New Mexico

Proposed constitutional amendment would change how university regents are selected

Proposed constitutional amendment...

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - In the state of New Mexico, the governor is responsible for hand-picking a board of regents for every state university, the nominations of which are then confirmed by the state senate.

A state senator tells ABC-7's New Mexico Mobile Newsroom he wants to change that.

"It's really important that we try to search out the very best most inspired, experienced people we can to lead our schools," said state Sen. Jeff Steinborn, who represents Las Cruces.  "Not just have them to be political handouts for governor’s supporters.”

"He feels like the regents are actually, basically doing the bidding of the governor," said Debra Hicks, the chairwoman of NMSU's Board of Regents. "I would disagree with that strongly.

Steinborn, a democrat, and state Sen. Mark Moores, a Republican representing Albuquerque, have proposed a constitutional amendment that would create bipartisan nomination committees to interview candidates and provide a list of qualified applicants to the governor.

“Yes, we are appointed by the governor, but we’re also confirmed by the legislature," Hicks said. "So, that to me is very much bipartisan.”

“What he’s proposing and what I agree with is you have to go through a process," said State Rep. Bill McCamley, who represents district 33. "Show your qualifications before a governor can choose you.”

McCamley likened Steinborn's proposal to the state's bipartisan Judicial Nominating Commission, which selects a number of qualified candidates to fill judge vacancies in the state, which are then confirmed by the governor.

"If you want to be a judge, which is a really important position, then you have to go through this board process, you have to show your credentials," McCamley said. "Then you can get chosen by the governor.”

“The intent of this is to cast a very wide net where anybody could apply and ultimately, like any other job... whittle that down to the best candidates and interview them," Steinborn said. "Ultimately, recommend the best of the best.”

The state legislature will vote on the constitutional amendment in the January session. If passed, the amendment will be on the ballot in November.

“The regents system is just not working and it’s not optimal," Steinborn said. "We really need to pick our game up."

"Our regents are truly looking at what is best for the university," Hicks said.

A spokesman for the governor didn't return ABC-7's calls for comment.

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