When the Legislature is not in session in New Mexico, lawmakers still meet and hold hearings about things like education funding, solitary confinement, green energy jobs and more. When these off-session meetings happen in Santa Fe, they’re live-streamed, and anyone around the state can tune in. But if they’re held anywhere else in New Mexico, the public’s out of luck. That might be changing.
It can be hard to weigh what kind of job local elected officials are doing if, say, you can’t take a whole day off work and drive to another city to sit in on a hearing.
Sen. Jeff Steinborn is a Democrat from Las Cruces. "You get to know them, and you also get to evaluate their performance right?" he said. "It’s hard to sometimes decipher what the real story is about who’s helping our state and who’s helping special interests. Malfeasance loves to hide in dark corners."
He's been championing better live-streaming practices for years. "Sometimes, you know, we could be in a very far corner of the state having an incredibly important hearing, but yet it wasn’t accessible, wasn’t webcast," he said.
When they aren’t webcast, they aren’t recorded, either. Steinborn managed to help pull some funding together during the last session so the Legislature could buy equipment to start live-streaming all these meetings. They're just getting started, but by next year, staff say they hope to have them all online live. And if for some reason they aren’t able to do live-stream, then the meetings will be recorded and posted as soon as possible.
Still, Steinborn said there’s no law or rule requiring that these interim meetings are streamed or archived. So, on some level, it’s still subject to politicians’ whims. Steinborn says it would be much better to have something in statute.
Interim legislative committee meetings for 2019 have begun.