Record Staff Writer
At a cost of $50,000 a day, the fifth legislative day of the special session ended yesterday with little progress made, continuing to fuel the fury that taxpayers’ money is being wasted.
Legislators now have less than two weeks left in the session, which is funded for 21 days, to tackle the governor’s full agenda.
Rep. Dennis Kintigh, R-Roswell, said many bills introduced on the second and third legislative day have been assigned to a committee but those committees have not been scheduled to meet as of yet. “I’m sympathetic to the concept that it takes a while to ramp things up but we’ve gone past that time. Now it’s time for committees to be meeting.”
House Speaker Ben Lujan was at the forefront of criticism yesterday for holding up the progress of the session.
Speaking candidly, Kintigh disclosed his support of a past coalition effort to overthrow Lujan. Having the power to assign legislators to a committee and to decide which bills those committees will hear, Kintigh said, gives too much power to the speaker of the House and that there needs to be more even sharing of authority. Believing there is a fairness issue at stake, Kintigh stated, “It is like the head coach of the Green Bay Packers picking the starting lineup for the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
Kintigh has been assigned to the energy committee and the consumer and public affairs committee, and is the only Republican who was not reassigned to their previous committee. Kintigh, who was assigned to the judiciary committee last year, was replaced by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad. Despite his qualifications, such as his past role as an FBI special agent, Kintigh said he received the explanation that including him on the judiciary committee would result in over-representation from the Southeastern region of the state.
Reaffirming that redistricting was still the top priority at the session, Kintigh emphasized the importance of coming to a decision on the Medicaid bill. “That’s $6 million that would go back to the federal government that we could use in this state. It’s a non-partisan issue, we just need to get it done.”
Attributing the slow progression to the Democrats, Rep. Bob Wooley, R-Roswell, said the party is stalling. “They’re [Democrats] not getting any of the governor’s bills to a committee. They’re waiting until the last minute to use it as a tactic for trading to get redistricting passed the way they want it. They can then trade it with her to get some of her bills passed, that’s my guess. “ Wooley was chosen to be a member of the labor committee, which the driver’s license bill and three others have been assigned to thus far.
Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, disagrees with the decision made by Lujan to assign the driver’s license bill to the labor committee. “Union people come and fill up the room so anyone wanting to testify in favor of the bill doesn’t have a chance to have their voice heard. The labor unions are so close in proximity to the state capital, they get there early enough so no one else can get into the room,” Ezzell said.
Agreeing with the view expressed by several legislators that the “floor leader is holding things up,” Ezzell cited House Resolution 1, introduced Monday by Rep. Thomas Taylor, R-Farmington, which states “Imploring the House of Representatives to work more diligently and expeditiously to consider legislation that has been introduced during the first special session of the fiftieth legislature.”
Ezzell said the resolution blasted the speaker of the House and the rest of the Democratic party for dragging their feet. Hearing from the majority of her constituents, “Do your job,” and “Speaker Lujan quit dragging the state down again,” Ezzell said she hopes “more people become incensed with what’s going on up here and at the inaction of the Democratic party.”