House Republicans file lawsuit over unconstitutional rules changes

“Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten”.  Roman Catholic Diocese of  Brooklyn v Cuomo,  United States Supreme Court (November 25, 2020)

Santa Fe, NM- State Representative Jim Townsend (R-Artesia), Rep. Rod Montoya (R-Farmington), and Rep. Larry Scott (R-Hobbs) today filed a lawsuit with the New Mexico Supreme Court over unconstitutional House rules changes adopted one-week into the 60-day legislative session.

These rule changes are significantly different than those of the Senate chamber, in which the Senate will operate in an 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 the improving progressive wing’s 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.   

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 would be diminished and vaccines would be widely available.  Delaying the session could have also avoided making these unconstitutional rule changes and could have allowed greater public participation in the legislative process.