The house works overnight, passing bills on violence intervention, economic development

The Rotunda in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE — The State House worked through Friday night and early Saturday, passing bills that would establish a violence intervention program, criminalize threatening a judge and create a council to help local governments get grants.

Every bill now heads to the Senate.

The evening sitting in the House began around 8:30 p.m. after what had already been a full day of committee hearings and an afternoon sitting. It ended up extending past 6 a.m. Saturday as fresh snow blanketed the Capitol grounds.

The late hours drew sharp remarks into the debate.

“Why would you want to be awake at this hour, I don’t know,” Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, said around 2:30 a.m. as lawmakers debated an economic development funding measure.

Rep. Meredith Dixon, D-Albuquerque, suggested it was Republicans who caused the late hour by dragging out debate, even on bills they broadly supported.

“I volunteered to stay here overnight because we have important work to do,” she said. “I’m happy to stay awake 24 hours a day.”

The unusually late night came as the 30-day session enters its home stretch. Lawmakers are due to adjourn at noon Thursday.

Any bill that does not reach both houses by the deadline will die.

It was slow for much of the night as Republicans — vastly outnumbered by Democrats — engaged in a lengthy debate, even on some bills that ultimately won overwhelming approval.

The House generally allows three hours of debate per bill, and nightly debates lasted until around 2.5 hours.

Time-consuming is a strategy often employed by a minority party to limit the number of bills the majority can pass in a time-limited session.

One of the longest debates of the night focused on House Bill 96, which would establish a statewide violence intervention program modeled after a pilot program in Albuquerque.

The program aims to intervene with victims of violence likely to retaliate with their own violence. The goal is to interrupt the cycle of violence.

Republicans wondered if this would be an effective strategy.

It eventually went 44-20.

Late nights aren’t necessarily unusual, and they’ve happened under Democratic and Republican majorities.

In 2016, when Republicans held a majority, the House voted to reinstate the death penalty after an overnight debate that ended before 6 a.m. The bill did not become law because the Senate did not take it up.

It is more common for the House to end its business each evening well before midnight. The Thursday evening session, for example, ended at 11 p.m.

Republicans noted early Saturday that the debate and overnight vote took place with few people watching.

The House wrapped up Saturday at 6:07 a.m. The first house committees were scheduled to start at 9 a.m., less than three hours later.

Among the actions Friday evening or Saturday morning, there was the passage of:

— House Bill 99, making it a crime to threaten judges or their families, in a 59-7 vote after about 70 minutes of debate and procedural motions.

– House Bill 62, creating a Grants Opportunity Council, in a 65-1 vote after an hour on the agenda item.

– House Bill 7, establishing an Opportunity Enterprise Act to promote economic development, on a vote of 36-28 after approximately 2 1/2 hours spent on the article. It would be backed by a $70 million vote to create a fund that could make low- or no-interest loans for economic development projects.

— House Bill 119, adjusting school capital improvement funding distributions, on a 62-0 vote after about 30 minutes on the point.

— House Bill 73, adjusting retirement rules to provide more incentive for retired educators to return to work, on a 62-1 after about 40 minutes on the matter.


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