2018 State Legislature: Legislative roundup Feb. 12, 2018

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The New Mexican

Days remaining in the session: 3

White flag: Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, conceded Monday that his proposed constitutional amendment for automatic voter registration is dead.

The Senate Rules Committee was ready to hear Ivey-Soto's proposal when he admitted defeat, telling the committee chairwoman to skip it.

Ivey-Soto's proposal, Senate Joint Resolution 5, would have required the state to ensure that all qualified electors are registered to vote for each election.

Consensus on crime: The Senate will get a vote on a sweeping, bipartisan piece of crime legislation that would toughen penalties for violent felons caught in possession of a firearm and ensure that a series of minor, nonviolent crimes no longer carry the risk of jail terms.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday approved House Bill 19, sending to the Senate floor what has emerged as the consensus criminal justice legislation of the session.

The measures also would expand access to behavioral health services for jail inmates, provide bonuses for some police officers and stiffen requirements that drunken-driving offenders must satisfy before having an ignition interlock device removed from their vehicle.

None of these are particularly controversial proposals.

But after partisan fights over sentencing, lawmakers have welcomed the measure as containing at least a few things most of them seem able to agree on.

"I believe this is the only type of way we're going to get things done," said Sen. Ron Griggs, R-Alamogordo.

Illogical vote: Ivey-Soto on Monday in a Rules Committee hearing denounced a memorial to curb money in politics, but then voted for the measure.

"It's worse than worthless. It's a guaranteed failure," Ivey Soto said of House Joint Memorial 10, which asks Congress to approve the Fix It America Constitutional Amendment. The federal measure says Congress and state legislatures should regulate money in elections to prevent corruption and buying influence.

So why did Ivey-Soto vote for the memorial, which advanced because of his support? He did not have a cogent answer, saying he respected Rep. Linda Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, for bringing the memorial to keep discussion of the topic alive.

Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, also said the memorial was a waste of time. State legislatures already have the power to tackle the issue of money in elections, based on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Pennsylvania case, Moores said.

Unlike Ivey-Soto, Moores voted against the memorial. Memorials express a sentiment but have no force of law.

Quotes of the day: "It's hard to figure out how to tax the sun." – Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, while debating a tax credit for solar panels. Sharer warned against the state relying too heavily on renewable energy because oil and gas extraction generates what are known as severance taxes that make up a sizable share of the state budget.

"PED [Public Education Department] will find $50,000. Pocket change. Kind of shake the couches." – Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces and head of the Senate Education Committee, in response to news that the education department would come up with that amount to help pay for hundreds of background and fingerprint checks that will have to be conducted under a bill proposed by Ivey-Soto. The committee voted 5-3 to advance the bill.