Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – New Mexico lawmakers have faced criticism in recent years for spending too much time during floor sessions watching ceremonial dances and other pageantry – and not enough time debating bills.
A new informal House policy implemented on the opening day of the 60-day legislative session seeks to limit such performances – which typically accompany nonbinding legislative memorials – to no more than one per day.
House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, announced the change Tuesday.
He suggested that it and other formal proposed rule changes could help the chamber plow through what’s expected to be an avalanche of bills before the session ends March 16.
“We want to show everyone in New Mexico we don’t have to be like Washington, D.C.,” Egolf said after being re-elected to a new two-year term as House speaker.
However, some House Republicans suggested the intent behind policy change was to make it easier for the Democratic majority to advance their legislative agenda.
“They’re just trying to speed things up,” said House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, a Farmington Republican.
During last year’s 30-day session, 120 memorials were introduced in the House.
Although some of those memorials called for studies to be conducted, others included “Wear Red Day,” “Boy Scouts of America Day,” “School Boards Appreciation Day” and “Las Vegas Day.”
Before leaving office at the end of last year, former Gov. Susana Martinez blasted lawmakers’ focus on “meaningless bills” and memorials, a complaint also lodged by some anti-poverty advocates.
But the ceremonial memorials are also an established part of Roundhouse culture that typically bring people from around the state to Santa Fe.
Meanwhile, a House committee voted Tuesday to approve changing the names of several committees, including re-branding the House Business and Industry Committee as the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee.
That panel is one of four House committees that will need a new committee chair because of election-related turnover.