Many Democrats are expressing concern about the integrity of the committee process in announcing opposition Rep. Andy Nuñez’s attempt to bring his bill that would outlaw giving driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants directly to the House floor for consideration.
“It’s been a longstanding tradition in this House that we work through the committee process, and it’s not to work to advantage, it’s to allow the citizens of this legislature to come and state their case,” Majority Leader Ken Martinez, D-Grants, said on the House floor during today’s debate.
Martinez was joined by a number of other Democrats in speaking about the importance of the committee process. Among them was Rep. Thomas Garcia, D-Ocate, who said the process attempts to ensure fairness.
“I’m trying to understand why this bill is more important than a piece of legislation I’m carrying that is stuck in a committee somewhere,” Garcia said.
Nuñez argued that the committee process isn’t always fair. The speaker assigns some bills to only one committee, he said, but many of his bills must be approved by three committees before they reach the House floor.
Rep. James Roger Madalena, D-Jemez Pueblo, said he tried to bypass the committee process years ago, like Nuñez is trying to do today, but was unsuccessful.
At the time he was upset, but Madalena said he now understands that the committee process is “critical to House members and to the House of Representatives.”
“I’m just conveying that our rules are rules that were put in place for a specific reason, and the committee process is what it is,” he said. “If we open one or make an exception to one, then I am sure that there will be another one tomorrow, or next week, or perhaps at the next session, and if we do that we are violating our own process.”
‘This needs to have the full hearing’
Asked why this bill and not others deserves to bypass the committee process, Nuñez said any member has the ability to make a motion on the House floor to bypass committees and bring a bill directly to the House floor for debate. Such a motion needs approval of a simple majority of members.
“This one is important enough to me to do this,” Nuñez said.
Rep. Dennis Kintigh, R-Roswell, agreed.
“This needs to have the full hearing it deserves to have,” he said.
The bill has been tabled by the Consumer and Public Affairs Committee, and this is Nuñez’s attempt to revive it. He needs the votes of 36 members on three different procedural motions to bring the bill to the House floor for consideration.
If the entire GOP caucus supports Nuñez, that means he also needs the votes of two Democrats.