From the Roundhouse: Déjà VuFebruary 21st, 2013 at 8:04 pm by Alex Goldsmith under N.M. Politics
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Rep. Mary Helen Garcia, D-Las Cruces, votes to effectively kill a Democrat-backed constitutional amendment, and a pack of freshman Dems defy the old guard on the budget.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because what happened Tuesday is just about what happened Thursday.
In the morning the same-sex-marriage constitutional amendment sponsored by Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, had the backing of Speaker Ken Martinez. After hearing emotional testimony from both sides of the issue, Rep. James Smith, R-Sandia Park, moved to table (“although it gives me no joy to do so”).
In what has been in other states purely a conscience vote that doesn’t always run along party lines, this vote seemed to be heading that direction. All five committee Republicans voted against the resolution, but they had help from two Democrats.
Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Española, and Rep. Garcia both joined Republicans in tabling the amendment 7-4.
For Garcia, it’s the second such move this week. She joined Republicans in tabling a bid to tie minimum wage to inflation through a constitutional amendment.
Garcia’s first vote was arguably a much bigger blow to Democrats as minimum-wage legislation is a major part of their agenda.
Garcia told me her reasons for voting against the gay marriage amendment were two-fold. One, same sex marriage didn’t gel with her religious beliefs. Two, she didn’t believe this belongs in the state Constitution (the same reason she gave for the minimum wage vote).
Strategically, this is a big gain for the minority party. With Republican Gov. Susana Martinez in control of the governor’s office, the GOP has a firewall against any unpalatable proposals that make their way through both chambers to her desk (a difficult enough task).
A constitutional amendment can be a way to bypass Martinez and take the issue straight to the voters.
Out of the 13 constitutional amendments introduced in the House this session, 10 came from Democrats. Out of the 10 introduced in the Senate, all 10 were Democratic proposals.
By custom, just about all of those constitutional amendments go through Garcia’s committee, House Voters and Elections.
HVEC has moved two of those amendments forward, but if Garcia continues to jump ship, it could be very difficult to get these types of issues on the ballot.
Republicans have to be thrilled because Garcia right now represents an extra layer of protection from amendments they’d like to kill.
She’s also not an easy obstacle to move. Under House rules, removing a committee chair or changing a members’ committee assignment takes a two-thirds vote (not likely).
Meanwhile, some degree of expected unrest over the budget, also in the House Democratic caucus.
Sixteen Democrats voted “no” on the House version of the budget including three who voted against the budget bill in committee.
It’s unclear what this signals. Save for the gun-show background-check bill, the Republican caucus seems to be consistently holding together this session.
A good chunk of the Democrats who voted “no” on the budget are freshman lawmakers. There are nine in total if you count freshmen Reps. Nate Cote, D-Organ, and Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, who were out of office for a term before returning this year.
Sticking with the House, Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas, got HB 55 through the chamber today.
HB 55 is a bill that makes poaching or wanton waste of game a fourth-degree felony in New Mexico.