The League of Women Voters of New Mexico is once again objecting to the introduction of hundreds of bills in both the House and the Senate this session. They carry the seemingly innocuous title HB# or SB# - Public Peace, Health, Safety and Welfare. For years, the League has decried the un-transparent and perhaps illegal practice of filing these "dummy" bills with no content. Legislators file these bills just before the filing deadline in order to skirt the filing rules.
"We understand that these are placeholders for contingencies and "emergencies" but there is no need for this practice, since appropriations bills are exempt from the deadline. The dummy bills deny the public the right to know what their legislature is considering. The "emergency" nature of what actually appears in these bills is far from clear to us," said NM League President Judy Williams.
Williams said the League believes that with nearly 1,000 bills, resolutions and memorials submitted in this short session, adding nearly 100 "dummy bills" makes the legislative process nearly impossible to follow.
The practice violates at least the spirit, if not the letter, of the Open Meetings and Inspection of Public Documents Acts, she said. Even worse, these bills can be scheduled for committee hearings without the public knowing the content. The legislator gives the substitute bill to fellow legislators for discussion at the committee. Another un-transparent rule prevents the Legislative Council Service from posting the bill content until it has been accepted by the committee in which it is to be heard. How can legislation be properly vetted if only the few insiders know the content?
"The practice of using dummy bills needs to stop. They are not just an inconvenience; they subvert democracy and deny the public of their right to provide comment in our Citizens' Legislature," said Williams.