From the Roundhouse: Sweat the Small StuffFebruary 14th, 2013 at 7:52 pm by Alex Goldsmith under N.M. Politics
A warning to readers… The contents of this blog are truly inside baseball. But if you can get through the process stuff, you’ll see how a small move can indicate a larger theme.
That small move occurred midday Thursday during a pretty routine process in the Senate.
When bills are introduced or passed by the other chamber, they’re assigned to committees. By Senate rules, a bill only has to go through two committees although Finance doesn’t count for one of those.
Having passed the House 41-25, Santa Fe Democratic Rep. Brian Egolf’s House Bill 88 was set to get its committee assignments Thursday.
The bill, known as the Foreclosure Fairness Act, would force a court to give homeowners wrongly foreclosed on attorney fees and costs if they win their case.
Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, elected to assign the bill to two committees, Corporations and Judiciary.
But with Sanchez off the floor, Senate Finance Chair John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, argued that the bill could have a huge impact on counties and municipalities and demanded Finance be added to the list.
He needed a majority of senators to back him to get that done.
Immediately, Republicans rose in support of Smith, considered a conservative Democrat.
Senate Majority Whip Tim Keller, D-Albuquerque, rose in opposition.
So did Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, who flat-out accused Smith and the Republicans of trying to kill the bill and keep it off the floor by sending it through a maze of committee hearings.
This was a battle of simple legislative math. If Smith had enough conservative Democrats plus Republicans along with him for a majority, he could force the issue and get his way.
If he didn’t, it was no problem for Keller and the rest of the Democratic senators to kill the small insurrection in the ranks.
It didn’t come to a vote.
Keller picked up a microphone and laid down, withdrawing his opposition and calling for unanimous consent for Finance to be added to the list of stops for HB 88.
A visibly frustrated McSorley opposed that. But a quick voice vote crushed the Democrats, and the committee was added.
This was not a huge vote by any means, and HB 88 isn’t necessarily dead now.
However, it reinforced the idea that in many cases Republicans along with conservative Democrats have the votes in the Senate to do what they want, even over Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez’s wishes.
Why is this important?
That power to override the Democratic caucus’ preferences was what allowed Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, to get enough votes to win the position of Senate President Pro Tem over Dem caucus choice Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas.
This reality could also come into play with the driver’s license debate. Republicans only need four Democrats to go along with them on a compromise bill that would take away driver’s licenses from most illegal immigrants. Two (you guessed it, Smith and Papen) are already co-sponsors.
It’s a small vote that could signal bigger things as we enter the second half of the session.
Bill of the Day: House Bill 504
Like alcohol tastings? You’ll like HB 504.
Deming Democrat Rep. Dona Irwin’s bill would allow those with liquor licenses to get alcohol tasting permits for $100.
HB 504 is in the House Business and Industry Committee.