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 V.18 No.6 | February 5 - 11, 2009 

Making Sausage

It’s a good thing our state legislators have 60 days to make the magic happen this session. There are so many hurdles in the race to productivity. For instance, cell phones.

I’m So Sorry. I Have to Take This.

If things stand as they are, Sen. Bernadette Sanchez (D-Albuquerque) will have staged an absurd ending to the domestic partnership drama in Santa Fe.

The bill affording unwed couples—gay or straight—the same rights as married people cycled through the Legislature for years, usually dying in some committee or other.

Advocates and opponents organized and rallied, filling the gallery in Santa Fe with their supporters to watch the proceedings in the Roundhouse. Marchers marched. Donors donated to campaigns.

Finally, in 2009, word spread that with changes to the makeup of the Legislature, domestic partnerships would pass.

The bill made it to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The vote was split, and one woman’s decision could determine its fate. Would the measure continue through the process and get voted on by the full Senate? Gov. Bill Richardson’s indicated he’s waiting to sign a domestic partnership law if it comes across his desk.

Unmarried (often gay) couples on one side. Conservative (often religious) protesters on the other. The issue rested in Sen. Sanchez’ hands. She took that voting power bestowed on her by her constituents and ... left the room right before the vote was taken. She returned after it was over. She was on an important phone call, she says.

A tied 5-5 vote left domestic partnerships to wilt once again in some committee.

Death Penalty Ender Sees the Outside

Of a committee, that is. A bill that would abolish the death penalty managed to see the other side of a committee last week. House Consumer and Public Affairs gave the thumbs up to Rep. Gail Chasey’s measure that would replace capital punishment with a sentence of life with no parole.

It was a 5-2 vote split along party lines, with Democrats in favor of the bill, and it still has to maneuver through a few hoops before sliding under the guv’s pen. Richardson has promised only to consider the measure if it passes, but there’s no telling which way the governor will go.

Ethics Reform Forecast: Grim

Blogger Heath Haussamen pointed out that the Senate Rules Committee didn’t get its act together enough to even have an organizational meeting until Monday, Feb. 2—about a quarter of the way through the session. Plus, the committee will be dealing with confirmation hearings first.

Before being considered on the Senate floor, many of the ethics bills will have to make it through that committee and two others.

And the Moral Is

Are you sick of “committee,” too? It’s the new C-word. No matter what your stance on the issues, it’s more than a little chicken to bar these measures from receiving a full vote. New Mexico elects 42 senators and 70 representatives. But only a handful of them get to use their power when major issues are bound and gagged in committees.

 
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