February 25, 2023

Bill to change Game Commission passes House

The House of Representatives passed a bill on Friday that would change the appointment process and requirements for New Mexico Game Commissioners.

HB 184, sponsored by Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, passed on a 45-21 vote.

The bill would have some of the seven members appointed by the Legislative Council rather than the governor. The governor would be able to appoint three people—one from each Congressional district. The Legislative Council would appoint a conservationist, a farmer or rancher and a hunter or angler as well as a scientist. 

HB 184 would also only allow the commissioners to be removed for cause. That means the commission would not be completely redone every time the governor changes, McQueen said. 

The commissioners would serve six-year, staggered terms.

Currently, the commissioners are appointed from five regional districts as well as two at large commissioners who can live anywhere in the state.

The House amended the bill to allow people who are registered to vote as declined to state to change their party affiliation for the primary elections as long as they change back within 90 days.

Rep. John Block, R-Alamogordo, was one of the Republicans who broke party lines and voted in favor of the legislation.

“I think hell’s going to freeze over because I agree with Rep. McQueen on something,” Block said.

When Block asked if the bill takes power away from the executive branch, McQueen said the governor might feel that way.

“I think that’s exactly why I support this bill,” Block said. 

Some of the concerns Republicans who voted against the bill expressed include not having a trapper mentioned in the eligibility to serve on the commission and that the commission could become too partisan in nature.

HB 184 comes at the same time as the state Game Commission is unable to meet due to not having enough members to form a quorum.

HB 184 previously passed the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee on a 6-3 vote and the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on a 7-2 vote.

It now heads to the Senate where Sen. Crystal Diamond, R-Elephant Butte, is a co-sponsor on the bill.