Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, says he will introduce legislation to archive House webcasts and expand legislative webcasting to interim committees. Currently webcasting by the state legislature is only available as a livestream and cannot be replayed later.
Steinborn spoke to the SFR in a brief phone interview about the need to create a video archive.
"I think really would allow the greatest majority of access to these meetings as opposed to just have to watch it in real time," Steinborn said. "It's just, we think, a very important transparency measure."
He also said that the interim committee hearings are an important part of the process, even if they aren't actually voting on legislation.
"We really do have hearings on lots of important issues where we go into great depth," Steinborn said. For example, hearings on behavioral health audits and providers had an effect on the majority of behavioral health patients in the state but could only be witnessed by those in the room at the time.
"What a great learning laboratory for New Mexicans to be able to pull up these interim committee meetings and get information from the best experts in the state on all these subjects and learn what we're learning," he said.
The interim committees are made up of member from both chambers and so it is a joint rule change that would require approval from both the Senate as well as the House.
Steinborn has a big ally in the Senate for webcasting of interim hearings: Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, who has agreed to carry the joint rule in her chamber if it passes the House.
The archiving of webcasts is a rule change only for the House.
Members of the Senate, however, have historically objected to webcasting because of concerns about how the videos would be used politically.
Steinborn doesn't see this as a problem.
"The reality is that everything that we do as public officials is fair game for folks to use against us or against each other during the course of a campaign," Steinborn said.
"And that of course includes anything that anybody could say during a committee meeting or a vote that we take," he continued. "And in fact, people have already used votes that people have taken in the committee process and used them against people in their campaigns."
Steinborn says that his efforts are bipartisan and mentioned Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, as a supporter of the rule changes.
As for the costs, Steinborn says they will be minimal. For archiving, Steinborn says the Legislative Council Service, which runs the webcasting, says they currently have capacity to do this now. The LCS is researching what the exact capacity is before it would need extra funding.
Steinborn doesn't see the interim committees being expensive either.
"Nowadays webcast technology is pretty cheap," He said. "Just a camera and an internet connection."
Gov. Susana Martinez's office webcasts the proceeding on the House and Senate floors and in select committee hearings. These webcasts are available on the governor's website.
Martinez would not have a say in the legislation, as they are rule changes and so do not have to go through her office.
The League of Women Voters of New Mexico is also on board with the proposed changes.
"The LWVNM's position on Transparency in State and Local Governments (Adopted 2011) relating to the open meetings act calls for governments to 'Broadcast as many public meetings as possible, in both real-time and an archived format, preferably on-line,'" Meredith Machen, President of the state League said in a statement. "It is essential for governmental accountability and responsibility to the citizens of New Mexico that hearings be archived."