Rhetoric vs. Reality at the Roundhouse

January 24th, 2013 at 6:30 pm by under Latest Posts

Ever heard the phrase actions speak louder than words?

If you’re reading this, you almost certainly know that New Mexico has a divided state government where Democrats have a lock on the Legislature and Republican Susana Martinez is in the governor’s chair.  That can often mean there’s no shortage of harsh attacks that get catapulted from one side of the political aisle to the other.

It also means a lot of pieces of legislation that are in effect words, not actions.

The clearest way to see this is statistically.

During the last 60-day session in 2011, 655 bills were introduced in the House and 628 in the Senate, but only 88 House bills and 97 Senate bills were ultimately signed by Gov. Susana Martinez. For those of you missing your calculators, that’s nearly one bill signed into law for every seven introduced.

None of that includes an increasingly popular form of legislation, the memorial. Memorials don’t have any legal effect… they are effectively a Senate- or House-approved message and nothing more. In 2011, 180 of these passed.

What’s the point here? There are frequently controversial bills introduced from either the far right or far left that are eye-catching and fascinating to examine. Carlsbad Republican Rep. Cathrynn Brown’s much talked about abortion/tampering-with-evidence bill is one of those.

Regardless of whether you believe the legislation was accidentally badly drafted or Brown truly intended to criminalize abortions, this bill opens the door for plenty of rhetoric. But the clear political reality in New Mexico is that, as written, the bill couldn’t make it out of the Democrat-controlled House, let alone any committee. Even things most people agree on have a hard time making it out of the Legislature.

Bill of the Day:  SB127

Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque, is pushing a bill that would have a big effect on journalism in New Mexico.

Currently New Mexico is what is known as a one-party-consent state when it comes to audio recording. That means that anyone can secretly record a conversation they have with someone else without getting the other person’s permission.

That law allowed a then-friend of the governor’s chief of staff Keith Gardner to record and later release an audio tape of a conversation that proved embarrassing.

Right now, 12 states have a two-party-consent law, and SB127 would make New Mexico the 13th.

Proponents of the idea say that public officials could have more frank and open conversations if it were illegal to record them. But opponents see a potential transparency issue.

SB127 has two Senate committees to clear and it’s currently sitting in the Public Affairs Committee.

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