Listen in on law makers

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By Carol A. Clark

If you ever wanted to listen in on the interim committee meetings of state lawmakers at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe, here’s your chance.

A live, streaming audio feed of these meetings is accessible online at www.nmlegis.gov.

Lawmakers grew accustomed to being broadcast during the 2009 and 2010 regular sessions. Last week the Legislative Council voted to begin webcasting interim committee meetings beginning July 1.

Because this year’s meetings are being held in Santa Fe as a cost-saving measure, the meeting rooms were already wired.

As with regular-session committees, the feed is audio only and will not be archived — so the public will have to listen in real time.

Rep. Jeannette Wallace, R-Los Alamos, Santa Fe and Sandoval counties presented the webcasting bill to the Legislative Council, of which she is a member, at its last meeting held a week or so ago, she said.

“There was a lot of discussion and some said it was a waste of time,” Wallace said. “But it will save time and money and allow those who can’t travel to Santa Fe to be able to listen to the meetings. It’s just audio and we understand that will be a handicap for some.”

Wallace said that funds are not available to set up video, which was utilized in the chamber during the session.

“But we need to make the video better because we saw the backs of lots of peoples’ heads,” she said. “We at least want to try webcasting the interim committees and if people show they are in favor of it then we’ll continue to work to improve it and if we determine that people are not interested then we’ll re-evaluate the decision.”

While the voices of audience members and some committee members can be inaudible at times, and it can be difficult to know who’s speaking, New Mexico Foundation for Open Government Executive Director Sarah Welsh said this is still a big step forward for public access to state government.

“Interim committees do a lot of the heavy lifting in advance of legislative sessions,” Welsh said. “They draft and revise major legislation, they evaluate state programs and they hear testimony from key community stakeholders. Now, all of that important government business is accessible to those of us who can’t afford the time or money to travel to these meetings, which usually last two or three days. It’s an opportunity to track issues that you care about, and it’s a chance to listen to your representative and senator at work.”

The audio stream is being provided as a public service and any political use of the stream is prohibited, according to information noted on the legislative Web site.