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Sour Note Sine Die: Vetoes promised and no congressional plan, but there’s always capital outlay

By Matthew Reichbach

The special session ended and Gov. Susana Martinez’s ambitious agenda went largely unaddressed. The controversial driver’s license issue fizzled, the unemployment fund fix that sailed through both chambers in the regular session died on the vine and the fireworks ban was rarely mentioned.

The legislature passed a number of redistricting bills, but a congressional redistricting bill that did not change the political balance was unable to be heard in the House before adjournment.

The failure to pass a new Congressional map puts the state in uncharted waters. Presumably it’s another legal tangle for the courts to fix.

All the other redistricting bills went to the governor’s desk where she is expected to veto them.

Capital outlay legislation passed but at a smaller spending amount than Martinez requested. It has been promoted by both sides of the aisle as a way to create badly needed jobs and boost New Mexico’s distressed economy.

Despite its job-creation potential, capital outlay has had a rough go of it this year already. In the regular session, two Senate Republicans, Sens. Rod Adair (R-Roswell) and John Ryan (R-Albuquerque) held an impromptu filibuster that killed another capital outlay bill in the waning minutes prior to adjournment. On that occasion, the two Senators were demanding that the Senate hear the Governor’s social promotion bill.

The special session also produced a Medicaid fix which also extended the state food stamp supplement for elderly and disabled citizens and a bill to provide for in-state preference for state purchases.

And the session ended with the House and Senate once again at odds. The Senate adjourned late Friday evening after passing the capital outlay bill — at a lower rate than the governor requested — leaving the House to either agree with the Senate’s version or let the capital outlay fail for the second time in the year.

Rep. Moe Maestas (D-Albuquerque) said that the Senate left the House with the choice of either to pass the Senate version or let the legislation die.

“The Senate has gone home, guys,” Maestas said while debating a Republican amendment. “They shirked their responsibilities to the people of New Mexico but we did not.”

Only Rep. Dennis Kintigh (R-Roswell) voted against the legislation.

Maestas brought up the specter of recessing for three days — and Rep. David Doyle (R-Albuquerque) agreed that he might agree with that tactic — and forcing the Senate to reconvene. Ultimately, the House passed the capital outlay bill by a wide margin and another bill related to changing precincts in Bernalillo County before voting to go home.

The successful vote to adjourn sine die was the last of several sine die attempts to shut down the session throughout the afternoon. The others failed to pass until Reps. Andy Nunez (I-Hatch) and Sandra Jeff (D-Crownpoint) sided with the Republicans on the votes to go home.

Speaker of the House Ben Lujan ended the special session with a short speech.

“I want to thank the body for indulging and passing a number of other critical items on the governor’s call important to our citizens,” Lujan said as the House members prepared to go home for the last time.

This was the first redistricting special session in which the governor added other subjects beyond redistricting to the call.

The redistricting itself is headed to the courts. The legislature failed to pass a congressional map and Martinez has vowed to veto other maps. In 2001, New Mexico was in a similar situation, with a Republican governor and a Democratic legislature.

Then-Gov. Gary Johnson vetoed the Congressional and state House redistricting legislation and the lines were ultimately drawn by the courts.

This may not be the last time the Legislature is in session this year, however. It may take up the impeachment of Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block, Jr., possibly as soon as November. If Block is impeached by the House and found guilty by the Senate, the Senate can strip Block of his elected position.

More on the Congressional remap void

By failing to pass a congressional redistricting plan, the legislature failed to fulfill one of its most fundamental tasks for a redistricting session.What happened?

An impasse in the House Democratic Caucus may have contributed to what may be an unprecedented outcome.

The Senate did pass a congressional plan that would have left the current district configurations slightly altered to equalize population per Census requirements. CD3 would have still represented northern New Mexico and CD2 the south. CD1 would have still been dominated by Albuquerque, which makes up over 90% of its population.

However, on the House side, a plan being pushed by Rep. Cervantes (D-Las Cruces) was dividing the House Democratic Caucus. With the Democrats razor-thin majority of just one in the House, the inability to achieve consensus proved fatal.

The Cervantes plan would have represented a radical departure from the long-standing configuration that has endured ever since New Mexico gained its third congressional district after the 1980 Census. Cervantes’ plan would have shifted the entire south valley of Albuquerque into CD2.

Cervantes has shown interest in running for Congress in the past. He starting raising money for a 2008 CD2 run, but dropped out. If  Cervantes had the backing for his plan from his aunt, House Voters and Election Committee chair Mary Helen Garcia (D-Anthony), who supported his unsuccessful run for Speaker in January, that would have been more than enough to ensure gridlock.

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