Senate panel recommends confirming five nominees

SANTA FE – Five down, 69 to go.

A key New Mexico Senate committee voted Tuesday to recommend confirmation of five lower-profile nominees of Gov. Susana Martinez, but did not act on dozens of other appointees – including 11 university regents who have been awaiting hearings for months.

The Senate Rules Committee is not expected to meet again before lawmakers convene next month for a 30-day session, leaving a hefty backlog in place for the start of the Martinez administration’s final year.

The panel’s chairwoman, Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, said attempts to hold additional hearings were scuttled by scheduling conflicts.

“The appearance may be that we’re moving slow, but we’re working with volunteers,” she told the Journal.

However, in a letter sent to committee members earlier this week, Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, described the agenda as “anemic” and said the panel should be able to conduct 25 to 30 confirmation hearings in a day.

He also said the cost of Tuesday’s hearing – per diem payments and mileage reimbursement for legislative committee members – will likely amount to between $800 to $1,000 per nominee.

“That is disrespectful to the taxpayers and disrespectful to all those volunteers who are willing to serve their state and want to have a confirmation hearing,” Moores wrote.

New Mexico’s confirmation system is based on the federal model and requires that high-level officials be appointed by the governor, with the consent of the Senate. Those subject to Senate confirmation include Cabinet secretaries, university regents and appointees to a range of boards and commissions.

Appointees who are not confirmed can, in most cases, continue serving. However, any nominee who is voted down by the full Senate is immediately removed from the appointed position.

The nominees approved Tuesday serve on four state boards: The Human Rights Commission, the Commission for the Blind, the Labor and Industrial Commission, and the Commission for Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

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