One of the overall themes of the 2023 legislative session is modernization. One of the ways some legislators want to modernize the state government is to create a commission to review the state constitution and offer amendments.
The state Senate passed SB 308 on a 26-14 vote. The bill would establish a 21-member constitutional revision commission made up of 15 voting members appointed by the governor and five non-voting members from each congressional district.
The nonvoting members would include two members from the state House of Representatives, two members from the state Senate, the chief justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court and the state attorney general, the bill states.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, with Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe.
“We are all familiar with how every election we end up with piecemeal efforts to try and revise our constitution in this state,” Cervantes said. “Let’s recognize the fact that our constitution in New Mexico is now well over 100 years old and every session— every one of the years that I’ve been here— we talked about changing the way we do things: modernizing the legislature, changing our sessions, paying the legislature, all of these things.”
Proposals made by the commission would be presented to the legislature and then a constitutional process that would amend the state constitution on the ballot by voters, Cervantes said.
“The ultimate guardrail is the voter. No constitutional change could take place without approval of the voters at the ballot box,” Cervantes said.
Sen. David Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque,proposed an amendment which would add the provision that members include two Native Americans on the commission.
The amendment passed by voice vote.
Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, proposed an amendment to let the legislature appoint the committee members rather than the governor.
The amendment failed by voice vote.
The second proposed floor amendment came from
Sen. Gregg Schmedes, R-Tijeras, proposed, then withdrew, an amendment that would allow the legislative council to appoint 12 and three appointees by the governor. Instead of the other way around which is how the bill is currently worded.
The bill now moves to the House.