Democratic Party group won’t have to pick up security costs for candidates training session at Roundhouse
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Emerge New Mexico, a group whose website describes itself as “dedicated to getting more Democratic women into elected office,” will use state capitol building for a training session on a Saturday in October but will not have to pay for the nearly $700 in security costs incurred at the Roundhouse that day.
The Legislative Council Service, the drafting, legal and research staff for the state legislature, has ruled that it will waive the costs “because of a miscommunication or misunderstanding over that question.”
That doesn’t sit well with Republican state Sen. Bill Payne of Albuquerque.
“The fact that we authorize a group to use the capitol building should be inclusive of the cost,” Payne said Friday (Aug. 31). “It’s a stretch to give a private organization use of the public’s facility with no cost.”
Earlier this summer, Emerge New Mexico spokesperson Reena Szczepanski told Capitol Report New Mexico that her group has used the Roundhouse at least six other times for training sessions for potential Democratic Party female candidates. In the past, the group went through the clerk of the Senate. This year, process had to go through the Legislative Council Service and in a 7-6 vote on Aug. 3, Roundhouse members of the Legislative Council Committee approved the request from Emerge New Mexico.
Szczepanski said about 30-40 people will attend the October 13 get-together, which features mock legislative sessions in the House and Senate chambers as well as instructional classes in some of the Roundhouse’s committee meeting rooms.
“Nothing we conduct that day could be considered partisan,” Szczepanski said. “The session is a way to explain how the legislative process is done.”
But Payne disagrees.
“New Mexico taxpayers have to pay for that [security cost],” he said. “It’s for a partisan use to instruct partisan Democratic candidates to run against sitting Republican candidates.”
In an e-mail sent to Capitol Report New Mexico, a representative of the Legislative Council Service wrote:
We’ve decided that while there are some security costs (less than $700) to allow the group to use the Capitol on a Saturday, we’re not going to charge them because of a miscommunication or misunderstanding over that question. The Legislative Council, as you may recall, directed us to bring a proposed policy to it to cover future situations.
During debate in the 7-6 decision by the Legislative Council Committee, state Sen. Cisco McSorley (D-Albuquerque) sided with the majority on the grounds of public access to the Roundhouse.
“I don’t think the New Mexico legislature ought to be partisanly picking winners and losers when it comes to this,” McSorley told us on Aug. 3. “These people are taxpayers and it’s their house. If they want to use it, they should use it … I may not like ALEC [American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative organization many liberals loathe] but if their members are New Mexico citizens, this is their capitol too.”
But Sen. McSorley added, “I do think there should be consideration if security has to be paid for.”