Compromise in Santa Fe?

January 23rd, 2013 at 5:11 pm by under Latest Posts

The idea of compromise has been thrown around on two major issues fairly early on in the session, spaceport liability and driver’s licenses.

In one case, both sides appear well on their way to finding common ground. In the other, we may not truly know until the last days of the 2013 session.

Let’s start with spaceport liability.

Democratic leaders held a news conference on Tuesday to announce that there was a bill that both Virgin America and the New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association could stomach or outright support. The worry had been that New Mexico could lose its $200 million+ investment in the spaceport and a growing future industry if lawmakers didn’t approve legislation that would give suppliers more protection from liability lawsuits if something goes wrong.

Other states had passed similar laws, and space companies have started choosing them over New Mexico.

Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, and Rep. James White, R-Albuquerque, had both introduced bills that would solve the problem but may have had a hard time getting through the Legislature.

Now Papen has come forward with a newer version with some key changes. It requires space companies to get $1 million in liability insurance and provides a less-comprehensive protection against lawsuits than her previous bill did.

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides has said his company supports passage of the bill calling it a “step in the right direction” even though it doesn’t completely address all of the issues his company wanted addressed.

When it comes to spaceport liability, compromise appears to be in action.

Repealing driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants is a different story.

Gov. Susana Martinez has repeatedly tried and failed to get the legislature to pass a bill on the issue, but has not stopped fighting to get a repeal on her desk. With a looming federal deadline for states to come into compliance and tighten up who they give licenses to, there’s pressure on lawmakers to get a deal done this session.

But previous attempts have had a hard time getting past the Senate, and it doesn’t appear as though that body’s resistance is wavering.

So would the governor accept a compromise at this point, possibly a bill that would grant driving permits to illegal immigrants without giving full licenses?

At a news conference Wednesday morning, she said right now, no. However she says she’ll certainly consider any compromise bill that comes to her desk and will weigh all options the legislature sends her.

Key Republican leaders like Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, have said they agree and will push for the governor’s proposal, something he believes has enough votes in both chambers to pass. But if that doesn’t work, Ingle tells me his side would be open to a bill that solves the problem.

So is there a compromise? Not yet. This early into a 60-day session, it’s going to be hard for either Democrats or Republicans to do anything but stick to their guns. However, as time ticks on, there could be room for both sides to find an agreement and get something done. It’s simply too early to tell.

Bill of the Day

HB104 »

Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Belen, is carrying this bill, one of the governor’s proposals that she laid out at this year’s State of the State address.

The bill would expand the Amber Alert system, which currently is used by law enforcement to alert the community that a child has been kidnapped and is in danger. Currently under state law, Amber Alerts cannot be issued for familial abductions. HB104 changes that.

Check out this story on the proposal from early December »

The state has bent the rules on this before to try and bring attention to potentially dangerous situations where family members had abducted kids before. With this bill they wouldn’t have to.

HB104 was only assigned to one committee, House Judiciary, and cleared that committee unanimously Wednesday. Next stop is a vote of the full House.

This could be the first part of the governor’s agenda that gets completed this session.

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