From the Roundhouse: Sneak Attack

February 6th, 2013 at 7:12 pm by under Latest Posts, Politics

Just like there are seven ways to get on base in baseball, in the Roundhouse, there are many ways to stop a bill.

But just like a hit and an error do different things to your batting average in baseball, different ways of blocking a bill from passing can have different political effects.

One of the more unusual ways to kill a bill has now been tried at least twice this session, with the most recent attempt coming today on the House floor.

If a bill can’t get the needed majority of representatives or senators on the House floor, it can’t make it out of the chamber. That’s the simple way, a way where there’s a record of who voted for or against a bill.

A bill can die in committee too, often but not always on a party-line vote. There’s a record of those votes too that anyone can find on Legislature website.

The governor can also veto a bill, a tough hurdle for lawmakers to override.

There are also ways of stalling a bill, slowing it enough that it can’t get through the Roundhouse before the clock runs out on the 30- or 60-day session.

But in both chambers this session there’s been an unusual technique used.

Once a committee passes a bill, the bill briefly returns to the floor for a vote to accept the committee’s report.

This is usually a simple procedure done through a voice vote.

“All in favor?”

“Aye!!!!”

“All opposed? The committee report is adopted.”

That’s how it usually goes. But in the Senate last Thursday, Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, had a bill that would require genetically modified food to be labeled.

It cleared its first committee, but when it came time to accept the report, a roll call vote was requested.

Twenty-three senators, including six Democrats (one of whom was President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen) voted against accepting the committee report.

That may sound minor, but what it did was kill the bill for the rest of the session… the official term being “deemed lost.” Despite the favorable committee report, there would be no further committees or committee reports.

All of that with a simple, typically procedural vote.

Today it happened again in the House where Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, proposed a constitutional amendment to tie minimum wage to inflation and saw it clear House Labor & Human Resources Tuesday night.

But when it came time to accept that report with Garcia himself in the speaker’s chair, a loud coalition of Republicans tried to shout the bill down, and House Minority Whip Nate Gentry demanded a roll call vote.

After a pause, Garcia opened the roll for an unexpected vote that could decide the fate of his own bill.

This time the Democrats hung together and a 36-30 vote was enough for the committee report to be accepted and for the legislation to move forward.

It’s a rare move, but a sneaky and possibly effective way to kill a bill in its tracks. After all, batting .500 ain’t half bad.

Bill of the DaySenate Bill 77

When you have a heart attack in your home, Emergency Medical Technicians–EMTs–have to come to the rescue.

But is the person saving your life, safe?

Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, has a bill that would require criminal background checks for all EMTs in New Mexico. Applicants would be charged a $52.50 fee.

While many fire departments do criminal background checks already, some private companies and volunteer fire departments don’t.

SB 77 has one more committee to clear before a floor vote.

2 Responses to “From the Roundhouse: Sneak Attack”

  1. [...] Alex Goldsmith writes about the many ways to kill a bill. Goldsmith was writing about the Republicans in the House trying to kill a bill that would index [...]

  2. whiskeyriver says:

    Too bad Rep. Garcia’s bill didn’t get shot down. Deemed lost is a good place for any bill that allows gooberment to dictate how much a business must pay its employees.

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