Martinez orchestrated vote on complex bill that House members had not read, did not understand and were prevented by him from discussing
Who makes sure a convoluted 35-page tax bill gets through the state House of Representatives without any debate?
House Speaker Ken Martinez, that's who. He put on a public display Saturday of evil politics and bad government.
Martinez, 53, in his first year as speaker, has proven himself to be a hypocrite unfit for high office.
He regularly talks about the sanctity of the committee process so that proposed legislation is picked apart methodically to expose any flaws or unintended consequences. Only after the legislative committees have done their careful work should a bill be heard on the House floor, Martinez will say.
Preserving sacrosanct committees is always Martinez's excuse for trying to keep a bill to repeal driver's licenses for illegal immigrants from being heard by the full House of Representatives. Kenny the Deal Maker hates the repeal bill. Therefore it needs to go through committees to die.
But on Saturday, Martinez was more than happy to let the monster tax credit bill that he had worked out with the Republican leadership be voted on without a single committee hearing in the House of Representatives.
Most House members did not have time to read the bill, which was heavily amended in the Senate (another backroom deal) before reaching the House in the last 30 minutes of the 60-day legislative session.
Martinez, D-Grants, made sure to allow Republican Rep. Nate Gentry to quickly ask for a vote on the tax bill. The idea was to squelch any debate because the legislative session would end in just minutes.
"I'm not going to take that motion yet," Martinez said to Gentry, playing his role as someone who actually cares about a fair and sane government process.
Martinez knew it would be hard to justify a floor vote on a mammoth bill that had not even been distributed to the 70 House members. But once copies of the bill were passed out, he stormed ahead.
Along the way, Martinez silenced fellow Democratic Reps. Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque and Jeff Steinborn, right, of Las Cruces. Both had questions and concerns about sweeping changes in public policy being done in a mad rush.
Martinez knew if either got the floor he or she would have run out the clock and stopped the runaway train that Martinez was engineering.
So Martinez cut off Steinborn's attempt at debating the bill.
"I haven't recognized you," Martinez told Steinborn, his civility as absent as his sense of fairness.
Martinez had to get his bill through in the last minute.
Except he did not.
By most clocks, but not Martinez's, the vote occurred after the noon deadline that ended the session.
At a later news conference, Martinez insisted time was on his side. He said he was watching his clock, and it did not strike 12 until he banged his gavel and said the tax bill had "duly passed this House."
Stewart spoke up before the vote, telling Martinez it already was 12 o'clock. Did Martinez check the time then? No. He ignored her and proceeded with the vote. Why let the law stand in the way of political maneuvers?
Perhaps Martinez's clock was broken, just like his values and his sense of good government.
Whether the tax bill is good or bad legislation is unknown. Time will tell, we suppose.
What matters more is that Martinez orchestrated a vote on a complex bill that House members had not read, did not understand and were prevented by him from debating.
How disheartening to see bright young Democrats such as Brian Egolf of Santa Fe and Antonio Maestas of Albuquerque complicit in Martinez's dirty politics. Shame on them both.
Sycophants, many who serve as Martinez's committee chairmen, gushed afterward about Martinez's leadership.
Then the Democrat press office, beholden to Kenny the Deal Maker, put out a windy statement. In part it said: "After 60 days of hard work in the Legislature, Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives passed a majority of the agenda they laid out at the beginning of the 51st legislative session. This success would not be possible without the help of House Republicans. Together, representatives in the New Mexico House were able to put politics aside and work in a bipartisan manner to prioritize good policies for New Mexicans."
Zounds. Martinez put aside politics to forge good policy. At least it was creative writing, if not terribly factual.
Approving 35-page tax bills without reading them is not good government. It is insanity.
But that is how Kenny the Deal Maker goes about the public's business.