From the Roundhouse: The Final CountdownFebruary 20th, 2014 at 12:54 am by Alex Goldsmith under N.M. Politics
With both the House and Senate home for a quick nap, the fate of many key items is already clear but a few others still stand in limbo with the clock ticking closer to noon.
Here’s a quick cheat sheet:
The Budget – The only thing lawmakers absolutely have to do during a 30-day budget session is, well, the budget. Gridlock turned to compromise and after the Senate unanimously signed off on a budget deal, the House followed suit on a pretty overwhelming vote. Given Republican rep and Governor comments worrying about reserve levels, expect to see some line-item spending cuts.
Minimum Wage/Early Childhood – Before the session, DPNM chair Sam Bregman laid out two priorities, both constitutional amendments. One was increase minimum wage. The other was an amendment spending more money out of the $13 billion land grant permanent fund on early childhood education. Both are pretty well dead this session because of problems in each chamber. The early childhood amendment never made it to the floor in the Senate. Over in the House, a late attempt Wednesday to amend a mostly unrelated bill to increase distributions from the land grant permanent fund blew up. Earlier in the evening, minimum wage bit the bullet by three votes, undone by both a lack of total Democrats in the House (Reps Chavez and Archuleta out sick) and a lack of support (Rep. Irwin voting no, Rep. Jeff not voting at all).
Hospital Solvency – What became a pitched fight between counties, hospitals, the administration and lawmakers in the Senate resolved itself quietly in the House. A 55-10 vote to approve a funding fix to get federal matching dollars for indigent care sent the proposal to the Governor’s desk. The one hitch is that the administration can’t be happy with either the funding level from the counties, nor the mandate to find $9 million somewhere in HSD’s budget to make up the difference. One line item veto from Governor Martinez could set up an interesting situation and put funding for many rural hospitals at risk.
PE Fix – A bill to allow marching band, cheerleading and ROTC to count as PE is heading to the Governor’s desk, joining a statewide ban on texting while driving.
Work to Do
Lottery Scholarship Fix – The Senate passed a massive lottery scholarship overhaul on a 33-11 vote late Tuesday. Wednesday it had not received a floor vote in the House, but it’s already receiving quite a bit of opposition from Republicans there. The two criticisms; the future use of liquor excise tax money to help pay for lottery scholarships and the concept of “front-loading”… guaranteeing full tuition scholarships for freshmen and sophomores, potentially cutting juniors and seniors. This issue could blow up big time in the session’s last 3 and a half hours, especially if a House amendment succeeds.
Capital Outlay – A deal on the annual capital outlay spending package came late, so it’s unclear exactly what projects get funded in this bill. What is clear is a relatively small amendment on the Senate side to pull a mysterious project from the bill adds some unexpected drama in the session’s final hours.
Line of Duty Injury Act - Rep. Paul Pacheco’s, R-Albuquerque, HB 211 has sent across to the Senate a while ago but has had a slow slog over there. The proposal allows police officers, firefighters, jail guards and others hurt in the line of duty to continue accruing service time on their pension while they’re away from work. A small amendment in SPAC from Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, has put an extra hurdle in this bill’s way. Late Wednesday night, Senate Judiciary Chair Richard Martinez, D-Espanola, agreed to release the bill from his committee onto the floor. HB 211 still needs a full Senate vote and concurrence from the House. This one may be a solid bet down the stretch.
Just About Anything Else – Smaller or larger fixes can easily get lost in the shuffle in the last hours, whether they’re “good” or “bad” bills. Then again, many of them could get through in quick votes.
Omaree’s Law - The politically popular, arguably flawed measure is set to die in Senate Judiciary committee when the clock runs out at noon.
Power Incentive – A controversial economic incentive will have a very hard time making it out of the Senate. Sponsored by Rep. Moe Maestas, D-Albuquerque, in the House and Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, in the Senate, the proposal would allow PNM and El Paso Electric to give manufacturers or other companies a discount on their power bills and pay for it by raising everyone else’s power bills. Late Wednesday, Sen. Ingle told me there are 11 amendments sitting and waiting if it comes up for discussion.
Getting Rid of Education Secretary – A proposed plan to replace the governor-appointed education secretary position with a superintendent of education chosen by an elected board has been sitting and waiting on the Senate floor and will likely die there. Even if it clears the Senate, there is absolutely no chance the House has the votes to send it to voters. Hanna Skandera’s confirmation is also likely to remain where it is in the Senate Rule committee.
DWI Anything – Just about every proposed change to state DWI laws is either dead in committee or stuck in Senate Judiciary.
That’s where it stands now, but you never know what kind of craziness can unfold in these last hours. See you (later) in the morning!