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House approves bill to revise Game Commission

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The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish supplied rods, reels and bait for children 4-12 to learn to fish at the Fishing Fair at Tingley Beach last year. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE — New Mexico’s governor and state lawmakers would share appointment authority over the State Game Commission under legislation that passed the state House on Wednesday.

The proposal, House Bill 263, now heads to the Senate for consideration.

The governor currently has authority to appoint all seven members of the commission.

Under the legislation, the governor would appoint three members and the Legislative Council — a panel of top-ranking lawmakers from both parties — would appoint four.

There would also be requirements for political and geographic diversity, and some spots would be reserved for certain constituencies.

The governor, for example, would have to appoint someone from each of New Mexico’s three congressional districts.

The legislative appointments, meanwhile, would have to include a rancher or farmer, a conservationist, a hunter or angler, and a scientist.

Once appointed, members could be removed only under certain circumstances, such as incompetence or malfeasance in office.

Rep. Matthew McQueen, a Galisteo Democrat who sponsored the bill, said he hoped to create a more stable, professional board, rather than one that swings in membership every time a new governor is elected.

“I believe they’ve been overly political,” he said.

Republican lawmakers assailed the proposal as an attempt to fix a body that already works well. Hunters and ranchers should have greater influence, they said, and the proposal wouldn’t actually diminish political calculations.

Rep. Phelps Anderson, R-Roswell, said he feared the proposed composition of the board would be “not as supportive of New Mexico sportsmen and their community.”

McQueen said the membership slots were intended to serve as a minimum standard for each constituency, and there wouldn’t be a limit on how many, say, hunters could serve on the board if they met the other requirements.

The commission sets hunting and fishing regulations, among other duties.

House Bill 263 passed 45-20 after about two hours of debate.

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