The New Mexico House Judiciary Committee advanced on Saturday a proposal to change a fundamental piece of how the state Legislature operates, although some committee members signaled that it will likely die before Saturday when the session ends.
House Joint Resolution 13, is a bipartisan proposal that aims to change the dates and length of legislative sessions through a constitutional amendment.
House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, is the lead sponsor of the proposal, but 20 other legislators have also signed on to the resolution.
Montoya said there’s a need to revamp how and when the Legislature meets because the current system doesn’t work for the minority party during budget sessions. Montoya used former Gov. Susana Martinez as an example and said half of that time was devoted to budgetary issues or issues the governor saw fit to address.
“Many of you that are here, were under eight years of the [Susana] Martinez administration,” Montoya said. “For four years, unless somehow you snuck something in, you didn’t get a bill introduced during four of those eight years.”
Currently, the state constitution dictates that on even-numbered years the Legislature is required to meet for 30 days and can only take up financial issues and anything the governor adds to “the call.” Odd-numbered years are required to be 60 days and there is no restriction on what type of proposals can be introduced.
HJR 13, if approved by voters, would change the constitution to require that the Legislature meet for 45 days every year and would eliminate the constraints on bills that could be considered in even-numbered years
Nearly all members of the Judiciary Committee voiced their concern with the current system, but some said they thought 45 days still is not long enough to effectively legislate.
Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, said he considered sponsoring a similar proposal, but ultimately decided against it after he saw new rules imposed in the House this year, a largely virtual session, that limited the number of bills introduced as well as morning floor sessions that have historically been devoted to pomp and circumstance.
“I don’t know what college someone’s intern wants to go to or what their favorite sport is, and things like that,” McQueen said. I appreciate the process of the legislature, but we spend way too much time on that stuff. Way too much time.”
McQueen was one of two committee members who voted against the resolution, but explained that he thinks 45 days is still “too limiting.”
House Judiciary Committee Chair Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, along with Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque both agreed that 45 days is not enough time to get through hundreds of pieces of legislation.