NM Legislative Roundup March 7

Days remaining in session: 14

Make it count:

Two more lawmakers say their votes aren’t being counted. Reps. Tom Anderson, R-Albuquerque, and Anna Crook, R-Clovis, say their votes were not recorded during a vote on the House floor Friday.

“I know I voted on it,” Anderson said. Anderson said he pushed his voting button and the screen on the House floor reflected that he had, but that a printout of the vote showed him as not voting. The vote was corrected later in the day.

Earlier this week, Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones, R-Albuquerque, had the same problem.

Steve Arias, chief clerk for the House, said Friday that the only way for a vote to not show up is if the legislator pushed both the yes and no buttons at the same time.

“That’s the only way.”

Half a million for Highlands institute:

A measure that would appropriate $500,000 for the Ben Luján Leadership and Public Policy Institute at Highlands University has cleared the House Education Committee and is pending in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.

Rep. Richard Vigil, D-Ribera, is carrying the bill, House Bill 214.

Big-contract reviews:

A measure (HB836) pending in the House Judiciary Committee would amend the state procurement code to have the Attorney General’s Office approve state contracts worth more than $1 million.

Rep. Lucky Varela, D-Santa Fe, is carrying the proposal, which according to a legislative analysis would protect “against the evils of favoritism, collusion, fraud, and corruption in the award of public contracts.”

Some state agencies that gave input on the bill for the analysis warn the measure could add another layer of bureaucracy and create unnecessary delays.

New state building:

The Senate on Friday unanimously endorsed the financing mechanism for a new state office building, part of a long-term plan to get agencies out of rented quarters and into a centralized, state-owned complex.

SB221 would increase the cap on the bonds, backed by gross receipts tax revenue, that the New Mexico Finance Authority is authorized to issue.

The planned $26 million office building would be across from the Capitol, adjacent to a state parking garage that is under construction. It would house the Department of Finance and Administration, which would move from the nearby, state-owned Bataan Building.

The Bataan Building, in turn, would be freed up to house the state auditor and treasurer’s offices — which are now occupying leased space a few miles from the Capitol complex — and the offices of the secretary of state, which are in a nearby state building.

While the financing plan would reduce revenue to the general fund — the state’s main pot of money — by about $1.8 million a year, that’s expected to be offset by the savings from no longer leasing private space for the agencies.

“It’s a good deal for the state of New Mexico,” said Senate Republican Leader Stuart Ingle of Portales, the bill’s sponsor.

The bill goes to the House.

Looking Ahead:

Union members plan to march to the Roundhouse today in support of workers’ rights.

The New Mexico Building and Construction Trades union is sponsoring the march, which starts from the Eagles Club at 833 Early St.

“This event is really about unity across all unions,” Ray Baca, the executive director of New Mexico Building and Construction Trades, said in a statement. “We’ve all got our different focuses, strengths, successes and failures, and this is an opportunity to get together and demonstrate our collective strength in regards to issues that affect all working people, whether or not they are members of unions.”

The House and Senate are expected to meet over the weekend. Both chambers are scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m. today. The Senate is not expected to meet Sunday. It’s not clear whether the House will meet that day.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday is scheduled to consider HB285, which would abolish the death penalty. The committee will meet in the afternoon following the Senate floor session.

Take a look at a schedule at www.nmlegis.gov.