Delay Tactics Sink Vote Bill for this year
State Senator William Sharer is a wonderful storyteller with the ability to go on at length on a wide variety of topics.
Last week, he regaled his restless Senate colleagues on the last day of the session as time ran out for a suffrage bill that had been a top priority for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Sharer spoke during the “announcements and miscellaneous” portion of the session, when lawmakers can talk about anything they want for as long as they want. He began by thanking the legislative staff for their work on a tax bill that had passed unanimously the night before after a long debate.
“I’m sure there were people who wanted to beat me with a stick,” Sharer said of the contentious debate before the final compromise. “Fortunately, we’re still a fairly civilized place and no one has done that.”
This civility remained for the next two hours as Sharer continued to speak. His monologue included discussions of military history, baseball, fly fishing, the Navajo Code Talkers, and whatever else came to mind at the time.
It didn’t take long for the other senators to recognize what was happening and that they were powerless to stop it. The only time the minority party has influence in the Legislative Assembly is on the last day of the session, when all action must end at noon.
Delay is about the only weapon in the Republican arsenal. Earlier in the session, Minority Leader Greg Baca appealed to the Senate, which requires all members to be present, to delay progress on another voting rights bill when Senators Gregg Schmedes and Jacob Candelaria were both nowhere to be found. in the rotunda.
While I support most of the suffrage bill’s provisions, I also believe it was more of a political priority than something New Mexicans desperately needed. The 2020 election saw the highest turnout in recent history, with 928,230 voters – nearly 70% of all registered voters – casting their ballots. It is difficult to say that there is a crisis.
All was not lost this year. Thanks in part to an overnight session at the end, lawmakers were able to do a lot, including the tax bill praised by Sharer, as well as bills to tackle the rising crime rate of the State, increase teachers’ salaries and put an end to usurious interests. short-term loan rates. They passed a constitutional amendment which, if approved by voters, would change the anti-donation clause to allow public funds to be used for “essential household services” such as internet, energy, water and sewage.
And, they passed a budget of nearly $8.5 billion, a 14% increase that will provide raises to all state employees, with those at the bottom earning no less than 15 $ per hour.
Still, it’s a crazy way to operate. The lawmakers who worked all-nighters at college in the 1960s probably aren’t the sharpest at 4 a.m. these days.
A ticking clock, on the other hand, is the only ally of the minority party. And even that is a temporary victory until next year’s session.
At the close of the session, House Speaker Brian Egolf announced that he would not be standing again in the fall, which means another reshuffling of the House leadership. Former Majority Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton was forced to resign last fall after she was arrested on 28 counts, including fraud, racketeering and money laundering. Caucus leader Doreen Gallegos of Las Cruces will become the longest-serving member of the executive following Egolf’s departure.
Walter Rubel can be contacted at [email protected]