- Associated Press - Sunday, January 24, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A New Mexico lawmaker is pushing for a ban on reserved seating during joint sessions of the state Legislature.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez spoke out after seeing some guests attending the governor’s State of the State address had color-coded passes for seats, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported (https://bit.ly/1S3N7lz ).

“It’s my understanding that members of the public were not allowed up there unless they had a pass,” Sanchez told reporters Tuesday at a news conference after Gov. Susana Martinez’s speech. “And never, in all the years I’ve been in the New Mexico Legislature, ever seen people denied access to their house.”

The Belen Democrat said in a news release Friday that the Capitol is the people’s building.

“It is unconscionable to effectively deny the public an opportunity to attend and witness the opening day of the legislative session and the governor’s state of the state address,” he said.

House sergeant at arms Steven Shaw says some seats were reserved for the public.

This was the first time Shaw used a color coding system to limit crowding in the gallery.

“Last year it was hard to get in and out because of all the people standing,” he said.

Marcella Diaz of the immigration rights group Somos Un Pueblo Unido has attended the past six State of the Union speeches and was turned away Tuesday.

“At first (a sergeant-at-arms) told me it was full. Then another asked me if I had a pass,” she said. “I’ve been coming all these years and nobody’s ever asked me for a pass.”

Governor’s Office spokesman Michael Lonergan says it is disappointing Sanchez is so focused on seating arrangements instead of passing legislation that tackles important issues.

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, https://www.sfnewmexican.com

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