November 13, 2020

Guv to call Legislature into special session for COVID-19 relief

The seal of the state of New Mexico in the House

The governor will call the state legislature into a special session soon to discuss further efforts to aid businesses and residents as the state enters a two-week shutdown because of the spread of COVID-19.

Lujan Grisham said that repurposing CARES Act funding to assist businesses and those who are unemployed would likely be on the agenda, which she said was still being discussed.

Related: State to reimpose shutdown starting Monday: ‘We are in a life or death situation’

She said the special session, which would be the second this year, would take place “As immediately as we can to make sure we can ensure that families can have food on their table and pay their bills.”

One reason a special session would be necessary, the governor said, was because of inaction from the federal government.
“The federal government did not give us a stimulus package,” Lujan Grisham said.

The U.S. House, which is led by a Democratic majority, passed a large recovery package in May. The U.S. Senate, which is led by a Republican majority, was unable to pass a smaller relief bill in September. President Donald Trump changed directions on possible stimulus over the last few weeks.

A spokesman for Senate leadership told NM Political Report that they spoke to the governor on Thursday night and the exact scope and timing of the special sessions was not immediately clear.

But repurposing CARES Act funding and shoring up unemployment would likely be on any special session agenda, according to the spokesman, Chris Nordstrum.

A spokesman for House leadership also said there are no details and said in an email to NM Political Report that “everything is pretty preliminary at this point.”

The spokesman, Daniel Marzec, said, “the conversations are revolving around what types of emergency relief can be made available to support the needs of New Mexicans during this critical time.”

The timing of special sessions is up to the governor, who is responsible for calling legislators into a special session.

It would likely take place after legislation is largely vetted by legislators to provide for a quick special session.

House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, was critical of the idea of a special session.

“I learned of a possible special session at the same time everyone else did, during the Governor’s press conference this afternoon,” Townsend said in a statement. “Right now the House Republicans are focused on the needs of our communities because the Governor has shut down our economy again.”

In June, the Legislature met in a special session largely to adjust the state’s budget after drops in revenue because of the COVID-19 response and plummeting oil and gas revenue. The Legislature also passed legislation requiring police departments to have body cameras for officers and deputies and changes for COVID-safe election practices.

Update: Added comment from House Minority Leader Jim Townsend.