SANTA FE —Current and former House members heaped praise for Speaker Ben Lujan and his 37-year House tenure during the last full day of the legislative session Wednesday.
The recognition came on the heels of a second memorial unanimously passed by the House this session to honor the Nambé Democrat’s years of service. The Senate passed a similar recognition Tuesday.
Lujan, who suffers from advanced lung cancer, has said he will not seek re-election this year, making the 2012 session ending today his last.
House Republican Floor Leader Tom Taylor of Farmington described Lujan as a friend, despite their frequent disagreement on state issues.
“I admire your fortitude and your tenacity and the job that you’ve done,” Taylor said. “We’re on different sides of the fence: We argue a lot, we’ve carried a lot of bills together, but every time I’ve picked up this telephone to talk to you, and every time I’ve ever gone into your office, we’re friends, and I appreciate that so much.”
That praise came less than a day after Lujan sparked anger among Republicans late Tuesday when he adjourned the House session in what appeared to be a delay of legislation to end school social promotions.
Lobbyist Thomas Horan, a former Democratic state representative from Albuquerque, praised Lujan’s large volume of work, with 128 of his bills being passed by the full Legislature during his tenure in the House. Those bills included important efforts to exempt food from the gross receipts tax and limit sudden property tax increases for longtime homeowners.
“In his (Nambé) district, it is slightly lower in elevation than when he started because of all the (construction) projects he’s gotten in his district,” Horan said.
Lujan thanked well-wishers and said he’s always thought of the state House of Representatives as a family.
“This time has been full of emotion,” Lujan said. “As the days wind down to the end of the session that will be my last, you all have been so kind and generous. It’s difficult to find words to express gratitude and appreciation.”
House Majority Floor Leader Ken Martinez, D-Grants, described Lujan as unmatched in his commitment to serving New Mexico.
“Never underestimate Speaker Ben Lujan,” he said.
— This article appeared on page A4 of the Albuquerque Journal