From the Roundhouse: Conflict and Resolution

March 8th, 2013 at 7:47 pm by under Latest Posts, Politics

With time running short in the session, the timeline to get things done shortens. That applies to House-Senate feuds as much as bills.

The set-up for Thursday’s blowup may have come from a few sources.

During a debate on pension reform, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, wanted an amendment on a bill to overhaul the Public Employees Retirement Association.

Before the session, it appeared there was an agreement on the plan to solve PERA’s woes (an unfunded liability of $6.2 billion). As part of that plan, the employee contribution would go up 1.5 percent as would the state’s contribution.

But several Republicans and the governor’s office balked at the state increase, pointing out that New Mexico is among the most generous of states in paying into its public employee’s pension plans.

So the bill was amended in committee to cut the rate increase for the state to just 0.4 percent.

Sanchez backed an amendment to take that change back. After a long floor debate though, he lost 24-18. That vote meant seven fellow Democrats bailed on him.

Sanchez was one of just four votes who opposed the bill’s final passage out of the Senate.

Meanwhile over in the House, representatives struck down a bill that was popular with senators, for a good reason.

Senate Bill 336, a bill effectively allowing senators and other elected officials serving four-year terms to double the contribution limits they can receive from individual donors, passed the Senate 40-0. But the House representatives, who are elected to two-year terms and wouldn’t be affected, voted down the bill 34-32, killing the legislation.

Meanwhile the House appears at least somewhat upset that the only bill of theirs passed out was the very bill needed to fund the Legislature.

All of that happened before sparks flew in Santa Fe. You can read my story for what exactly happened or watch the full uncut video of the confrontation here

But even as early as Thursday night, the rift seemed to be mending. And Friday, it seemed like nothing ever happened. Senate Education moved on several House bills in the morning, and the House never seemed to stop hearing Senate bills.

All in all, it seems like nothing more than a small bump in the road practically. Part of that is because there’s little time left in the session. Bickering is one thing, but getting nothing done is a far bigger problem for state lawmakers.

Even hurt feelings don’t change that political reality.

But Thursday’s battle and votes on the Senate floor further indicate a point I’ve talked about a lot on this blog. On many issues (except for minimum wage), conservative Democrats and Republicans appear to have the votes, not majority leadership. That one theme could set the stage for more tough battles as both parties try to get their priority bills through.

Bill of the Day: Senate Bill 306

Sen. Steven Neville, R-Aztec, wants school districts to have the opportunity to set up their own school district police departments.

SB 306 would give school district police authority to enforce laws within the districts and on school grounds. In the fiscal impact report, APS notes that setting up independent police forces could allow districts to reap federal grant funding.

Neville’s bill was scheduled for its second committee, Senate Judiciary on Friday.

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