Friends With Plenty of Expertise to Share / by Karie Luidens

Phone Malte Fleuter Unsplash.jpg

Exploring the Santa Fe Roundhouse on Monday was a great experience. Still, I was hoping to hear the House of Representatives debate and vote on HB 287, one of the “border” bills I’ve had my eye on since January. It was listed as item 2 on the House’s daily calendar for March 4, so I was surprised and disappointed when the Speaker skipped right over it to start debate on a bill related to the national bone marrow registry (also important).

Clearly there was more to the proceedings than I understood.

Lucky for me, I’ve got friends with plenty of expertise to share.

This afternoon I sent a message to my friend Marcos Gonzales, who has years of experience working in New Mexico policy and politics. He currently serves as Assistant Director of the Bernalillo County Economic Development Department. (He’s also the son of State Representative Bobby Gonzales of Taos, who I’ve therefore had the pleasure of sharing some family meals with over the years and who I spotted on the House floor the other day.)

Not only did Marcos reply to my message within minutes, he then picked up the phone to call me from his office and took the time to answer my questions. Thanks, Marcos!

Here’s how our talk went, jumping right into the meat of it…

Marcos: So, each piece of legislation has to be heard three times on the floor. The first reading, the second reading, and the third reading.

Me: What happens in the first two readings that’s different from the third one?

The first reading is when the bill is introduced. In general the Clerk will read about what the bill is, and then the Speaker will decide to refer it to committees.

Okay. And the second reading is checking back from committees?

Pretty much just checking back into it. And then the third reading is the actual debate and the voting, if it makes it to the third reading.

But it might not make it that far if the committees just vote not to move it forward?

It can get tabled—the committee can vote to table.

And if a committee tables it, that means that they’ve decided that they’re not going to discuss it—it doesn’t go any further than that?

Marcos with his dad on opening day of the New Mexico legislature, January 15, 2019.

Marcos with his dad on opening day of the New Mexico legislature, January 15, 2019.

Yeah, that’s it. Or it can not get heard. You know a bill’s gonna die if it’s assigned to like eight committees. There’s not enough time for it to go through that [since New Mexico’s legislative session is only 60 days long].

Okay. So all the bills that made it onto the calendar I had, those were already voted through the committees and had made it all the way to the third reading then, right?

Yeah. And the third reading is where they actually debate it on the House floor. The bill you were asking about, they may have skipped over it for a bunch of different reasons: if the sponsor wasn’t there because they were in a Senate hearing, or they wanted to defer it for some reason, like if they wanted to get a different expert or different opinions. It really varies where it’s at.

Do you know who would make the decision, or at what point the decision would be made, which ones got heard on Monday versus which ones got skipped?

That’s the Speaker’s call.

The Speaker. Do the representatives on the floor know in advance which ones the Speaker’s going to call or skip?

They would have asked beforehand for it to be deferred. They’ll know that their bill is going to be up, and they’ll ask the Speaker for it to be deferred if they can’t get their expert witnesses there in time, or if they need to do more preparation.

Gotcha. And they can bring expert witnesses to the House floor as well, not just the committees?

Yeah, exactly. I have to go testify tomorrow myself.

Oh, cool! That’s right, Sarah told me you were involved in writing and promoting an economic development bill.

Yeah. So, it was in committee on Monday, and then it’ll be on the House floor tomorrow.

Awesome. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me, and good luck being an expert witness tomorrow!

As of this writing on Wednesday evening, shows that HB 287 is still on the House calendar. If I want to know exactly why the Speaker hasn’t yet brought it up for a floor debate and vote, I suppose I’d have to get in touch with someone who’s working on that bill, like its sponsor, Rep. Angelica Rubio (D-Las Cruces).