The governor of New Mexico gets to appoint members to all manner of government boards and committees, but among her most influential picks are her nominees to lead the state’s public universities — major institutions that are big employers and big health care providers.
A Senate committee on Monday approved a bipartisan proposal that would take away a bit of the governor’s power to pick university regents.
Senate Joint Resolution 1 seeks to change the state constitution to create nominating committees to vet and recommend applicants for seats on university boards of regents.
And the amendment would require the governor to nominate regents based on those recommendations.
The sponsors, Sens. Mark Moores, a Republican from Albuquerque, and Jeff Steinborn, a Democrat from Las Cruces, argue the amendment would help depoliticize what can be a hyper-partisan process with a big impact for organizations that combined are responsible for billions of dollars.
Leadership positions at the state’s universities should go to the most qualified candidates “instead of just being the political plums,” Moores told the Senate Rules Committee during the measure’s first hearing.
The committee approved the resolution without opposition, sending it to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
If it passes the Legislature, the amendment would go to voters in November for their approval.
The wording is still vague, leaving it to legislators to decide how exactly these nominating committees would operate.
But the idea is not too different from the state’s process for picking judges to fill vacancies on the bench.
The amendment would require, however, that no more than half the members of a nominating committee are members of the same political party. And it would require the committees to provide the governor at least three nominees, not simply make the choice by way of only nominating one or two people.
The Senate would still be responsible for confirming or rejecting the nominees.
But it is the Senate — and specifically the Rules Committee — that Gov. Susana Martinez has accused of holding up her nominations for boards of regents.
And a pick for a member of The University of New Mexico Board of Regents is the only one of the governor’s appointees the state Senate has rejected during her two terms.
Still, some legislators have suggested a bigger overhaul is needed of the state’s sprawling system of public universities.
“We need to go to a state regent system, a statewide board,” Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, a Democrat from Albuquerque, told Moores and Steinborn, suggesting the state should do away with having separate boards for each university.
Ivey-Soto said he might propose changing the resolution in a later committee to do just that.
Contact Andrew Oxford at (505) 986-3093 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @andrewboxford. This article comes from The Santa Fe New Mexican. NMPolitics.net is paying for the rights to publish articles about the 2018 legislative session from the newspaper. Help us cover the cost by making a donation to NMPolitics.net.