March 20, 2021

Governor, legislators speak about end of session

The seal of the state of New Mexico in the House

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and legislators spoke about legislative successes and what they expect to happen with bills that didn’t cross the finish line, including a pending special session to pass recreational cannabis. 

Lujan Grisham said she was proud of how much work was done in a session marred by a pandemic. 

“It’s incredibly difficult and challenging, to debate, to draft, to engage in policy making,” she said. “It’s everything from economic relief, education and health care in an environment where you absolutely have to meet the COVID safe practices.”

Particularly, Lujan Grisham praised lawmakers for passing a liquor law reform, approving a proposed constitutional amendment to use state funds to pay for early childhood education and decriminalizing abortion.   

Democratic House of Representatives leadership held a press conference a few minutes after adjourning sine die on the House chamber floor to discuss Democratic accomplishments for this session.

Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, of Santa Fe, said the focus for this session was recovery. 

The three-pronged approach to recovery, Egolf said, was education, health and the economy.

Of the more than 170 pieces of legislation that passed this year, some of the bills highlighted during the press conference included passage of SB 10, the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act, which repealed the 1969 statute banning abortion, as well as HB 4 the New Mexico Civil Rights Act, which ends qualified immunity as a legal defense in the state and allows for financial remedy up to $2 million and the potential to recover attorney’s fees if a person’s constitutional rights have been violated.

Lujan Grisham signed SB 10 into law in February. She is expected to sign the New Mexico Civil Rights Act as well.

Another bill highlighted by House leadership, HB 20, is one that went through a final vote in the House just an hour before the end of the session. HB 20, or the Healthy Workplaces Act, mandates up to 64 hours of paid sick leave for all private sector employees. Lujan Grisham also supports this bill and is expected to sign it into law.

Related: Paid sick leave bill heads to Guv’s desk

Egolf addressed the contention that flared up in the Senate chamber in the early hours of Friday morning around the passage of HB 20 when state Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, a Democrat from Albuquerque, sparred with Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, also a Democrat from Albuquerque. Ivey-Soto’s line of questioning became what another senate member called “bullying” and the Senate recessed for nearly 30 minutes to regain normal procedure.

Related: Paid sick leave passes Senate after lengthy, acrimonious debate including a filibuster

“We’ve shown how to disagree without being disagreeable,” Egolf said.

He also pointed to the fact that the House now has a majority of women legislators for the first time in New Mexico history.

“It’s incredible seeing the change in composition of the House. It’s a tremendous positive benefit for the Legislature and the entire state,” Egolf said.

Republicans were critical after the session.

“I’m a little sad to say that we were disappointed with the agenda pressed onto this legislature,” Senate Majority Leader Greg Baca, R-Belen, said.

Republicans also criticized that the public was not let into the Roundhouse, for COVID-19 restrictions and a fence that was placed around the building after the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington D.C., where supporters of Donald Trump took control of the U.S. Capitol.

House Minority Whip was even more critical, and said,”this was a teriffic session if you’re a felon, if you’re a sex offender, if you’re a special industry and you’re wanted to shut industry down.”

“In particular, middle class families are hit the hardest, you hear the language of the rich versus the poor,” Montoya said. “But we don’t have very many rich in New Mexico. And so you see, the policies that we’ve pushed, are to chase businesses out of the state.”

Still, legislators will have another chance at passing legislation in a special session that will likely start at the end of March.