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Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Aragon Complains as He's Left Off Finance Panel

By Loie Fecteau
Journal Politics Writer
    SANTA FE Senate Majority Leader Manny Aragon, ousted two years ago as the Senate's top leader, on Monday lost another Senate fight this time over seniority and which senators get to serve on which committees.
    Aragon, an Albuquerque Democrat, complained Monday that he was denied a seat on the Senate Finance Committee, which plays a key role in drafting the state budget.
    Aragon said the Senate Committees' Committee, which is controlled by Senate President Pro Tem Richard Romero, D-Albuquerque, had ignored Aragon's request to serve on the budget-writing committee even though Aragon is the Senate's third most senior member.
    Aragon, a senator since 1975, said the panel headed by Romero had ignored a Senate rule, which says committee assignments shall be based on seniority.
    "I take that as an affront not to myself, but to my constituents," Aragon said.
    The brief tussle over committee assignments which Aragon ultimately lost on a 32-1 vote revealed some still simmering tensions between Aragon and Romero.
    Romero became Senate president pro tem two years ago when he and two other Democratic senators joined with all 18 Senate Republicans to boot Aragon from the leadership post. However, all 24 Senate Democrats, including Aragon, voted a week ago to re-elect Romero as the Senate's top leader, as did all but two Senate Republicans.
    Romero argued Monday in the Senate that the president pro tem has long played a major role in making committee assignments.
    "Unilaterally, is the way it's been done," Romero said.
    Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, said he thought the Senate was being run "in a pretty darn fair way."
    Romero said in an interview that he did not think Aragon should serve on the budget-writing committee because Aragon already has a leadership position as majority floor leader.
    "It's not like he's out of the loop," Romero said. "I told him, 'You're still going to be a player.' ''