Sunday, January 18, 2015

How the State Legislature Can Become More Transparent & Responsive to Citizens

With the 2015 legislative session starting on Tuesday, New Mexico In Depth created a guide aimed at examining how the New Mexico Legislature can be more transparent, accessible and responsive - and what's keeping that from happening.

Here are quotes from a few pieces in the guide.

In a functioning democracy, the assumption is people have the knowledge to make decisions when elections roll around. But how much information do state legislators truly share with New Mexicans about their day-in, day-out working out the public's business? -Introduction by Trip Jennings, NMID executive director

"In recent sessions, there have been more than six lobbyists for every legislator, often with access that ordinary citizens can only imagine."  Viki Harrison, executive director, Common Cause  New Mexico

Some bad news on legislation can come when it is first introduced and assigned to the committees that will consider it before it gets a floor vote...If the bill gets three committee assignments in the House or Senate, it is generally considered bad news. It is difficult enough to get legislation through two committees in either chamber before a session ends; a third committee can doom legislation.   Matt Reichbach, reporter NMID

In organizing, we say power resides in relationship. If you are at the Roundhouse for any number of days you see the same people passing you in the stairwell and circling the top floors...Currently power resides in people who can afford time and money to spend 30-60 days in Santa Fe each year, people who speak English and can express a public policy analysis in the dominant language, people who can travel around the state to interim committee hearings, have cell phone numbers and know which restaurants and bars legislators frequent.  Sarah Nolan,  executive director, Comunidades en Acción y de Fé

One of my greatest frustrations during my service in the House was seeing citizens from around the state waiting for a bill to be heard, but the hearing never happened. No explanation. No notice. Nothing was more disheartening than to encounter citizens who had driven or waited hours to attend the hearing, when the staff knew the schedule had changedJanice Arnold-Jones, former House member from Albuquerque.

These are just samples.  I encourage you to read the full articles (as well as many other very insightful pieces) in  New Mexico Legislative Guide online. You can also get an App for your smartphone

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