New Mexico House passes new rules for virtual session
LAS CRUCES - The New Mexico House Rules and Order of Business Committee approved new rules Friday, Jan. 22, requiring that all debate during floor sessions and committee meetings this year be conducted by Zoom.
The meetings will be broadcast online, with some ability to provide comments during committee debates. All legislation to be considered by the full House will be placed on a temporary calendar for at least 24 hours in an effort to improve transparency.
“These temporary rule changes are necessary to ensure fair and remote participation by the public and legislators so that the state can pass the critical legislation necessary to recover from COVID-19 and uplift our state,” said House Parliamentarian, state Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales.
The new rules passed on a party-line vote in committee, and will be voted on by the full House Monday, Jan. 25. Republicans have objected to the new restrictions on public participation and have called for the start of the session to be delayed.
State Medicaid Director Nicole Comeaux warned members of the House Health and Human Services Committee at the start of Friday’s Zoom presentation that her 17-month old daughter was feeling cranky that day, and may make an appearance.
Sure enough, about 15 minutes into the presentation, the young girl crawled into her mother’s lap. Comeaux didn’t miss a beat as she continued discussing the sharp rise in Medicaid enrolment since the start of the pandemic. The child was patient for about 10 minutes before she started crying.
A man rushed in to grab the young girl as Comeaux explained, “I can only do so much multitasking.” A while later, what sounded like an unhappy dog could be heard whining in the background. And toward the end of the meeting, the young girl made her way back into the room, only to be whisked away again. None of which was enough to even slow down the presentation.
Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, expressed concern Thursday, Jan. 21, during the first meeting of the House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee that they are no longer the lead committee on water bills.
She said those bills are being referred to the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee. And, since both of those committees will meet on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, leaders of the Interstate Stream Commission and State Engineer’s Office can only attend one meeting.
Agriculture and Water Resources is a smaller committee, with a more rural membership. Committee Vice Chairwoman Susan Herrera, D-Embudo, said there was “deep bipartisan concern” among the committee members. Chairman Derek Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo, said he would take the issue up with House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe.