Senate Judiciary Committee Passed HB399 now to the Senate Floor
Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the HB399 bill regarding going from 3 to 5 County Commission members impacting Otero County.
All members voted in the affirmative with no opposition. It now moves to the full Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee is a bipartisan committee of Democrats and Republicans thus it passed with a bipartisan vote of this standing committee.
There was an amendment correcting some verbiage thus a technical amendment. The bill now goes before the full Senate.
Fact: 61.6% of the Otero County registered voters are Republican, 74% of the voters approved the idea of the expansion of the Otero County Commission to 5 members in a prior non-binding referendum.
Alamogordo State District 51 Representative, John Block spoke against the measure when on the floor of the house and a letter against expansion of the Otero County Commission by Amy Barela.
Otero County is presently governed by just 3 commissioners, who yield a great deal of power, over districts of nearly 23,000 constituents each.
Contrast the Alamogordo City Commission made up of 6 District Commissioners, and an at large mayor, the ratio of representation for oneDistrict Commissioner for every 5,500 constituents.
In the case of Otero County; an expansion of 2 more commissioners would improve the ratio for constituents services of one Commissioner per every 13,800 constituents.
Commissioner Amy Barela sent a letter to the state house against the expansion citing the cost of expanded salaries and benefits for the commissioners.
Per Commissioner Barela, “Otero County Commissioners currently represent 22,882 constituents in each district. The cost of each commissioner currently includes $26,257 for salary, $22,942.58 for benefits, $5,000 travel allowance and $2,075 for office equipment. This does not include training expenses, staff support, office utilities, etc,”she wrote. “Each commissioner has an approximate cost to the county of $55,274.58.”
A ballot question was on the 2016 ballot asking voters if they wanted the Otero County Commission to be increased to five members which passed with bipartisan support of 74% of the voters approving the proposal. 61.6% of the Otero County registered voters are Republican, 74% of the voters approved the idea of the expansion of the commission to 5 members.
The question was nonbinding and served as a bellwether to see how the electorate felt about their representation at the County level. Since that time, the issue has been brought up multiple times for discussion or action. Each time it has been tabled or voted down using the excuse, of the additional expense.
Is it expense or is it power?
Is it a fear by those seated in power, or those pulling the strings, of those seated in power, that their influence will be diluted by more representation and representation closer to the citizens?
The district representatives of the city of Alamogordo are more diverse and more responsive to a boarder constituency because there is more representation.
The County Government encompasses all citizens of Otero County, shouldn’t it also be more representative of the diverse population and expanded to be closer to the people?
The Senate has until the session end at noon Saturday to call a full vote on the bill.