Panel OKs plan to ease review of amendments

SANTA FE – Just days after running into resistance, a revised plan to make it easier for legislators – and the public – to track changes to bills got broad support Tuesday and was fast-tracked to the House floor.

But it likely won’t happen this year.

The proposed change to House rules was approved without dissent by the House Rules and Order of Business Committee, after its launch date was changed to the 2018 legislative session.

House Speaker Brian Egolf

House Speaker Brian Egolf

House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said it’s better to study the proposal closely – and figure out whether it would require more staffers and resources to accomplish – than rush into it with less than three weeks remaining in this year’s 60-day session.

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“If it’s not done right, it’s worse than not doing it at all,” Egolf said.

The rule change would require legislative staffers to post and update changes to any bill moving through the Legislature, with the changes included within the broader bill.

Under the current practice, any adopted amendments are typically posted online separately – with just the bill’s page and line numbers listed – as part of adopted legislative committee reports, which makes it difficult for the public to figure out their intended effect.

House Minority Leader Nate Gentry

House Minority Leader Nate Gentry

“This is very important, in my mind, because it makes government more accessible to the people,” said House Minority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, who’s pushing the rule change.

He said the practice was adopted by former House Chief Clerk Denise Ramonas, who held the job for two years after Republicans won control of the House in 2014, though he acknowledged uncertainty about how thoroughly it was done.

With Democrats back in control after winning a majority in last November’s election, the proposed rule change stalled last week on a party-line vote.

That prompted criticism from minority Republicans and groups that advocate for open government, including the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government.

It was then brought back in revised form – with the delayed launch date – and approved Tuesday. The rule change could be voted on by the full House as soon as Thursday.

If approved, the rule change would apply only to legislation in the House. The Senate has not considered a similar proposal.

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