Inside the Capitol

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Final Day of Flurry

31513 final day

SANTA FE – Noon today marks the beginning of the final day of the New Mexico Legislature's 2013 regular session. New Mexico's legislatures begin and end at noon. Legislative days also begin and end at noon but that timing is more flexible.
But noon tomorrow is not flexible. Until the 1960s, lawmakers were allowed to "stop the clock" and allow time well past noon to get business finished. But the state supreme court ruled that our constitution says nothing about clock stopping and that any bills passed after noon are invalid.
There is no law specifying the end of the 20-day period the governor has to sign or veto legislation. So governors play it safe and get all their bill signing done before noon of the 20th day. It doesn't matter when he vetoes bills because they don't go into effect anyway. Some governors don't even bother vetoing bills they don't like. Those are called pocket vetoes and don't carry any explanation about why the governor doesn't like the bill.
As of the beginning of this week, lawmakers had only gotten 10 bills through both chambers and up to the governor.
One of those bills benefitted the spaceport by limiting the liability of suppliers of parts of space crafts. No company wanted to come here without that guarantee. Reportedly numerous companies already have passed New Mexico over because of not having the limited liability.
Now that we have it, we are back in the game. Let's hope we aren't too late. We're going to have to hustle.
The state budget, of course, is another item that has to pass. Public employees at the state and school district levels have major complaints with this year's budget.
For the first time since 2008, the state is showing a surplus. But the employees who have seen salary and benefit cuts for the last five years find themselves left out again this year as the surplus is used for other priorities.
Gun laws are likely the most prevalent of any issue in every state. New Mexico has many bills on all sides of the gun issue. Considerable publicity was given to a bill to make it a felony for any New Mexican to enforce any new federal gun control Law. The Council of State Governments reports that 30 states have similar laws in their hoppers.
And if you think that is hard-headed, Missouri has a bill under consideration preventing any member of its lower house from proposing any legislation that further restricts an individual's right to bear arms. The penalty for introducing such a bill is a fourth degree felony.
I will state again, I do not think our nation will ever solve its gun problems with legislation. Most of it will not pass. None of it will work. Our culture will just have to grow out of its fascination with guns. I predict it will take at least several generations.
New Mexico legislators are generally a courteous lot. Occasionally they try power plays on each other but they know that is part of the game.
The one exception is the annual basketball game between the House and Senate. The fighting spirit in that game is only for the fun of it. The House usually wins. They outnumber the Senate 70-42 and usually are younger.
The games are fun to watch and the $5 admission fee goes to the University of New Mexico Cancer center. The Cancer Center is the official cancer center of New Mexico and is one of 67 National Center Institute-designated ted centers in the nation.
The Center says it treats 65 percent of adult cancer patients in New Mexico and nearly all the child cancer patients. That is where former House Speaker Ben Lujan was treated.
Some interesting relationships have been formed between lawmakers who were treated there at the same time. It took years for many to figure why Sen. Billy McKibben, a Lovington Republican, and Sen. Emilio Naranjo, the longtime Rio Arriba Democratic kingpin, were such fast friends.


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