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Luján delays attempt to hear driver’s license bill

Speaker Ben Luján (Photo by Heath Haussamen)

This article has been updated to include the governor’s quote, response from Luján, and video of the incident.

House Speaker Ben Luján abruptly adjourned tonight’s session and walked off the floor, ignoring objections, after he delayed an attempt to hear a bill that would outlaw giving driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants.

Rep. Andy Nuñez, I-Hatch, made a motion to bring his House Bill 78 directly to the floor, taking it out of a committee that has already tabled it. The rare procedural move, called “blasting,” is a way to bypass the committee process with a majority vote on the House floor.

A blasting move, if approved by the majority of House members, brings a bill directly to the House floor for immediate consideration.

The speaker said he would delay consideration of Nuñez’s motion until Thursday morning. The House had already spent hours today debating the budget and film incentives. Some members called out their objection of the delay, but Luján ignored them as chaos ensued.

There was a motion to adjourn, and Luján ruled that the “ayes” won the vote over the “nays.”

Many Republican members voiced their objections, and one called out a challenge to the speaker’s ruling, which would normally have led to a role-call vote on whether to adjourn. Ignoring the objections, the speaker instead walked off the House floor.

Nuñez wasn’t giving up.

“It’s not over. We’ll do it again tomorrow,” he told NMPolitics.net.

Republicans remained on the floor, stunned, following adjournment.

Nuñez’s bill is one of Gov. Susana Martinez’s top priorities for the session. Martinez was quick to lash out at the speaker.

“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.

Does Nuñez have the votes?

The question now is whether Republicans and Nuñez have two Democrats willing to join their cause and give them the necessary 36 votes to bring the bill to the floor. Sources said they did have the votes.


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But Lujan is a master at twisting arms, and sources expect him to spend this evening and tomorrow morning working members to try to kill Nuñez’s attempt.

Martinez will also be lobbying. The governor has caused controversy with her heavy lobbying effort for the bill that has included radio ads paid for by her campaign and robocalls from the state GOP. Phone lines in the offices of Democrats in the House have been flooded with calls urging passage of the legislation.

The issue hasn’t gained any traction in the Senate, but House passage of Nuñez’s bill might put additional pressure on senators to act.

Last year, an Albuquerque Journal poll that found that 72 percent of New Mexicans oppose the law that allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.

Updated, 8:30 p.m.

Here’s video of the entire incident, courtesy of the governor’s office:

Update, 10:55 p.m.

In a news release, Luján said he complied with House rules.

“According to House Rules, a motion to adjourn takes precedence over all other motions, including the one made by Rep. Nuñez,” the release states. “After a voice vote on the motion to adjourn was taken, it was clear that the vote was in favor of adjournment.”

I wasn’t present for the vote in Santa Fe, but it didn’t sound from the official House webcasting or the governor’s recording that the vote was in favor of adjournment. It didn’t sound clear either way.

More from the release:

“Speaker Luján expressed concern over inflammatory comments made by Governor Martinez shortly after the vote. ‘It is unfortunate that Governor Martinez chose to issue inflammatory statements to the media that questioned the motives of the House and provided an inaccurate interpretation of House rules,’ Lujan said. ‘The people of New Mexico are not served by this kind of behavior. I only wish that our new governor was as willing to engage the Legislature in constructive discussions regarding the serious public policy issues facing our state as she is to drumming up a media frenzy by issuing misleading and inappropriate comments.’”

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26 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. Icarus:

    Yes, the formatting is bad. This shows up in the fact that it appears that all the losses to the funds are all within the TRD in addition to all the gains being within TRD. So, everything affected involves the TRD. But it’s written in such a way that it’s not clearly evident. I think. *shakes fist* I’m tired of having to read this painful FIR to try and decipher it! :)

  2. A quick moment of Devil’s advocacy, it should be noted that Representative Nuñez decided to take a leaf from the Wisconsin Assembly GOP’s playbook and waited until six Democrats had left the floor before he made the motion. Since he clearly had the votes, this strikes me as waste of a perfectly good Machiavellian tactic. Either way, I have little doubt that Speaker Luján’s reaction would have been as equally unethical and immature as it was, but it should be pointed out that Nuñez is not entirely clean in the matter.

