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Paperwork problem delays gun legislation

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The gun background check bill isn’t headed to the governor’s desk just yet.

A clerical error in a committee document means the proposal, Senate Bill 8, is headed back to the Senate rather than directly to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The mistake isn’t expected to keep the bill from reaching the governor eventually, but it may require a few more procedural steps.

The error was revealed Tuesday – the day after the state House approved Senate Bill 8, the last step that would normally be needed to send the legislation to the governor.

But a committee report on the bill – a document that records what happened in a particular committee – says the legislation was amended, with a minor, one-word change, before the House took it up Monday.

The committee report, however, is inaccurate, according to a Journal reporter’s notes and the recollection of others present during the committee hearing. The amendment cited in the report actually failed on a 3-2 vote.

But that may not matter. The House adopted the committee report without realizing the mistake, essentially amending the bill even though the proposed amendment had failed in committee, according to a senior staffer in the House.

The erroneous committee report then became part of the record considered by a second House committee and then sent to the House floor for full consideration.

So the House on Tuesday sent the legislation – as amended – back to the Senate rather than on to the governor.

Both chambers have to approve identical legislation for it to reach the governor.

The Senate now has some options. It could reject the House amendment and ask the House to drop the amendment, or the Senate could agree to the amended version.

The change, in any case, doesn’t affect the meaning of the bill.

House Minority Leader James Townsend, R-Artesia, said Tuesday that Democrats – who hold a majority in the House – ought to take the opportunity to reconsider.

“The people of New Mexico do not want this bill and Democrats would be wise to stop fumbling long enough to listen,” he said in a written statement.

The bill would require a background check before nearly any gun sale, including private transactions between two individuals.

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