From the Roundhouse: “Torraco Amendment”

February 3rd, 2014 at 5:50 pm by under Latest Posts, Politics

The committee process is, by design, a major part of any bill’s journey through the halls of the Roundhouse.

It’s the part of the process where hundreds of bills get bogged down or simply don’t make it through in time before the session ends.

It’s also where bills get tweaked and tightened to close down loopholes and prevent the worst “what if” scenarios from becoming the law of the land.

While just about every lawmaker has some sort of a say in that process through a vote, some lawmakers dig a little more into the “nitty gritty” of legislation than others.

On the Senate side, Sen. Lisa Torraco, R-Albuquerque, and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, stand out on that front. Not surprisingly, they’re both lawyers. They’ve also both earned specialized nouns and verbs in the Roundhouse.

Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, coined the phrase the “Torraco Amendment” (corrected this part, thanks Sen. Torraco) . In Senate Judiciary Monday, Torraco went to work on a texting while driving bill, attempting to add two words. Those words, “in motion”, in a bid to keep people from being cited for texting while driving while sitting in their driveway or while their car is stopped at a stop light.

Later in that same committee meeting, a one word amendment to a criminal background check section on another bill stalled.

There’s a phrase I came up with for a similar tactic employed more feverishly by Sen. Ivey-Soto. If you’re sponsoring a bill, you hope to avoid having that piece of legislation get “Ivey-Soto”-ed.

A recent example came in Senate Public Affairs when a bill that would make promoting prostitution online illegal came into the committee. Ivey-Soto and bill sponsor Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, engaged in a fairly testy battle over whether the term  ”forum” was specific enough in context and whether the bill reached too far outside of New Mexico’s state borders.

Last session, a controversial proposal to require criminal background checks at gun shows nearly died in committee when Ivey-Soto pitched several relatively small changes to a bill that had already cleared the House. By making those changes on the Senate side, it required the bill to clear a full Senate and House vote, an insurmountable obstacle that late in the session.

There’s a good and a bad to this. On the good side, close scrutiny of legislation makes sure technically clean laws without gaping loopholes waiting to be exploited. On the bad side, too many small amendments and too much tweaking can prevent good policy from making it into law before the clock runs out in Santa Fe.



SJR 18

In recent years we’ve heard a lot about requirements for elected offices. Two years ago voters OK’ed increasing what it takes to be a PRC commissioner. There’s a proposal this year to create some basic requirements to become a county treasurer.

SJR 18, introduced by Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, would make it a basic requirement for the state auditor to be a CPA. That goes hand in hand with other requirements currently in the constitution, including that the attorney general be an attorney and that the secretary of public education be a “trained and experienced educator” (something that’s proven to be a point of dispute when it comes to current appointee Hanna Skandera).

3 Responses to “From the Roundhouse: “Torraco Amendment””

  1. Lisa Torraco says:

    Contrary to this report, Senator Peter Wirth coined the phrase “the Torraco amendment” not me! … and the purpose of the amendment? … to allow drivers to pull off to the side of the road and safely text message without breaking the law.

    1. Alex Goldsmith says:

      I updated both parts Sen. Torraco, though I think the bill’s sponsor would probably contend that that’s already covered in the language.

  2. Lisa Torraco says:

    Thank you Mr. Goldsmith. I wouldn’t want to be known as one of those politicians who names everything after themselves! LOL

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