  3. I bet the Republicans are happy that they chose to have Lujan as their Speaker instead of Cervantes.

    You got what you asked for, don’t be a baby and complaign.

    Maybe next time Tom Taylor will think about the consequenses to his actions.

  4. Ben Lujan’s actions were more egregious than his refusal to simply acknowledge a legal motion before the body. He went on and presented a motion of his own which was out of order. Rep Andy Nunez’s motion by rule should have been acted on first. Lujan then obviously lost the voice vote on his out of order motion, thus disenfranchising the members of the house that vote against his motion. Finally he ignored a challenge of the ruling of the chair which according to House rules REQUIRE a by name recorded vote.

  5. “Stick to outcomes and stop nitpicking over process.”

    The ends do not justify the means. I agree with keeping the law as it is; and yet Mr. Lujan’s behavior was wrong. Imagine a society in which elected officials simply ignore the legal function of legislatures. I’m against that. We should all be against that. Lujan should be censured for his refusal to acknowledge a legal motion.

  6. qofdisks:

    The process is something that the Speaker is duty-bound to enforce, not ignore. A delay is more than a merely a delay when it is brought about through such a blatantly inappropriate manner.

    wiseman:

    As you noted, this is really one of the worst-formatted FICs ever written, but if I am reading this thing right, it’s looking like an approximately $600,000 net gain in 2013; however, the gain is entirely to Taxation and Revenue, and the losses are also to municipalities and the education and road funds. Additionally, there appears to be no impact assessment on law enforcement, nor is it clear that anyone has addressed the additional cost to the MVD for processing social security numbers (which, unfortunately, is something they’re soon going to have to be able to do under Federal law, anyway, so someone should probably investigate that…)

  7. Sorry qofdisks having been a member of the New Mexico State House of Representatives, I know what the House Rules are. You can make all of the excuses you want for Speaker Lujan not only did he break the rules but he ignored them which is political corruption.

  8. I watched the video and it looked like the Speaker’s call to order to me. There is too much whining over a mere delay. A mere delay is nothing to denigrate the Speaker to this extent on this blog. Stick to outcomes and stop nitpicking over process. It is misleading and disingenuous. Monitoring our lawmakers should be about transparency as a tool to curb corruption not to be looking for legislative nose picking.

  9. Ah, Icarus, the savings are listed under Administrative Implications in detail, and if I am reading this right, the REVENUE section shows the *losses* while the ESTIMATED ADDITIONAL OPERATING BUDGET IMPACT shows the *savings*, although both sets use the ( ) and thus make it hard to read. I will cheerfully admit the report needs to be better formatted to make things clearer and enable an easier apples-to-apples comparison.

    Point B is the sort of thing that should have been handled by Committee Amendments (since it IS a valid point), and could be fixed in a Senate Committee if it arrives there, which would of course require another House vote on the amended bill, but in any event the bill doesn’t necessarily have to be scrapped since it can be fixed on the Senate side. This wouldn’t have been necessary if the House Committees weren’t so determined to bury the bill. ;-)

    Hope this clears things up! ^_^

  10. IcarusPhoenix, yes I know but there were two identical bills that were tabled in the same committee each being submitted by Repblicans.

  11. Ogler:

    One small correction: The bill was Representative Nuñez’ to begin with, so he was the logical person to bring the motion.

  12. The entire affair that was perpetrated on the citizen of New Mexico last night was pathetic on several accounts.

    1. It should have been on of the House Minority Leaders or at lest on of the Republican members that should have made the motion to blast the legislation out of the committee. Not the independent Andy Nunez.
    2. A proper motion was brought before the house that should have been acted upon.
    3. Speaker Lujan made an out of order motion to recess which is in violation of house rules
    4. The video then clearly shows that Speaker Lujan lost the voice vote to recess and ruled in opposition of the clear vote. Again ignoring house rules.
    5. Then in clear violation of house rules ignored the challenge of the chair and left the house chambers just like a little kid who did not like the outcome of the game and took is little ball home.

