Three GOP senators punt again on redistricting, prolonging pandemic legislative session that can cost $50k or more per day

By: - December 16, 2021 5:07 pm

The Roundhouse in Santa Fe. (Getty Images)

Three Republican senators voted to extend a procedural stunt Thursday afternoon, one that will prevent the Legislature from voting on a new state Senate political district map. 

The senators – Mark Moores of Albuquerque, Cliff Pirtle of Roswell and Joshua Sanchez of Bosque – voted Thursday afternoon not to lift the “Call of the Senate,” a rare procedural move that requires every senator to be present in the chambers and the doors of the chamber locked. If even one senator is absent, the vote cannot continue. 

The Call of the Senate went into effect late last night.

State Republicans throw down ‘obstructionist’ tactic to stall vote on Senate map

It has historically cost taxpayers an average $50,000 per day to hold special legislative sessions like this, though it’s not clear yet how much this one has cost, said Raúl Burciaga, director of New Mexico Legislative Council Service. COVID-19 protocols add additional costs, he said, though he doesn’t expect this year’s session to be extraordinarily high. 

Lawmakers gathered at the Roundhouse this year amid a pandemic and strict COVID-19 protocols, including a vaccine mandate. One senator is absent after testing positive for the virus during the session. 

Sen. Craig Brandt (R-Rio Rancho) announced the “Call of the Senate” late Wednesday, and Sen. Crystal Diamond (R-Elephant Butte) could not be found in the Roundhouse. So the Senate went into recess until this afternoon. 

It takes at least seven senators to enact a “Call of the Senate,” and all seven must vote to lift it if a senator remains absent without an excuse. Brandt, who initiated the call, voted for lifting it today. 

Tribal leaders object to 11th-hour NM Senate redistricting map

Sanchez, one of the senators who voted to prolong the call, represents District 30, a seat that was redrawn in the proposed Senate map to pair him with another Republican, Greg Baca. This would require one of them to step down, or for them to face off in a coming election. 

The bill up for a vote was introduced by State Sen. Linda Lopez (D-Albuquerque), and it reflects the consensus of tribal leaders who proposed a map concept to the nonpartisan Citizen Redistricting Committee, which approved it for the full Legislature’s consideration. The tribal coalition concept map aims to maintain Native American voting power in the state while honoring their rights to self-determination. 

Joaquin Romero, a spokesperson for Senate Republicans, said in a brief phone call he could not speak to the motivation of the trio who voted to continue to stall the session. Pirtle declined to comment. 

The Senate is expected to reconvene at 5:30 p.m.

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Patrick Lohmann
Patrick Lohmann

Patrick Lohmann has been a reporter since 2007, when he wrote stories for $15 apiece at a now-defunct tabloid in Gallup, his hometown. Since then, he's worked at UNM's Daily Lobo, the Albuquerque Journal and the Syracuse Post-Standard.