Members of the New Mexico Senate convened briefly on Thursday to concur with House changes to legislation to address the state’s budget shortfall, then adjourned without considering crime bills sought by Gov. Susana Martinez.
The House adjourned sine die moments before the Senate early Thursday afternoon, so the special session of the Legislature is over.
Before adjournment, Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, tried to protest the decision by Democrats, who hold the majority in the chamber, to go home without hearing crime legislation. He was unsuccessful.
“I know that there are some very controversial things here, but I do think that we need to look at some of those issues,” Ingle said. While he acknowledged that a bill to reinstate the death penalty is “certainly controversial,” he asked that Democrats at least allow consideration of bills to toughen the state’s three-strikes law and the penalty for intentional child abuse resulting in death.
Democrats shut down discussion on whether to consider those bills. Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, argued that procedural rules don’t allow debate on a motion to adjourn. Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, a Republican, disagreed, ruling that there would be debate, but Democrats then voted to overrule Sanchez’s ruling.
That forced a final vote, with no debate, on the motion to adjourn. It passed on a vote of 22-16.
Following adjournment, Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming and chair of the Senate Finance Committee, blasted the focus by the governor and House on crime legislation during the session. He called it “hypocritical” to talk about being tough on crime while failing to adequately fund courts and corrections agencies.
“The most important situation we have right now is the state budget, to make sure we’re not furloughing the enforcers against crime,” Smith said. He added that he was “more than happy” to consider crime bills in the regular session that begins in January, or even “the day after the election” on Nov. 8.
Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, praised the budget fix that’s now awaiting action by Martinez.
“The past three days have been time well spent,” Gentry said in a news release. “By taking a more deliberative approach, we were able to identify more cash balances to sweep. We reversed Senate cuts to CYFD and DPS and reduced cuts to K-12 classroom funding without raising taxes.”
“While this package isn’t perfect, it’s fair,” Gentry said. “Now isn’t the time for brinksmanship, and I’m pleased we were able to get the job done.”