    Items 3, 4, and 5 clearly indicate the kind of third world dictator Speaker Lujan is. Can you say “Muammar Gaddafi-Lujan?”

  13. Hm, well, this is what happens when one only reads the topsheet. I really shouldn’t do math that late at night. However, two things should be noted:

    a) The statement, “Note that the overall revenue loss is less than the overall operating costs savings to the State,” is not actually accompanied by any math. The report shows the negative effects, but does not back up the above statement by showing the aforementioned savings.

    b) There is a later statement in the report that is remarkably telling; “By removing the language in Section 66-5-9 that the Department is authorized “to establish by regulation other documents that may be accepted as a substitute for a social security number or an individual tax identification number” will not allow New Mexico to issue driver’s licenses to a group of legal New Mexico residents”. This strikes me as a good reason to scrap the bill and try again, even for its supporters.

  14. qofdisks:

    A hissy fit is not common sense; even if we disagree with the bill itself, as you and I both do, blatantly violating the procedures that he’s supposed to be enforcing and storming off the floor isn’t exactly the way to solve the problem. There are half-a-dozen procedural methods he could have used, none of which would have constituted the massive ethical quandary that he has now built for himself.

  15. OK, let’s clear something up. Regardless of one’s position on the driver’s license issue, everyone talking about how repealing it would cost the State money is factually incorrect. Using the very same FIscal Impact Report Icarus referred to, it says, under the Fiscal Implications heading, “According to TRD, the revenue estimate reflects the reduction in revenue from driver’s license fees that would have come from individuals without a Social Security number. Note that the overall revenue loss is less than the overall operating costs savings to the State” (emphasis mine) The State will gain money by repealing the law, not lose it. Under the Administrative Implications heading, it says “This proposal would have a positive impact to the Department’s Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) and Tax Fraud Investigations Division (TFID) by reducing the cost of administering and monitoring foreign national driver’s license applications.” (emphasis mine) How does this translate to a loss to the State?

    And as an ancillary point, under Fiscal Implications it says “However, the number of 8-year DLs issued to individuals
    with no SSN increased by 20% from calendar year 2008 to 2009 and by and 34% from 2009 to 2010.” Under Significant Issues, it says “The Motor Vehicle Division suspects that much of the recent growth in applications for drivers licenses from persons not having a social security number results from New Mexico being one of only three states to issue licenses regardless of immigration status.” So those who say our very lenient driver’s license policy is attracting illegal immigrants seem to be right on the surface.

    If we’re going to have the usual partisan sniping in Comments sections, let’s at least try to get the facts clear first. :)

  16. jivaro:

    Read my first post. I was the very first one to criticize the speaker for his actions. Indeed, I agree with the need for punitive measures (though we probably can’t get better than a censure, even if we had the time left in the session for such proceedings). That being said, entirely aside from the fact that you rather arrogantly corrected me for something I never said by explaining something that I had said, you once again are forgetting that you’re no longer in California; as I’ve told you before, New Mexico doesn’t have a recall law on legislators. Please, will you finally take the time to learn how our system works?

    Ms. Wedum:

    My reading of it is that the licensing fees are a fairly small portion; the rest seems to be increased cost to process social security numbers and extra money for enforcement.

  17. Thank you Mr. Lujan! I am proud of your common sense. Having some documentation of the undocumented population serves to make our society safer and saner. Driving a large population further underground will only create a large underground slave trade. Until there is comprehensive immigration legislation, then the more that we can track who is here, the better we can regulate the exploitation of human beings. It is safe and practical.
    Their is a large population of illegal immigrants here whether we contrive illegality or not. The immigration laws we have now are unenforcible. Some regulation of identifying who is on our roads is a good idea.

