Thursday, February 01, 2007

ROUNDHOUSE ROUNDUP: IT'S HOT BUTTON DAY AT THE ROUNDHOUSE

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
February 1, 2007


Today is Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day, according to a news release from Lt. Gov. Diane Denish.

Happy Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day!

But a better name for Feb. 1 at the Roundhouse would be "Hot Button Day." This is the day that several hot-button issues get their first — and for some, quite possibly their last — hearings of the session.

You’ve got the medical marijuana bill, (Senate Bill 238 sponsored by Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque) in the Senate Public Affairs Committee.

There’s a twofer in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee: The panel is scheduled to discuss abortion (the parental-notification bill, House Bill 239, which would require abortion doctors to notify parents of teenage girls seeking abortions, sponsored by Rep. Larry Larranaga, R-Albuquerque) and gay marriage. There’s the proposed constitutional amendment, House Joint Resolution 2, by Rep. Gloria Vaughn, R-Alamogordo, as well as HB 395, sponsored by Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell.

And then there’s cockfighting. The Senate Conservation Committee — the traditional killing grounds of anti-cockfighting bills — will hear measures sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mary Jane Garcia, D-Doña Ana, (SB 10) and Sen. Steve Komadina, R-Corrales, (SB 70).

There might be even more hot-buttons to be pushed today. It’s sure to be an Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day we’ll never forget.

For the record: Denish has scheduled a news conference to make more people aware of that tax credit at 10 a.m. in Room 321. The credit, which many people don’t bother to claim, is up to $4,536 for qualifying families with two or more children, Denish said.

Real ID: The memorial calling for Congress to repeal the REAL ID Act has at least one friend in New Mexico’s congressional delegation.

Marissa Padilla of U.S. Rep. Tom Udall’s office, answering a reporter’s inquiry Wednesday, released a statement saying, “Congressman Udall voted against the REAL ID Act in the 109th Congress because it was a first step toward a national ID card. While he agrees that we need safe and secure forms of identification to help fight illegal immigration, the decision on how to issue driver’s licenses should remain something the states decide.”

House Joint Memorial 13 as of Wednesday was on the House Temporary Calendar, which means it could be heard on the House floor as early as today.

Victory for bolos: The bolo tie came one step closer to becoming the legal state tie Wednesday when the House voted unanimously to pass HB 115.

Bill sponsor Rep. Don Tripp, R-Socorro, is a jeweler by profession. He said several fellow jewelers requested the bill.

Tripp claimed New Mexico produces more bolos than any other state. I’m not sure whether our neighbors to the West would agree.

But in Arizona, people refer to the tie as “bolas” and say we’re wrong to spell it otherwise.
As I mentioned a few columns ago, in 1987, the Legislature named the bolo “official state tie or neckwear of New Mexico” in a memorial.

However, that was done in a nonbinding memorial, so the bolos aren’t listed in the same section of state law that lists the official state bird, state animal, state reptile, state butterfly, state cookie and all the state songs.

But even if the bill passes the Senate and becomes law, that doesn’t mean House members can wear bolos to floor sessions. Cloth ties still are required, according to House rules.

There’s an identical bill, SB 19, sponsored by Komadina, scheduled for a hearing Friday in the Senate Rules Committee.

Is it a session yet?: In a recent column, I listed several examples of “It’s not a session until ...”

At least one of those came to pass. Sen. John Pinto, D-Tohatchi, sang "The Potato Song."

However, some Roundhouse purists argue that didn’t count because Pinto sang the Navajo song in the Rotunda on Seniors Day — not on the Senate floor.

I’m not taking a position on this.

I asked you, the reader, to submit your own “It’s not a session until ...” examples and, sure shootin’, some of you did. Here are some of those:

* There is a “Call of the House” and members are under escort to the restroom. (This is from House Majority Leader Kenny Martinez of Grants.)

* Sen. Joe Carraro, R-Albuquerque, shows up in an opera cape for Italian American Day.

* A former legislator shows up, and lawmakers spend an hour of floor time lauding him rather than acting on bills.

* Someone (a) gets into a fight at a Santa Fe bar; (b) gets popped driving drunk; or (c) sends an incendiary op-ed to The New Mexican and then stands by it.

* Everyone in the Legislative Council Service has a cold they caught from schoolchildren sliming the bannisters.

* Throughout the building, it’s mariachi music all day every day.

* The lobbyists start delivering pizzas (always with green chile).

* The bill clerks are using three Xerox machines at once.

* When everyone is finally really sick of all the Valentine candy.

That last one is especially disturbing because the Valentine onslaught hasn’t even started yet.

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