February 19, 2015

House committee shoots down archiving, passes interim committee streaming

Print

Photo by Matthew Reichbach

The House Appropriations and Finance Committee tabled a proposed House rule that would have archived legislative webcasts. The committee did pass a proposal to webcast interim committee hearings, though stripped the provision that would archive those.

The seal of New Mexico outside the state capitol building. Photo by Matthew Reichbach

The seal of New Mexico outside the state capitol building. Photo by Matthew Reichbach

The effort failed on a party-line vote with the Republican majority voting to table the legislation and the Democrats voting against tabling the proposed House Rule.

Afterwards the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, said New Mexico is behind the times in not archiving webcasts.

“It’s just not with the times keeping these meetings not archived,” Steinborn said. “People can look at the result and judge for themselves.”

Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan, noted that the governor’s office webcasts and archives certain meetings and the House floor.

“If the executive wants to pay for it, let’s let them,” Roch said.

“That’s just a cop out, with all due respect,” Steinborn told New Mexico Political Report following the hearing. “I turned around, I didn’t see a camera. So clearly this hearing wasn’t being archived or recorded by the governor’s office.”

Others were concerned about the price of webcasting.

HR 2 says the archiving should be done, “subject to the financial capability of the House.” Steinborn said there should be enough funds for the archiving.

Committee chair Larry Larrañaga, R-Albuquerque, said it would be setting a dangerous precedent.

“You’re starting a new precedent that says, ‘if you have the money you can do it,'” Larrañaga said. He said the legislature should outline how money is spent.

Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, also seemed skeptical of the funding and wondered if there should have been a separate bill with an appropriation. She ultimately backed the bill, after an assurance by Assistant Director of Legislative Affairs John Yaeger.

Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, was in full support of archiving. She said she understood there was a lot of “trepidation” by legislators over keeping records.

“I think it’s an idea that’s long overdue,” Garcia Richard said.

Yaeger, who served as the expert witness though he could not advocate for or against the legislation because of the nature of his job, said they had not looked into price fully.

“Its a competitive industry so we didn’t poke around much until we’re ready to get bids,” Yaeger said.

“The cost of server space is going down,” Steinborn told the committee. “It’s becoming increasingly affordable.”

HCR 2, which would require the webcasting of interim committee hearings when technically possible, passed the committee but not before the committee added an amendment that would bar the legislature from archiving the streams.

The amendment was proposed by Roch, who explained it would put interim webcasting in line with House and Senate rules.

All Republicans except Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes, R-Albuquerque, voted to not allow the legislature from archiving the interim committee streams.

Since interim committees have members from each chamber, the concurrent resolution would need to pass both the state House and Senate.

The archiving effort passed the same committee unanimously the year before and passed another committee unanimously. The bill was not heard on the House floor before the end of the session.

Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, supports the archiving measure and is a co-sponsor of the effort, according to Steinborn. Harper is the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee which met at the same time and could not attend the hearing.

Yaeger told the committee that the Legislative Council Service is now using a third-party to host the legislative stream and says it allows more users to access the webcasting.