Legislative Website Tutorial, Part III

By Lance Chilton

Today we’ll explore use of the header “Legislation” at the legislature’s website, www.nmlegis.gov.

Do you want to explore legislation on a given subject? Look for a bill that you think might have been introduced – even passed! – at an uncertain point in the past twenty years? Look up a particular bill from a particular legislative session? Find out what committees looked at, passed or a killed a particular bill? Look up a new bill that has just been introduced or is in progress during the upcoming session? This is your home for all of that.

Go ahead: click on “Legislation.” You can then decide to look up that bill in that year if you know the bill number and year. You can look up bills introduced in a single session or a range of sessions in a number of general categories, look up bills that include a given keyword (for example “racing” or “climate”), look up bills sponsored by a particular legislator, past or present. Those choices should be intuitive, once you’ve made the above click.

The result of whatever you did with the last paragraph might be a list of bills or it might be a single bill’s webpage. If you get a list, click on the bill number on the left end of the line, and you’ll get to that bill’s well tricked-out webpage. One of the tricks: get the text of the bill by clicking on “Introduced” under the heading “Text”. Another trick, sometimes more useful if you’re not fluent in Legalese: click on “Analysis” for a summary of the bill. The Fiscal Impact Report (or FIR, if you speak Legislativeese) is written (in English) for every bill introduced. It summarizes the bill, makes an estimate of its cost or revenue to the state, and lists some issues brought up by the bill. Other tabs include committee action on the bill, including amendments, a tally of legislators who’ve voted for or against a given bill, a governor’s veto message if she vetoed the bill, and actions, which are also summarized in the “Action Text” near the top of the page.

And here you need a guide again, unless you speak not only Legislativeese but actually the New Mexico dialect of that obtuse language. And here you need an example. Enter in 2021 House Bill 47, for example, the “Elizabeth Whitefield End of Life Options Act. This is what the “Action Text” says: “HPREF [1] HHHC/HJC-HHHC [2] DP/a-HJC [4] DP/a [6] PASSED/H (39-27) [9] SHPAC/SJC-SHPAC [11] DP-SJC [16] DP – fl/aa- PASSED/S (24-17) [14] h/cncrd SGND BY GOV (Apr. 8) Ch.132.” You could probably puzzle this out by clicking on “Key to Abbreviations,” but I’ll walk you through it. Here are the successive steps it took on its way to the Governor’s desk:
1) HPREF – the bill was pre-filed in the House before the start of the session
2) It was referred to HHHC (House Health and Human Service Committee) and HJC (House Judiciary Committee.
3) HHHC gave it a “Do Pass” recommendation and sent it on to HJC. A “DNP” recommendation would have meant the death of the bill at any stage of its journey.
4) HJC also gave it a “do pass,” after they amended it (DP/a).
5) It then got to the House Floor, where it passed by a 39-27 margin. You can see who voted in favor and who against by clicking on “Votes,” near the left side of the screen.
6) It got to the Senate, where it was assigned to the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee (SHPAC) and the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC).
7) The bill got “Do Pass” recommendations in both SHPAC and SJC.
8) On the Senate floor, it was amended twice (fl/aa), and then passed as amended.
9) The House then concurred with the Senate amendments.
10) And the Governor signed it!

One more brief example – look up 2021 House Bill 20, the Healthy Workplaces Act. Here’s the Action Text: HPREF [1] HLVMC/HJC-HLVMC [2] DNP-CS/DP-HJC [7] DNP-CS/DP [8] fl/a- PASSED/H (36-33) [11] SHPAC/STBTC-SHPAC [12] DP/a-STBTC [16] DP/a – ref SJC-SJC- DP/a [17] fl/aa- PASSED/S (25-16)- h/cncrd SGND BY GOV (Apr. 8) Ch.131. You’ll see that dreaded “DNP=Do Not Pass,” each time accompanied with CS/DP. This means that twice the bill was “substituted,” and the substituted version passed, while the original version did not, in two committees (the bill was also amended five times. Usually, a substitution is used to make more substantial changes than an amendment does, although that is not always true. Substitutions sometimes make quite radical changes in the bill they apply to; less commonly, amendments do. In any case, you can see that this bill, changed seven times in the process of working its way through the Legislature, made it to the Governor’s desk and was signed.

During the course of a Legislative session, the website is changed every evening, so you can find out what happened to your favorite (or least favorite) bills during the preceding day.