlude during the early days of the session when most of the action is dominated by routine minutiae like passing committee reports and expressing support for the Boys and Girl Club of New Mexico.

Odds and Ends

  • The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that even some in the Republican Party were critical of the Governor’s messages.
  • McSorley noted that the Albuquerque Journal does not pay gross receipts tax. This brings to mind a move in Oklahoma to place a sales tax on on the cost of newspapers to pay for bonuses for National Board Certified teachers.
  • Over 200 bills have been introduced in the Senate so far this session — only a fraction of those will make it out of committee, let alone be passed along fro Martinez’s signature — or veto.

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