We have fielded dozens of calls from people confused by the process to offer public comment in a hearing or to submit written materials to support or oppose bills. We hope the following is useful and conveys the importance of your advocacy.
Making Calls or Sending Email to Your Legislators
The process for 2022 is likely to differ somewhat from 2021 because there will be in-person as well as remote hearings via Zoom. What follows is guidance for how you can participate by Zoom.
First, in almost all cases, your time is best spent advocating with Democrats. Republicans are rarely amenable to progressive legislation. Second, if we can retain Democratic votes we will win every time, even without GOP support. This will reduce your work by one-third.
Next, try to be proactive. For the bills you care most about, write to your legislator on the weekend, when they may be receiving fewer emails and may actually read them.
When writing to a legislator, make sure to use the subject line to indicate the bill number, name, and your position, e.g.: “I am your constituent and I strongly support SB 83.” Then in the body of the email, briefly express why you support the bill. Some legislators only count “for” and “against,” not having time to read the many emails they receive. By putting your position in the subject line you ensure it will be noted.
Unless you have your legislator’s cell phone number, you will be calling his/her Roundhouse office. The phone often rings and rings. Persist. It may not get answered until the 10th ring. Call between 9am-5pm M-F — some offices do not have voicemail. Be brief. Don’t give every reason you support a bill, simply tell the secretary that you support the bill, give the bill # and title, and if you are a constituent or have worked on the legislator’s campaign, note that.
The Importance of Pre-Session Communication with Legislators
Once the session is under way, it is unclear how closely legislators consider constituent comments. But before the session begins, you can often establish dialogue with your legislator(s), something we strongly encourage. Signing up for our Legislative Alerts and attending our Legislative Strategy Huddles are a great way to find out about important bills that will be considered and that we will be supporting well before the session opens. (Links to register for Zoom Huddles are posted here as they are scheduled.) As bills become known, we will develop speaking points and summaries, that can help you frame your input to legislators.
How to offer comment in a hearing or submit a written comment
There are different rules for hearing processes in the Senate and the House. In either chamber, there is merit to joining the hearing via their Zoom link, even if you do not intend to offer comment. In most instances, the chair asks first for those opposed to raise their hand. Then the chair asks those who oppose the bill but do not want to speak, to lower their hands. If you are watching the Webcast on nmlegis.gov, they do not know how many are watching or how many are in favor or opposed. So if you can, join hearings by Zoom.
To join by Zoom, access the link in our Alerts or get them by opening “What’s Happening” at nmlegis.gov and clicking on the committee agenda where your bill is being heard. If you don’t know where your bill is being heard, go to “Legislation” in the menu. Click on “find bill by number,” plug in the number, and when the bill comes up it will identify its next committee assignment. Click on that and it will take you to the agenda for the next hearing. If your bill is being heard, you can then locate the Zoom info by going back to “What’s Happening,” clicking on the agenda and you will find language that looks like this:
“You are invited to a Zoom webinar.
When: Feb 4, 2021 08:30 AM Mountain Time (US and Canada)
Topic: House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee 2021
Please click the link below to join the webinar:
Use that link to join the meeting. (Or, you can get the links from our eLegislative Alerts.)
Every committee chair handles it differently, but in some cases they limit the number of comments and you may not be called on. You will want to be very prepared — in some committees, the time limit is one minute, and you may be cut off at exactly one minute. Also, be mindful of what has been said before you and try not to repeat. It is perfectly acceptable to say. “Madame Chair, committee members and bill sponsor. My name is Mary Smith, a member of Retake Our Democracy. For all the reasons stated before me, I want to voice my strong support for HB 83.” The chair will respect your brevity. If you want to be more expansive, the most effective public comment is to tell a story about people you know who have been impacted by the bill not being law, a human story that brings home the human impact of the bill.
To submit a document to be included in committee members’ e-file for the hearing, you must send it by attachment to the Committee Secretary 24 hours prior to the hearing. Indicate clearly the bill number. You can locate the committee secretary’s email address on the agenda below the Zoom invite. It will look like this:
“Please submit any amendments or supplemental materials to
firstname.lastname@example.org at least 24 hours before the hearing.”
There is a different process to offer comment in Senate committees. You must email the address given on the committee page the day before the hearing. Your email should include your name, organizational affiliation, the bill number, and whether you’re for or against. Then they will send you a Zoom link. You should receive the Zoom link prior to the hearing, sometimes immediately prior. The Senate employs the same rules for submitting documents. Here is a link to a page with contact info for all committee secretaries.
Watching Hearing Webcasts
If you are not giving public comment, you can watch the webcast of the committee hearing. All the committee hearings are offered live and recorded. You can view a list of hearings that are in session at this link, and on the left of the page you can access recordings of all hearings.