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House GOP rules proposals make transparent sense

The problem with the Roundhouse’s design is that sunshine only hits a portion of the building at any one time. But proposals by House Republicans to make it easier to track legislation, as well as how their representatives vote when that legislation is tabled, should help bring more of the public’s business into the light.

House Minority Leader James Townsend of Artesia, House Republican Whip Rod Montoya of Farmington and House Republican Caucus Chairwoman Candy Spence Ezzell of Roswell are asking Democratic leaders for a series of rule changes that include:

Requiring the House release a public tally of how each member votes when bills are tabled in committee hearings. Consider that tabling a bill can mean it’s being revised or that it’s DOA. Making those votes public is as commonsense as a public roll call of votes for or against bills. The state’s cities and counties record the roll calls on motions to table ordinances and resolutions, so why shouldn’t state lawmakers? The practice of legislators essentially voting secretly raises the question why votes to table bills in committees haven’t previously been made part of the official record.

Requiring 24-hour notification of bills to be considered in upcoming House floor sessions. Given the gravity of some legislation, and the time needed for residents of the fifthlargest state in the nation to travel to the Capitol to let their voices be heard in advance of meaningful votes, 24-hour notice isn’t too much to ask.

Lawmakers should run legislative sessions more like a business in the closing days of sessions, and less like a threering circus that has lobbyists, lawmakers, the media — and, most importantly, the public — wondering what actually will be voted on in the final hours before sine die. Giving the public advance notice of floor debates could reduce the chaos at the end of legislative sessions and minimize the risk of last-minute shenanigans.

Eliminating a 2019 rule change implemented by Democrats that allowed for the fast-tracking of some legislation, termed the “rocket docket.” The premise of the rocket docket was to expedite the passage of bipartisan legislation vetoed by former Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. While good ideas deserve expeditious consideration, there are reasons legislation takes time, specifically to receive adequate vetting and debate. Truly good bills don’t need gavel-wielding House and Senate leaders to get them to the post.

House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said last week “I have taken an initial look at the letter and some of the ideas are interesting. I look forward to visiting with Leader Townsend in the coming weeks and will provide further comment after we have had a chance to discuss the ideas.”

Transparency to voters, taxpayers and residents should be much more than “interesting” to representatives of all political stripes in the Roundhouse. As our lawmakers have done with recording and archiving House and Senate hearings and sessions — and as they should do with their capital outlay funding requests — they should let the sun shine in and ensure the public has adequate information to track proposed legislation and any votes that affect it.

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