  18. The House reconvenes at 10am today. It should be an interesting session…

    I am wondering if the $2.2 million represents lost revenue due to lost license fees. That would mean a significant number of drivers of unknown origin.

  19. Ben Lujan runs the House Chamber the way Scott Walker runs the Wisconsin capital. Both are bullies. As for the licensing issue, presumably more undocumented workers will be inclined to get car insurance if they’re allowed to get a drivers license. Some have argued that giving undocumented residents a drivers license is the same as providing them a license to commit voter fraud; as though anyone needs a drivers license to do that. To equate being undocumented with having a criminal mindset is ridiculous. That would mean that everyone of European descent is literally a descendant of criminals. Targeting the most vulnerable may make for good political sport, but it makes no sense.

  20. Ben has once again shown the way politics is done in NM by the La Politica elites. Our banana republic is an embarrassment to the country. The people are not allowed to be heard, or allowed to even document how our representatives are conducting themselves. The ruling party’s leadership has to be called to account for this and many other violations of citizen’s rights. If nothing changes (as is the usual left wing way to support the status quo and reject change and hope) then the citizens need to rise up and do something about the sorry state of our legislature.

  21. Ahh! There it is, I was worried it wouldn’t come.

    Yes, I agree with your statement that “if we always based all of our actions in this country only on what the people want, women and minorities still wouldn’t be allowed to vote… among other things.”However, just because this bill is something you are against, doesn’t exactly make it right. This misstep in policy was simply an effort by Gov. Richardson to appease his liberal cohorts. It did nothing to improve safety, and makes our licenses worthless to get onto a plane.

    Just because your research enforces your “noble” reasons as to why this bill should be defeated, admit it. You want them to have drivers licenses, just like your friends in the Legislature. The cost has nothing to do with anyone’s reasons, it would have been brought up; after all money has been tight.

  22. Icarus you need to come in out of the dark. When there is a challenge to an adjournment from the floor on a vote for adjournment, the speaker is required to call for a vote. This he did not do. The man needs to be impeached or in the very least recalled for breaking the rules of the House.

    Lujan is out to show the state that he controls the House under any circumstances even if he has to break the rules to do so.

    He is a disgrace to the office he holds as a Representative and as Speaker of the House. This is the reason the majority of the people have lost faith in their elected officials throughout the state.

  23. You’re right on Ramirez! Lujan is abusing his power by political trickery. As far as the last of a scourge of bad politicians giving New Mexico a bad name, there are still way too many hanging around on both sides of the aisle.

  24. Ramirez:

    I don’t need to give an explanation: the House Consumer & Public Affairs committee already has for me. However, since you apparently can’t be bothered to do the research, I’ll throw you a bone; the reason the bill was tabled was because the fiscal impact report showed it would cost upwards of $2.2 million in taxpayer money every year.

    And if we always based all of our actions in this country only on what the people want, women and minorities still wouldn’t be allowed to vote… among other things.

  25. Oh Icarus… Give us a lengthy, witty explanation to your reasons why this bill should have been tabled.

    Ben Lujan needs to go, he disgusts me. He is the last of a scourge of bad politicos that have given New Mexico politics a bad name.

    I don’t give a damn that this bill would have been a “nightmare for insurance agencies, immigration rights groups…” Giving licenses to illegals is not what New Mexicans want, and it should be repealed, but more importantly a debate should be allowed to take place, this is America. Ben Lujan needs to grow up, let our representatives debate and stop living in denial like a middle east dictator.

    If you are as mad as I am, call Ben Lujan. His phone number is on the legislature’s website.

  26. Oh for the love of…

    Alright, I will gladly go on record and say that this bill is a nightmare for insurance agencies, immigration rights groups, law enforcement, and the DMV, but both Nuñez and Luján need to put the cutesy showboating on the shelf and take their pissing contest outside so that everyone else can do their jobs: Representative Nuñez, if you had read the LFC report, you would know this bill was tabled for a reason, and Speaker Luján, storming off like a whiney child in defiance of procedures of which you are supposed to be the arbiter is why so many in your own party wanted you out of the speakership.

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