A streamlined process designed to fast-track a series of noncontroversial bills through the New Mexico House is being met with opposition by the top House Republican.
Forty-eight bills — 30 in the Senate and 18 in the House — are included in what has been referred to as “the rocket docket.” Instead of an individual bill going before two or three committees for approval, each bill will get a single hearing in one committee before going to all members for a full vote.
Bills in the House will be sent to the House Judiciary Committee Monday, read on the floor Tuesday and debated before a vote by the full chamber Wednesday, House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia said Friday.
Townsend said the House has 19 newly elected members who have not had the chance to familiarize themselves with the bills and how they will affect both their constituents and the state.
“Twenty-seven percent of the House has never seen those bills,” he said. Instead, each bill should be taken up by the committees they would usually go through, which are made up of members well-versed in the subject matter of a given bill.
House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and the House Democratic caucus have defended the rocket docket procedure.
“The bills included in ‘the rocket docket’ are bipartisan pieces of legislation that are important to improving the lives of New Mexico families,” Shaya Torres, press secretary for Speaker Egolf, stated in an email Friday.
Bills on the docket include bills from Democrats and Republicans that passed with five or fewer votes in opposition before they were vetoed by then-Gov. Susana Martinez during the last two legislative sessions, Torres said.
Bills on the rocket docket include the Regional Air Center Special Economic District or House Bill 229 (HB 229) introduced last session by State Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell. The legislation would have allowed the Roswell International Air Center to establish an independent air authority to govern the air center and adjacent properties.
Torres said the Democratic leadership looks forward to working with all lawmakers, including Republicans and members of the Senate, and members would have the chance to review, debate and vote on the bills when they are considered in the House.
Townsend said it is not the bills themselves, but how they will be taken up that concerns him.
“I am not saying there aren’t some good bills on the rocket docket, I am saying the process is bad,” Townsend said. He added many of the Republicans in his caucus feel the same way.
Ezzell was one of four members of a bipartisan panel on the House side charged with looking at all the legislation Martinez vetoed that had five or fewer votes. She said in all, the panel reviewed 25 bills, some of which were not included on the docket.
Many of the bills that did go on the docket — members did not have any qualms with, Ezzell said. Even so, she does share some of the reservations Townsend has expressed.
She said she hopes the majority and minority caucuses discuss the bills on the rocket docket with new members. Ezzell, who is chair of the House Minority Caucus, said she hopes to facilitate that discussion among Republicans.
“We have many new members, but I want them to be very aware what these bills actually do,” she said.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.