I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Missing GOP members could have killed Lujan’s tax bill
House Speaker Ben Lujan’s bill to implement a temporary half-cent hike in the state’s gross receipts tax would presumably not have passed earlier today if two Republican members hadn’t missed the vote.
Ultimately, following drama on the House floor, Lujan’s bill was approved on a vote of 34-32, with two Democrats and two Republicans missing the vote.
The excitement began when Republican Rep. James White asked for a call of the House and the doors were locked to ensure no members left the floor. Democratic Reps. Danice Picraux and Karen Giannini – who had previously been excused – were absent, as were Republican Reps. Jane Powdrell-Culbert and Dennis Roch.
Both Roch and Powdrell-Culbert were at doctors’ appointments, House Chief of Staff Matt Kennicott told reporters after the vote.
The sergeant-at-arms went searching for missing members. Though the two excused Democrats weren’t required to respond to a call of the House, both did return briefly to the House floor. Lujan got on the phone, and after a moment Picraux and Giannini quickly left again.
They weren’t required to return for the final vote, even following a debate between Minority Whip Keith Gardner and Rick Miera – the Democrat who was presiding over the chamber at the time – about whether they should be forced to come back and vote on the bill.
Meanwhile, the House did vote to excuse Powdrell-Culbert and Roch.
The House Republican caucus, minus Powdrell-Culbert and Roch, voted as a group against Lujan’s bill. They presumably would have been joined by the two missing Republicans if they had been present, and the vote would have been 34-34.
A tie vote kills a bill.
How Giannini and Picraux would have voted isn’t clear. Neither could be immediately reached for comment. Following the vote on the bill, Gardner put out a statement saying they “clearly… did not want to be on record as voting for the largest tax increase in recent New Mexico history.”
“These kinds of games are an outrageous abuse of democracy,” Gardner said.
Picraux and Ginannini returned to the House floor during debate on the next bill.
Nine Democrats did join the Republicans in voting against the bill. They were Elias Barela, Joseph Cervantes, John Heaton, Dona Irwin, Rhonda King, Andy Nuñez, Al Park, Ben Rodefer and Jeff Steinborn.
Here’s video of the debate between Gardner and Miera, taken by The Independent’s Larry Behrens:
This story has been updated to reflect information about absences of Reps. Roch and Powdrell-Culbert.