Thursday, January 20, 2011

McSorley Dumped as Judicial Chair. Jennings: "It's Not About Policy."

As expected, the Senate Committee on Committees this morning voted to replace Senate Judiciary Chairman Cisco McSorley with Richard Martinez of Espanola. The vote was unanimous with virtually no discussion of the change.

Senate President Pro-tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, told reporters that the change had nothing to do with the fact that Martinez is more conservative than McSorley. "If anything, the committee got more liberal with the changes made," he said, pointing to the fact that liberal Sen. Eric Griego, D-Albuquerque will replace Sen. Bernadette Sanchez on the committee. Sanchez has been opposed to some measures favored by progressives, such as the domestic partnership bill.

Another Judiciary change: Santa Fe Democrat Peter Wirth will be vice chairman of the committee. McSorley will  remain on the committee.

Jennings said the main reason for replacing McSorley was complaints about bills bottlenecking in the committee. There was a period during last year's session when Judiciary didn't meet at all, Jennings said.

Martinez thanked the committees committee for their vote. Without being specific  he said he knew that there had been some concerns about his ability to run Judiciary because of  "some of my actions in the past."

It's not clear whether he was referring to instances like his Senate floor tirade during a special session in October 2009 when he accused fellow legislators of abusing the per diem system. “There are some who come in right before lunch, sign the voucher, get their free lunch,” then leave," he said. "... I’ve been here nine years,” he said. “I’ve collected a list (of legislators who have abused per diems). It would be very embarrassing if I released this list to the media.”

I've asked for that list several times, with no luck.

Martinez said he has been frustrated because McSorley hadn't included him on decisions on organizing the committee.

Jennings told Martinez that everyone knew Martinez had been under stress. He didn't specify what stress he was under.


On the Senate floor moments ago both Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, who wasn't personally affected by the committee changes and Sen. Bernadette Sanchez, who was, protested that the Senate seniority rules were disregarded in the changes. Sanchez said she wasn't consulted about the change until after the decision had been made.