There is zero representation of Rio Rancho in leadership roles at the state legislature, according to two directors who spent time in Santa Fe for the 30-day legislative session.
Executive Director of Viante New Mexico Rhiannon Samuel and Sandoval Economic Alliance Director of Business Development Bridget Condon presented at the NAIOP Rio Rancho Roundtable meeting on Thursday morning.
Viante is a nonprofit that educates the public on what is happening in legislation.
There are 56 leadership opportunities among committee chair and vice-chair seats and party leadership roles, Condon said. Of those positions, three Sandoval County representatives occupy them.
• Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Rio Arriba, San Juan and Sandoval counties, is the chairman of the House Agriculture and Water Resource Committee.
• Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Bernalillo and Sandoval counties, is the chairman of the House Rules and Order of Business Committee and vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
• Sen. Benny Shendo, D-Bernalillo, McKinley, Rio Arriba, San Juan and Sandoval counties, is the vice chairman of the Senate Corporation and Transportation Committee.
None of those legislators represents districts that include Rio Rancho, Condon said.
“We are about to be the second-largest city, and there are zero representatives from Rio Rancho in leadership positions in Santa Fe,” Condon said.
In comparison, Las Cruces holds eight positions of leadership, Santa Fe holds nine and Albuquerque holds 20 seats, she said.
“So that is something to think about when we say, ‘How do we get our priorities heard,'” she said. “Unfortunately, quite often people say in Santa Fe, ‘People in Rio Rancho don’t need anything,’ and as you know, that is not true. We have a lot of challenges.”
It is important to not make decisions isolated from the legislative process, Condon said.
“So the best we can do is to show that we are all experiencing the same problems and can benefit from the same solutions. We would have a much better chance in pushing legislation in other sessions,” she said.
While Condon ran point on policymaking with Sandoval County in mind at the 30-day session, Samuel used Viante as a platform to communicate to Viante members what legislators are working on and translating the information to a comprehensible format.
“Not everyone, including myself, can be as well-versed and skilled at analyzing what is happening in Santa Fe and look at the details of a bill,” Samuel said.
By collaborating with experts and a diverse board at Viante, Samuel is able to tell members how the legislation will impact communities, she said.
A part of their work is to regularly check attendance information on legislators.
“This ruffles feathers,” Samuel said. “Their concern is that is a deterrent to their effectiveness, and that is not what we are saying at all. It is a simple transparency effort to say who is showing up for their jobs and who is not. This past last session, they did quite well,” she said.
Four of 112 legislators missed 20 percent of the floor votes, according to Samuel.
“So when legislators say, ‘It is next to impossible for me to be there for every floor vote,’ I say ‘Eight of your colleagues can do it,'” she said.
Eight of 112 lawmakers had perfect attendance at this past session, Samuel said.
“I am not saying that is good, bad or otherwise. There are many draws on their time: They may have conflicting committee meetings; they may have lobbyists they need to meet with; they may have many draws on their time.
“But their constituents were not being represented on those floor votes. And this is the kind of information we are presenting to their constituents,” she said.
Viante is working on creating a scorecard for legislators, breaking down their voting record on 15 bills Viante’s board unanimously believes are important.
The next NAIOP Rio Rancho Roundtable meeting is April 2, 7:30 a.m., at Presbyterian Rust Medical Center; to register, visit naiopnm.org.