Feb. 4, 2009 Legislature Tidbits

The Santa Fe New Mexican

Sen. Sanchez meets the press: Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, on Wednesday unexpectedly dropped in the Capitol Media Room to give an impromptu, informal press conference.

Sanchez said he believes there’s a very good chance that serious ethics legislation will pass the Legislature this year. The mounting number of investigations into alleged government misconduct, he said, have “hit too close to home.”

The majority leader also said he believes the bill to abolish the death penalty (House Bill 285) has its best chance ever. But he quickly added, “I thought the same thing about domestic partnerships.” He admitted the death penalty bill could run into trouble — again — in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which yesterday failed to pass the domestic partnership bill (Senate Bill 12).

Another bill Sanchez predicted will pass is the effort to open conference committees (HB393) — even though Sanchez himself opposes that move. He said opening conference committees would encourage members to get together away from the Capitol to decide on the bills that go to conference. In past years conference committee bills have passed the House but died in the Senate, usually in very close votes.

Conference-committee meetings are called when the House and Senate pass similar versions of the same legislation and must work to hammer out the differences. The budget bill always ends up in conference committee.

Adios DOMA

Although the Senate Judiciary this week declined to pass SB12 to establish domestic partnerships in New Mexico, it doesn’t look like the Legislature will pass legislation favored by opponents of domestic partnerships.

The House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee on Tuesday against two versions of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The panel voted 5-2 to table HB118, sponsored by Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell, which would define marriage between one man and one woman in state law books. The vote followed party lines, with Democrats in favor of tabling and Republicans opposed. Tabling almost always means the bill is dead.

By an identical vote, the committee tabled House Joint Resolution 2, sponsored by Rep. Gloria Vaughn, R-Alamogordo, which would have sought to define marriage between one man and one woman in the state constitution. Had the resolution cleared both the House and Senate it would have gone to voters for approval in 2010.