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Single subject principles

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By Merilee Dannemann

There’s a hidden lesson for New Mexicans in the federal government shutdown. It shouldn’t be hidden.
Most of us are alarmed, frightened and furious about the shutdown and the paralysis of government decision-making process at its highest level.
We understand why it’s happening: one issue is being held hostage to another issue.
In the United States House of Representatives, a member cannot vote on a so-called “clean” bill that simply restores funding to the entire government. Because of the passionate opposition of some members to Obamacare, every bill allowed on the floor to fund the government incorporates a provision de-funding or delaying Obamacare.
Any member who wants to vote for the basic purpose of the bill has to vote for the anti-Obamacare care provision also because the two matters are written into one bill.
Regardless of what you think about the Obamacare law, this is a nasty technique. It’s sometimes called log rolling — bundling unpopular legislation into more palatable bills, so that the popular bills carry the unpopular provisions to passage.
Something like this could not be done in New Mexico, or in most other states. Our protection is a state Constitution provision known as the single-subject rule that says you can’t cover two separate subjects in the same bill.


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