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House committee deadlocks on regent restructuring bill

SANTA FE – A proposal to restructure the boards of regents at New Mexico’s two biggest universities failed to clear a House committee after members deadlocked on it.

There was a tied vote on Tuesday in the Voters and Elections Committee on the proposed constitutional amendment, stalling its progress with less than three weeks left in the legislative session.

Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, sponsor of the measure, House Joint Resolution 9, said he hasn’t given up; he plans to talk to committee members about possible changes to the measure to make it more palatable.

The proposal would increase the size of the board at New Mexico State University from five to seven – the same as the University of New Mexico. Both boards would have three elected regents – one from each congressional district – as well as two regents appointed by the governor, a faculty regent and a student regent.

Currently, all regents for the state’s colleges and universities are appointed by the governor. Gov. Susana Martinez opposes Steinborn’s proposal, although she doesn’t have veto power over constitutional amendments.

Supporters say the restructuring would make regents more responsive to the local and university communities and make their actions more transparent.

Opponents objected that the proposal singled out UNM and NMSU. Steinborn said the two schools account for more than half the higher education budget, and they are where the highest-profile financial and personnel problems have occurred.

“This is where reform is needed the most,” Steinborn said.

With one of the 11 committee members missing, the vote to pass the measure was 5-5, with five Democrats favoring it and four Republicans and one Democrat opposed.

Steinborn has a second regents-related constitutional proposal pending in the House; it would require the governor to appoint regents from lists provided to her by nominating committees that would screen the candidates.
— This article appeared on page A4 of the Albuquerque Journal