How do we change the things that aren’t working in our state?
During the 2019 New Mexico legislative session you will be hearing a lot about the opportunities for change, and it’s important to know that each piece of legislation has the potential to completely change the way we live.
A piece of legislation can be written by anyone, and after it is sponsored and introduced by a legislator, it passes through a gauntlet of procedures, votes and systems that are important to understand. To fully connect you to your political power, Conservation Voters New Mexico (CVNM) is launching a Legislative Education Series to simplify and dissect the lawmaking process.
The New Mexico State Legislature is made up of two separate decision-making bodies: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Representatives and Senators represent districts all over the state and are elected by us – voters.
In even-numbered years, like 2018, these legislators meet for a 30-day legislative session primarily to discuss legislation and adjustments for the state budget. The Governor can also authorize or “call” for specific bills not directly related to the budget to be considered during the 30-day session
In odd-numbered years, like 2019, these legislators meet for a 60-day legislative session and consider all matters and issues from around the state.
A piece of legislation is a written proposal to add, remove or change existing law and can be introduced in either the House or Senate. Each piece of legislation must have a legislative sponsor in order to be introduced. These proposals are introduced in the following ways:
A Bill creates, empowers, makes duties or obligations, prohibit acts, appropriates money or any combination of these things. Bills that pass through both chambers must be acted on by the Governor – she can choose to sign or veto a bill. If she takes no action, she “pocket vetoes” a bill.
A Resolution is a formal declaration from either the House or Senate, or both in a Joint Resolution, concerning a certain subject it cannot or does not wish to control by law. This type of legislation requires no action on the part of the Governor. Legislators can propose an amendment to the New Mexico Constitution with a joint resolution that, if passed, would be voted on by New Mexicans across the state.
A Memorial is a formal expression of support from either the House or Senate, or both in a Joint Memorial, in the form of a petition or declaration of intent. A memorial does not have the force of law and requires no action on the part of the Governor.
These pieces of legislation are referred to a specific committee by the Speaker of the House of Representatives or the President of the Senate – the Lt. Governor. Once a piece of legislation is introduced, it is printed and made available online so that New Mexicans across the state can read them. Visit nmlegis.gov/Legislation/Bill_Finder to check out the bills that are being introduced!
How you can get involved with the Introduction of Bills:
If you have a good idea about changes you want to see in New Mexico, make sure your legislators hear from you! You can also let us know, and we’ll work to turn good ideas into bills.
CVNM is already working around the clock to promote bills and legislation that will build resilient communities, diversify our economy and protect the water we drink and air we breathe. We will need the help of Conservation Voters like you to call upon your elected leaders to support key pieces of legislation. Keep an eye on your inbox for opportunities to take action at strategic moments this legislative session.
Committees decide if the legislation should be considered by the entire House or Senate. After a bill is referred to a particular committee, they must agree by majority vote, to make changes, or pass the bill, either to the next committee, or on to the floor of the entire House or Senate if it is the last committee to which the bill has been referred- or they vote to stop the bill and it goes no further. Once a bill passes all committees, it is openly debated by the entire House or Senate body who then vote to pass, make changes or fail a bill. A bill passed in the House goes to the Senate and a bill passed in the Senate goes to the House. If passed in both chambers, the bill goes to the Governor’s desk for signing. If one chamber amends the bill, the amended bill returns for final approval to the chamber that previously passed it. For example, if the Senate passes a bill and the House changes it, that changed House version must go back to the Senate to be approved again.
In the next part of CVNM’s Legislative Education Series, we will go into more detail about committees and their important role in the life of a bill and how you can get involved in the committee process.
We at CVNM are committed to connecting communities across the state with their political power. That means New Mexicans like you and me need to make our voices heard, especially during the legislative session where laws and changes are made with, or without, our input. Our citizen legislators need to know that we expect protections for our communities and our air, land and water. It is critical that every New Mexican knows how OUR state government works so that we know exactly how to make the changes we want.