New Mexico State Rep. Christine Chandler

(Pictured left) & Ramona Goolsby | Facebook | Provided Photo

By New Mexico Sun Report

Feb 17, 2024

During its public hearings on gun-related bills, the New Mexico House Judiciary Committee faced criticism over alleged participation restrictions last month.  

If passed, House Bill 27 would allow law enforcement to petition for red flag orders without credible information from reporting parties that someone poses a significant threat. House Bill 129 would impose a one to four business-day waiting period on firearms purchased by law-abiding citizens.

According to hearing attendee Ramona Goolsby, House Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Christine Chandler “log-rolled” comments on HB 27 and HB 129, requiring in-person participants to discuss the bills simultaneously without adequate presentation time, while ignoring some of the participants on Zoom. 

Chandler is a co-sponsor of HB 27. 

“The essence of our republic lies in the ability of citizens to participate in the decision-making process, to have their voices heard, and to hold their elected representatives accountable,” Goolsby, a veteran and current resident of New Mexico, wrote in an op-ed about what she experienced at the hearings.  

Goolsby elaborated in an interview with New Mexico Sun. 

“When we came into the hearing chamber, the sergeant at arms stated we would have 90 seconds to speak on the bills. This was a general statement on time. He then asked for people who supported the bill to sit on the left side of the room and those in opposition to sit on the right side of the room, which is also a little odd,” she said.

“He stated that it would make it move quicker for comment. The general procedure had been to have the sponsor introduce the bill, then public comment. The sponsor is given time for any rebuttal of comments. They then proceed with legislative committee discussion.”

According to Goolsby, Chandler said the public would only be given 60 seconds to speak on either HB 27 or HB 129 or speak on both, and that there would be only one public comment period for both gun-related bills.

“The Zoom participants were told to raise their hands if they were in opposition, then if they supported a bill, to identify how many for each ‘side.’ After the people present in person spoke, they would allow a limited number of Zoom callers,” she said. 

“I can’t remember exactly how many for each side were allowed to speak but it was only around 2-3 and there were more than that on Zoom. One of the limiting factors with a Zoom presentation is there seem to be technical difficulties many times with people unmuting or getting recognized.”

There are standards and practices in place to ensure that the democratic process is accessible to everyone, and Goolsby said Chandler’s practices in the recent hearings represent a threat to democratic ideals, undermining the fundamental rights of citizens to participate in the decision-making process, eroding the trust between government and the governed.

“I believe every legislator needs to have a copy of the Constitution in front of them during the session. I believe there should be uniform rules between each committee and chamber. Having one set of rules for one committee and another set of rules for a different committee doesn’t lend itself to efficiency and trust,” Goolsby said. 

“It appears (which I tend to agree with) that chairs of committees can accelerate personal agendas. Uniform rules for public participation, uniform rules on the cancellation and advancement of hearings on bills, and even required reading of bills out loud as required by the Constitution could help make a better process.”