State Representative Jim Townsend, an Artesia Republican, Representative Rod Montoya, a Farmington Republican, and Hobbs Republican Larry Scott filed a lawsuit January 30 with the New Mexico Supreme Court challenging House rules changes they considered unconstitutional one-week into the 60-day legislative session.
Those rule changes are significantly different than those of the Senate chamber, in which the Senate will operate in a manner where their chamber will ensure it legislates from “the seat of government” as is set forth in the New Mexico Constitution. During floor debate on these rule changes, House Republican lawmakers highlighted significant constitutional concerns as to the validity of any action the House may take, as well the significant reduction of public access to the legislative process.
While there were two instances of bipartisan agreement on rule changes, the House Democrat majority defeated numerous other attempts to reverse rule changes that were contrary to years of bipartisan support to encourage public access and create greater transparency in the legislature’s actions, they said.
Before the current session, there were bipartisan concerns expressed about holding the legislative session during the pandemic and legislators from both sides of aisle and from both chambers voiced a desire to hold the session later in the spring when the number of COVID-19 cases might be diminished and vaccines would be widely available. Delaying the session could have also avoided making these rule changes, they contended, and could have allowed greater public participation in the legislative process.