Thursday, March 19, 2009

Senate passes open conference committees, gov to sign

(Updated, 11 p.m. Thursday)

I know I've said this before and perhaps I do sound like a broken record. But the Senate tonight is set to consider a measure to open conference committees to the public, the media, who ever.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, told me his plan is to take up that measure shortly after the Senate comes back into session tonight. That's 6:30-7ish, according to him. Keep in mind, that's Senate time. . .

Still, indications are that this is the night for the bill to be heard, and the year for it to pass, although it's going to be close.

So why hasn't the Senate started up yet? Could be the fact that the Lobos are tied against Notre Dame at the moment...

Update, 7:20 p.m.

Well now that the Lobos game is over (sorry, Lobos) the Senate can start up again. And yes, the lady on the loudspeaker just asked all Senators to report to the chambers.

Update, 7:47 p.m.

The Senate is back.

The conference committees is number 65 on the Senate's supplemental calendar that was just handed out.

Update, 8:02 p.m.

Sanchez just said that the conference committees measure will be the last item on the agenda tonight. Don't think overnighter yet, though. He also said he wants to be out of here by 10 p.m. Key word: "wants."

Update, 9:15 p.m.

The Senate is starting that bill. Sen. Linda Lopez is presenting the measure.

Sanchez wants to know why the bill doesn't apply to other officials.
“Don’t you think the public deserves to be at those types of meeting where a Cabinet secretary is talking to their department heads?”

Sen. Mary Jane Garcia supports the measure.
"The public indeed demands that we have transparency," she said. "We need to do that if we are going to improve our image as state legislators."

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings opposes the measure in part because it doesn't apply to all branches of government.

“If you want to do it to one, please do it to all three,” he said.

Jennings also said the measure should apply to members of the media, who ought to open their editorial board meetings to the public.

Sue Wilson Beffort, R-Sandia Park, also opposes the bill.

“Things could change if we get into a situation if we’re not able to sit down and talk it out and that’s what you do in a conference committee.”

Getting close to a vote.

Sen. Dede Feldman, D-Albuquerque, is wrapping up.

"I think it’s the public that should be in there looking to see what is going on," she said.

VOTE: It passed 33-8.

Voting no were Sanchez, Jennings, and Sens. Stuart Ingle, Gay Kernan, Kent Cravens, Sue Wilson Beffort, Vernon Asbill and Phil Griego.

Feldman, after the vote, praised those who voted for it -- and those who pushed the measure for years, including former Foundation for Open Government director Bob Johnson.

"It was time," she said.

Gov. Bill Richardson said early today he'd sign the measure.

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