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Legislature

IN SESSION: 48 hours to go and not much done

Budget, lottery scholarship fixes and more still unfinished

February 18, 2014, 11:30 am
By Matthew Reichbach
There are just two days to go until the House and Senate adjourn sine die at noon on Thursday.

And still not much has been done.

Just two bills have cleared both chambers -- the bill to fund the state legislature and a bill to clarify language in high school equivalency. Neither are major issues -- and most major issues have been bogged down.

The main one, of course, is the budget. The House deadlocked on the budget and it failed to pass. Now, the Senate has taken the lead. Still, this is a bill that will require major discussion in both chambers -- the Senate will have to discuss the bill and if they pass it then it goes to the House Appropriations and Finance and then the House floor. All in two days.

But that isn't the only issue.

Another issue that needs a decision this year is how to shore up the lottery scholarship program. If the legislators don't pass a fix to the troubled scholarship program, it will run out of money -- leaving many students high and dry.

However, consensus is lacking on the right way to move forward. There were a dozen bills this year to address the state lottery scholarship -- none of which are particularly close to passing. Those that haven't passed their initial chamber are likely dead in the water. Those with a couple of committee hearings to go are running out of time.

Throwing a monkey wrench into the 30-day session is the Navajo Nation compact. Legislators have introduced a proposed compact and could get a vote today. Other tribes oppose the rule, saying it would give the Navajo Nation too many casinos and negatively impact casinos from other tribes throughout the state. The issue came up near the end of the session in 2013 and legislators said they didn't have time. Now it has come down to the wire in 2014.

Another potential crisis is judicial pensions. A bill that proposes to use some of the extra money from the legislative retirement fund to shore up the judicial pension reform passed the Senate and is now waiting in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. Another bill related to retirements passed the House and is now pending in the Senate Finance Committee.

There are lesser -- or perhaps more accurately, less pressing -- bills still waiting, too. A bill to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors is headed to the Senate floor along with a separate bill to prohibit texting while driving.

Legislation that would allow local governments to slightly raise liquor excise taxes to pay for alcohol treatment programs has cleared the Senate and is now pending in the House Business and Industry Committee.

Other bills have gone down. An early childhood education amendment failed. Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera's nomination never made it out of the Senate Rules Committee. And dozens of other bills just haven't moved far enough to have a reasonable shot at passing the legislature this year and crossing Gov. Susana Martinez's desk and will end up dying when the legislature adjourns.

Expect late nights and virtually no sleep for legislators over the next two days.

 

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