Wednesday, March 2, 2011

It's a Blast! (or not)

House Democrats were reminded tonight of the precarious control they have on this chamber when, in a surprise move, independent Rep. Andy Nunez, backed by House Republicans, attempted to blast HB78, his bill to repeal the law allowing driver's licenses for illegal immigrants out of the committee that tabled it and onto the House floor.

The surprise move came at the end of a grueling floor session in which the House passed the budget bill and the film incentive compromise.

Here's my colleague Trip Jennings' account of the raucous vote to adjourn  that ensued:

Moments after Nunez made his motion, House Majority Leader Ken Martinez, D-Grants, jumped up to block Nunez’s procedural maneuver, making a motion to recess the House. Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Nambe, called for a voice vote on Martinez’s motion. Republicans loudly protested that they wanted a roll call, which records a lawmaker’s vote; a voice vote does not. Both camps shouted equally loud on Martinez’s motion, with mostly Democrats supporting Martinez’s motion and Republicans opposing it.

Gov. Susana Martinez issued a statement blasting the Speaker and implying the issue is bound to arise Thursday morning. She said:

“It’s outrageous that Speaker Lujan broke House rules to block an up-or-down vote on the bill to repeal driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants,” said Governor Martinez. “It’s tactics like this that cause the public to lose faith in its elected leaders. Come tomorrow morning, every House member will make a choice – either stand with Speaker Lujan and support driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, or stand with New Mexicans to overturn this dangerous law.”

UPDATE: 9:29 pm: As promised, here's the statement from Lujan:

The Speaker intends to take up the motion made by Rep. Andy Nuez (DTS-Hatch) to bring House Bill 78 out of the committees to which it has been assigned and onto the House floor during tomorrow’s floor session. According to House Rules, a motion to adjourn takes precedence over all other motions, including the one made by Rep. Nuñez. After a voice vote on the motion to adjourn was taken, it was clear that the vote was in favor of adjournment.

Speaker Lujan expressed concern over inflammatory comments made by Gov. Martinez shortly after the vote. “It is unfortunate that Gov. Martinez chose to issue inflammatory statements to the media that questioned the motives of the House and provided an inaccurate interpretation of House rules,” Lujan said. “The people of New Mexico are not served by this kind of behavior. I only wish that our new governor was as willing to engage the Legislature in constructive discussions regarding the serious public policy issues facing our state as she is to drumming up a media frenzy by issuing misleading and inappropriate comments.”

Here's a video of the proceedings, provided by the Governor's Office:

NM House Bill 78 Attempt to go to House Floor from Governor Susana Martinez on Vimeo.