By Matt Grubs, NMiF Producer
At a press briefing held by Senate Democrats on Tuesday, Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, said members of the Senate Rules Committee still have questions for education secretary-designate Hanna Skandera. Those questions need to be answered, Sen. Lopez said, before the committee can consider a vote to confirm Skandera and potentially pass the issue to the Senate floor.
Hearings for the controversial head of the Public Education Department began March 1st and have sprawled over several days and locations throughout the Roundhouse, including the Senate floor on Saturday, March 2nd. That hearing lasted long enough that Senate Majority Floor Leader Michael Sanchez cancelled the day’s floor session.
Asked if the hearings were scheduled too late in the 60-day legislative session, Sen. Lopez indicated confirmation hearings are just a portion of what her committee is asked to do each time the Legislature comes to Santa Fe.
It’s unclear if the committee plans to return to the hearing in time for a vote to be taken, let alone the full Senate vote that would follow an approval by the committee. Staffers say the committee is focused on clearing its calendar, which contained 24 items on Tuesday. The continued hearing for Hanna Skandera was not on the list.
Still, Sen. Lopez says the hours spent in the hearings is not wasted time.
It does not appear that the rest of the Senate – at least the Democrats – feel a particular urgency about the hearings. Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales, chairs the Senate Education Committee and signaled a willingness to let the committee process run its course.
It may not matter, as Skandera has been doing the job in an ad hoc capacity since Governor Martinez took office. Other governors have had appointees rejected outright by the Senate, then found ways to still appoint them to other positions with policymaking responsibility.
For her part, Skandera has largely been toeing the line as the Senate Rules Committee works through the series of hearings. But, on Saturday, the secretary-designate pushed back a little to Capitol Report New Mexico’s Rob Nikolewski (His video below)