Minutes after the House voted 53 to 17 to adopt a $45 million limit on what New Mexico can pay out each year to TV and film productions, Rep. Andy Nunez, I-Hatch, stood up on the back row of the House chamber.
Around him lawmakers were backslapping each other and sharing stories after a long day on the House floor.
Then Nunez made his announcement. And things got serious real quick.
Nunez announced that he wanted to blast legislation out of committee that would repeal a provision in state law allowing New Mexico to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. In effect, it would ban the state from giving licenses to foreign nationals without social security numbers.
The controversial bill is one of Gov. Susana Martinez’s legislative priorities and was tabled last month in its first committee assignment.
Moments after Nunez made his motion, House Majority Leader Ken Martinez, D-Grants, jumped up to block Nunez’s procedural maneuver, making a motion to recess the House. Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Nambe, called for a voice vote on Martinez’s motion. Republicans loudly protested that they wanted a roll call, which records a lawmaker’s vote; a voice vote does not. Both camps shouted equally loud on Martinez’s motion, with mostly Democrats supporting Martinez’s motion and Republicans opposing it.
Lujan sided with the Democrats. Then he walked off the podium, leaving Republican lawmakers nearly speechless and fuming and the House recessed until Thursday morning.
Governor Martinez was not pleased with the outcome, according to NMPolitics.net, who got the governor’s reaction to the action.
“It’s outrageous that Speaker Ben Luján broke House rules to block an up-or-down vote on the bill to repeal driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants,” Martinez told NMPolitics.net. “It’s tactics like this that cause the public to lose faith in its elected leaders.”
“Come tomorrow morning, every House member will make a choice – either stand with Speaker Luján and support driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, or stand with New Mexicans and repeal this dangerous law,” Martinez said.