The Web cam never blinked.
Even when Rep. Ed Sandoval, D-Albuquerque, twice asked Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones not to broadcast Monday’s Taxation and Revenue Committee proceedings on the Internet, the Albuquerque Republican didn’t back down, and neither did the camera sitting on her desk.
As a result, a New Mexico legislative meeting streamed live on the Internet for the first time in history, making Arnold-Jones gleeful with her feat but irking some top Democrats.
Whether it will happen again remains to be seen.
Sandoval, who chairs the House committee, said he was concerned that the small camera might disrupt future committee hearings or be used for partisan purposes.
A rule introduced Monday by House Majority Leader Ken Martinez, D-Grants, and House Minority Leader Tom Taylor, R-Farmington, would leave it up to each committee chairman to decide whether they will allow a hearing to be broadcast on the Web.
“It’s the chairman’s decision,” Taylor said. “I guess if he has something to hide he can say no. It puts the onus on whoever is chairing the meeting as to whether they permit it to happen.”
Arnold-Jones used a friend’s Web site to host the live stream.
A state Senate committee late last year voted to hold off on webcasts from the Capitol. After spending $30,000 on cameras, the Senate took them down a week before the session started.
Arnold-Jones, who manages a company involved with information technology, said she spent about $800 of her own money on supplies for the project so anyone could see and hear what is happening at the Roundhouse. She uses her personal laptop computer and a Webcam she recently bought “off the shelf.”
Sandoval on Monday didn’t seem pleased about Arnold-Jones’ move, saying she hadn’t asked permission.
“Part of the thing that ... caught us by surprise is that we did learn about it early from the Web sites and stuff but she never approached us or the speaker (saying) that ‘we’re going to do this,’ “ he said. “But she’s a big girl. I guess she doesn’t have to.”
The soft-spoken Arnold-Jones, known for her quiet demeanor and expertise on technology issues, said she simply wants her constituents and others who cannot attend hearings in Santa Fe to be able to see what is happening.
“I did not ask permission of anybody,” she said, “so if there is anger, there’s a reason for that. But I believe we had already asked permission by passing legislation, by passing capital outlay (funding for webcasting). There’s a point at which to not ask permission and this is that point.”
A total of 133 viewers visited the Web site during Monday’s hearing.
House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Nambe, said he’s undecided about whether he supports webcasts.
“At this point, I don’t know enough about it,” he said.
“I don’t know that there’s hesitation to having webcasting,” the House leader said. “I think there’s concern ... (about) is that going to be in any way interrupting the process of the committee system or on the floors?”
The House Rules and Order of Business Committee is scheduled to consider the Martinez-Taylor measure, House Resolution 2, this morning.
Meanwhile, the Senate, following a half-hour floor debate on Monday, voted 30-10 to have a Senate committee reconsider its vote last month against webcasting.
However, it doesn’t look as if there will be any Senate webcasts soon. The Senate Committee on Committees — which in December decided to pull the plug despite a previous lopsided vote last session by the full Senate in favor of webcasting — met immediately after Monday’s Senate debate to discuss the issue.
At that meeting, members raised a number of questions, which the Legislative Council Service will try to answer.
Some members expressed concerns about the cost — which was the official reason given for taking down camera equipment already installed in the Senate Chambers.
Sen. Mark Boitano, R-Albuquerque, who has led the fight for webcasting in the Senate, said some estimates from companies providing Webcasting services were as high as $100,000. However, he said a more realistic figure is closer to $7,000.
Other committee members expressed other worries. Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, hit on what seems to be an underlying fear of embarrassment for some lawmakers. He noted senators sometimes get tired and “say the wrong thing.”
“Once that’s done,” Cisneros said, “you’re on YouTube and there’s nothing you can do.”
Cisneros also asked the Legislature’s staff to check with other states regarding the effects that Web cameras have had on their Legislatures. New Mexico is one of only five states that does not have some type of webcasting, and two of those five broadcast floor sessions and some committee meetings on television.
Boitano said if the Committee on Committees doesn’t agree to fund webcasting, his “Plan B” is to ask the full Senate to adopt a rule change mandating webcasts. It takes a two-thirds majority of the Senate to adopt such a change.
“I think we have the votes,” Boitano said.
Democrats who opposed the motion to have the committee take another look at webcasting were Senate President Pro-tem Tim Jennings of Roswell, Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez of Belen, Sen. Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces, Sen. John Sapien or Corrales, Sen. Linda Lopez of Albuquerque and Sen. Phil Griego of San Jose.
Republicans who opposed were Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle of Portales, Sen. Gay Kernan of Hobbs, Sen. Carroll Leavell of Jal and Sen. Vernon Asbill of Carlsbad.
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