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…
Call of the House: Was it a walk?
On Wednesday evening, as the House was debating a series of tax increases, five members were missing from the chamber–and not excused, leading to a call of the House.
It’s a request that can come from any member, at any time, during any debate: A “call of the House.” All of a sudden the doors to the chamber are locked and state police are sent to round up missing lawmakers. The reasons for requesting a call can be many, but near the top is politics.
Members who are excused are not subject to a call of the House; state police are not sent to look for them. For example, Rep. Nora Espinoza was excused during the entire special session while she attended to family business in Panama. Rep. Dianne Miller Hamilton was at lunch when the call was issued; reached by phone, she was excused, staff said.
The Independent searched the capitol for the representatives; we also tried to reach them by e-mail (except Jeff, for whom we couldn’t find an address) to ask about the reasons for their absences. We were not successful.
A call of the House can be used to get representatives on record on hot button issues, Rep. Al Park, D-Albuquerque told The Independent.
“Calls of the House are used for political purposes, and that’s OK,” he said. “For me, it’s my job to vote.”
But sometimes, Park explained, ”a member doesn’t want to vote on an issue that would present a conflict between their constituents and their personal beliefs.”
One strategy to avoid that conflict is called “taking a walk.” That’s when a lawmaker leaves the floor–or a committee meeting–before a vote in order to purposefully avoid making the vote.
Of course not all absences from the floor–or from committee–mean a legislator is taking a walk. Meetings, negotiations, phone calls, bathroom breaks: any of a number of reasons can pull a member away.
But the fact that the Speaker pulled the bill from the Taxation and Revenue Committee–on which Rodefer, Jeff, Barreras and Cote sit made some watchers wonder if perhaps there weren’t enough votes to get the bill through committee.
And when the four were absent from the floor, Republicans asked for a call of the House.
“I believe there was a plan to allow people to leave,” rather than vote against the tax bill, Rep. Keith Gardner, R-Roswell, said plainly.
In general, Gardner said, he wants to see every member vote when major tax incentives in the state are decided.
In the following video you’ll see a member of the House sergeant at arms search for representatives during the call, and you’ll see the parking spaces of the missing members, some with cars in them, others without: