New Mexico became the eighth state to reject the D.C. voting rights amendment when its state Senate voted 32 to 2 Thursday night in favor of a resolution that rejected the proposal before supporters could even introuduce it. The New Mexico House had approved the same negative resolution a week earlier, by a vote of 51 to 12.
Supporters of the ratification dirve, however, are confident that next week two more states will join the three that already have ratified the proposed constitutional amendment that would give the District two senators and one or two members in the House.
Final votes are scheduled Monday in the Massachusetts House and Thursday in the Minnesota Senate, where, in each instance, the amendment earlier was approved by the other chamber.
The amendment made progress in two states this week. The Rhode Island Senate approved it by a vote of 35 to 12 and sent it to the House, and a Connecticut House committee sent it to the floor with a 12-6 favorable recommendation.
The negative action in New Mexico continued a pattern recommended by several conservative organizations and adopted also by legislatures in Wyoming and Idaho. Rep. Bard Cates (R-Albuquerque), said he sponsored the negative resolution because he believes that if votes in favor of constitutional amendments cannot be rescinded -- as supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment contend -- then neither can negative actions. Therefore, Cates said, similar votes by 13 legislatures would kill the D.C. amendment permanently. Supporters of ratification disagree with Cates.
Passage in Boston and St. Paul next week would lend a badly needed boost to ratification efforts, which suffered a major blow earlier this month when the Maryland legislature rejected the amendment on a 70-70 vote in the House.
The raitfication drive has not picked up a victory since Michigan ratified the amendment Dec. 13. New Jersey and Ohio were the first two states to ratify. Approval by 38 states is needed for the amendment to become law.
In an attempt to get the drive back on track, D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy will testify Monday before a committee of the California Assembly.
It was in Sacramento that the drive began so hopefully in August, just after the resolution had won the required two-thirds approval by the United States Senate.
In their enthusiasm to make California the first of what they hoped would be a rush of states to ratify the amendment, backers there attempted to shourt-cut the legislative procedure, an action that required two-thirds approval. The action had enough support in the California Assembly (house) but not enough in the Senate, where opponents accused backers of trying to railroad it through without adequate hearings.
"We're not going to try to waive the rules this time," said a spokesman for Assembly member Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), the California sponsor.
A vote in the California Assembly is expected on March 22 or March 26.