House Speaker Brian Egolf signaled this week that he was in favor of allowing online testimony during the session to continue into the future. This was the first year that online testimony was allowed due to the constraints in place for preventing Covid outbreaks at the Roundhouse during the session. This is good news for New Mexicans in the far flung parts of the state who are sometimes are forced to drive hours to Santa Fe only to testify for 20 minutes in committee. This is a great step forward in making our part time legislature more accessible to the common New Mexican. However, Speaker Egolf is only encouraging the practice to be continued in the House where he has sway in the day to day operations. Click here to read more.
The story is very different in the Senate. During the Legislative Session, committee meetings in the Senate were extremely prohibitive – both in who was allowed to join the zoom call and who was able to testify. While the house was posting open zoom links to join committee hearings daily, the Senate required you to ask via email for permission to watch or speak. Those requests must be made 24 hours in advance of the meeting, (even if the meeting schedule is posted less than 24 ahead of the meeting) and often went unanswered. Once the Senate committee meetings began the chair would be the one to select who could testify. Curiously, opposition testimony was regularly blocked from speaking under the guise of limiting time constraints. NMBC organized a call to action urging lawmakers to address the situation but all efforts were met with empty platitudes from Senate lawmakers about “looking into it”.
NMBC hopes that if the online expansion of citizen participation is continued in future Sessions, the Senate will follow the lead of the House in actually encouraging public participation.