SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The New Mexico legislature is doing a lot of its work remotely because of the pandemic. Some people worry they’re being shut out and facing too many barriers to participate. Those people said by the time they found out a piece of legislation was scheduled for a committee, it was almost too late to sign up for public comment.
Since the session is virtual for the public, people have to sign up ahead of time for Senate hearings to participate in public comment and if an agenda is posted late, it doesn’t give the public enough time to sign up to voice their opinion on legislation. “If you’re giving the average person one hour to respond- even if they’ve received an email, it doesn’t mean they’re going to be checking their email or they’ll get it on their phone, it’s short-circuiting the Democratic process and really making a sham of it,” said Brian Lynn of Sportsman Alliance.
The conservation industry has kept its eye on Senate Bill 32 which would ban animal trapping on public land. They’ve been waiting for it to be scheduled for a committee but it was put on the agenda last minute Thursday. People only had an hour and a half to sign up for public comment and if you missed the deadline, you got a response that said due to the high volume of requests, they can only accommodate those who emailed before the 5 p.m. deadline.
“They are required in the rules to post agendas 24 hours in advance of when they’re scheduled to be heard, that has not been happening a lot of the time this session,” said Ellary Tuckerwilliams of Congressional Sportsman Foundation.
Public participation on the House side is different, they could join a committee meeting as it’s happening and participate during public comment. The session is closed off to the public because of COVID-19 concerns, they’ve limited access inside the Roundhouse only to legislators, their staff, and credentialed press. A spokesperson with the Senate Democrats says more than 100 people were able to sign up for public comment on Senate Bill 32 before the 5 p.m. deadline.