September 28, 2016

Special session this week for budget shortfall, crime bills

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New Mexico State Senate.  Wikicommons

New Mexico State Senate. Wikicommons

The New Mexico Legislature will convene for a special session this Friday according to multiple reports. It’s still unclear how long lawmakers will meet.

The New Mexico House of Representatives.

The New Mexico House of Representatives.

A special session is necessary to deal with a nearly $600 million budget deficit from this year and a recently-completed budget year. The state is required to balance its budget each year.

Martinez will also add some high profile bills on crime to the call, according to multiple media reports.

Michael Lornegan, a public information officer for Martinez, issued a statement to the Albuquerque Journal announcing the session. Lornegan did not respond to phone calls and messages left by NM Political Report Wednesday evening, nor did Director of Communications Chris Sanchez.

We will add any response by the governor’s public information officers if and when we receive them.

From the Journal:

“We hope it will be short, but that all depends on whether the Senate will take our pressing challenges seriously, including our crime issues, or if they will continue to play games,” Martinez spokesman Michael Lonergan said.

The crime issues, which likely include increasing penalties including reinstating the death penalty which was repealed 2009, will likely be hot-button topics for the upcoming legislative elections.

The special session will take place less than two months before early voting starts.

Lawmakers and politicos beginning discussing a possible special session even before the 2016 regular session ended, as the budget situation worsened.

According to the Journal, there is no budget deal in place.

A special session will cost an estimated $50,000 per day.

Throughout the summer, lawmakers who are familiar with budget issues stressed that a special session was inevitable due to the state’s budget shortfall. Martinez announced in August a special session would most likely happen this month, but held off on specifics until telling some news outlets Wednesday.

Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, told NM Political Report he thought the death penalty push is a “red herring” and that the Republicans are trying to effect the upcoming elections.

Former House Republican Whip Dan Foley proposed the same theory in August when he appeared on NM in Focus and speculated that the death penalty would be an issue during the special session

“This could be the ultimate issue to go out in the special session that could give a voting record to go to the people right before the November elections,” Foley said.

A former prosecutor, Martinez has pushed for tougher penalties for crimes including during the 2016 regular session. Special sessions are often called to fix budgetary issues, but that is not always the case. In 2011, much of the special session was devoted to legislative redistricting.

Martinez previously told the Associated Press she hoped for a quick special session in order to save taxpayers money. With a number of different issues, including the constitutionally-mandated requirement to balance the budget, in the balance, a swift adjournment seems unlikely.

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