By The League Of Women Voters New Mexico:
During the last regular session of the Legislature, the League of Women Voters wrote a letter to the Speaker of the House expressing our appreciation for the open and transparent way that he conducted the business of the House. Agendas went up with as much notice as possible and most committee meetings were scheduled with plenty of notice and were usually held at the time posted. This made it much easier for citizens to participate in the legislative process.
Given our past praise for the Speaker, you can appreciate our dismay at the way the business of the House was conducted during the recent Special Session. It was a sad day for transparency and open government.
The three crime bills weren’t posted until the moment they were being heard in the House Judiciary Committee. The House Majority Leader’s explanation was that a press release was sent out expressing their intention to file the bills. I don’t know in what universe a press release is considered an official legislative document, but certainly not in this one. This lack of official notice on the part of the House may have violated the Open Meetings Act; certainly it violated its spirit.
In their haste to exploit the public’s disgust over recent horrendous crimes, the House, at the governor’s request, took up a bill to reinstate the death penalty. Then they maneuvered to hear and vote on the bill literally in the middle of the night, when most residents, including reporters and watchdogs, have finally gone to sleep. The House behavior trivialized an issue that received extensive consideration when it was repealed. For instance, before the League of Women Voters took a position to replace the death penalty with life without parole, the League studied the issue for a year. Reinstating it deserves a thorough public airing.
But no matter your position on the crime bills, the reason for the Special Session was to deal with one of the worst financial crises in recent New Mexico history. While the Senate dealt with the budget, the House wasted $50,000 a day on issues that were simply meant to score political points.