SANTA FE – A “rocket docket” of expedited bills is on schedule to launch next week, despite criticism from top House Republicans.
The GOP leaders say it’s wrong to fast-track all the bills through one committee and then send them to the House floor for a final vote, especially because 19 new House members were just sworn in after being elected in November.
“I think it’s a dereliction of duty,” House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, told reporters Thursday.
But House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, defended the process, while confirming that the House Judiciary Committee will take up the expedited bills Monday.
“We’ve been doing this in a transparent, open and obvious way,” Egolf said on the House floor in response to questions from Republican leaders.
Egolf and other top-ranking Democrats floated the idea of the rocket docket in the weeks leading up to this year’s session, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham told lawmakers during her State of the State speech to quickly advance the bills to her desk.
The package of 18 House bills – there are an additional 30 Senate bills – were are based on noncontroversial proposals that passed both chambers of the Legislature by overwhelming margins in past years but were vetoed by former Gov. Susana Martinez.
At least some of the bills selected have been sponsored by Republicans, including one dealing with how many sick days teachers can take annually before the absences affect their performance evaluations.
Supporters of the rocket docket concept say the bills have been thoroughly debated in previous legislative sessions and that moving them quickly this year would show New Mexicans that lawmakers are serious about having a productive session.
It’s typically rare for New Mexico lawmakers to sign off on legislation and send it to the Governor’s Office for final approval during the opening weeks of a 60-day session.
Republicans acknowledge majority Democrats have the numbers in the House to pass bills they deem a priority, but they said the rocket docket bills should be sent to various committees for closer review – not all the same committee.
“Just because you had a vote last year … does not mean you’re going to get the same result with 19 new members,” said House GOP floor leader James Townsend of Artesia.