From the Roundhouse: Call of the House

March 6th, 2013 at 8:15 pm by under Latest Posts, Politics

Today we saw a dramatic move in the House to try and move the driver’s license issue forward through a procedure known as a call of the House.

This is a rare process where all 70 members of the House must be brought into the chambers for a full floor vote with all the doors locked.

For as rare as it is, it’s not hard to execute. A call of the House only takes seven representatives.

One of the quirks of a call means no matter how long it takes, every representative must be present in their chairs. That led to a more than an hour-long delay while Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, was tracked down.

During the empty time, one lawmaker juggled. A number of others acted like it was open mic nights at the Roundhouse and told jokes (three of them targeted at the Irish).

When the House got down to business, Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, introduced a series of four motions designed to get House Bill 606 out of committee and onto the floor.

What came next was a strange series of events.

The first vote succeeded 36-34, with four Dems (including now consistent thorn in her own party’s side Rep. Mary Helen Garcia, D-Las Cruces) joining the Republicans to “blast” the bill out of one of its three committees.

But before a second vote, a long debate ensued. During that floor debate, a number of fellow House Democrats and Senate Majority Whip Tim Keller, D-Albuquerque, appeared to put a lot of pressure on freshman Democrat Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos.

She had originally voted with the Republicans, possibly because of a campaign promise to help support a driver’s license repeal, but it appears the pressure got to her on vote number two. A visibly distraught Garcia Richard changed sides and voted with her own party.

Normally that would’ve deadlocked the vote at 35-35, but another freshman Democrat made a major blunder.

Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, accidentally voted with the Republicans and it was 36-34. She brought that to Speaker Ken Martinez’s attention, but only after he announced the vote. The vote stood.

The third vote was enough for Democrats to stall the Republican tide. It was 35-35, leaving the bill in House Appropriations and Finance, where it’s now waiting for a hearing. That ended the call of the House.

Ultimately it was a bold gamble from Republicans that was at best a half-victory.

On the positive side for the GOP, the bill would’ve certainly died without the move. Instead it’s now skipped two very politically tricky committees and is in a committee that may have a chance of moving the bill ahead onto the floor.

On the negative side for the GOP, there are only 10 days left in the 2013 session after today and time is running out to move the bill forward.

For House Democrats, this was a big hold, even if only by the skin of their teeth. Stalling Republican ambitions may also help better unite their own party as the session picks up and becomes more contentious in its final days.

Bill of the Day:  Senate Bill 559

Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, thinks daylight savings time has outlived its usefulness in New Mexico.

SB 559 would exempt the state from daylight savings time. New Mexico would join Arizona and Hawaii, the only other two states which do not observe daylight savings time.

New Mexico would effectively be in the Pacific Time Zone with California half of the year and in the Mountain Time Zone the other half, just like Arizona.

Pirtle says long hot nights created by daylight savings time in the summer lead to higher air conditioning costs and don’t make sense.

Daylight savings time haters shouldn’t celebrate yet. SB 559 hasn’t passed a single committee yet.

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