January 18, 2023

Legislative Roundup: 1/18

The New Mexico State Capitol, or Roundhouse Wikicommons.

Days left in session: 59

‘Feed bill’ hard to swallow: A routine bill that funds the operations of the Legislature during the 60-day session drew opposition from House Republicans over a $2.5 million, one-time appropriation to hire a consultant to study the feasibility of district offices for legislators with full-time staff.

After about 2 1/2 hours of discussion and debate, the House voted 47-19 along party lines to pass House Bill 1, also known as the “feed bill.”

Although the bill includes other one-time expenses, including $1.3 million for new display boards in each chamber of the Roundhouse and $9.5 million to complete a legislative processing system, the proposed study became the biggest sticking point.

The study is part of a larger effort to modernize the Legislature in New Mexico, which is one of only two states without full-time staff assigned to each lawmaker.

Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, argued funding for the proposed study should be included in the state’s overall budget bill. He and others said including funding for the study in the so-called feed bill would bypass the normal appropriations and vetting process.

“This does not get the proper scrutiny … and that’s why I think it’s here,” Montoya said.

The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to consider the bill Thursday, after which it will make its way to the full Senate for a final vote

Emergency power oversight: Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca of Belen has reintroduced a bill that would give lawmakers more say over public health orders and emergency declarations.

Senate Bill 65 would require legislative approval to renew or amend public health orders and emergency declarations and curb the governor’s authority.

In a statement, Baca, a Republican, asserted the bill would restore some balance and accountability in Santa Fe.

“This bill is not about one governor, but this issue was brought to light by this governor,” he said, referring to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “We experienced almost three years of a governor with self-given emergency powers. Whether or not you agree with how she used them, her extra-constitutional powers went unchecked by the Legislature and our constituents.”

Food and safety for kids: Lujan Grisham and lawmakers have made it clear public education will be a priority in this year’s session. While lawmakers are expected to push for higher salaries for school employees and more learning time for students, three senators have filed bills that would fund safety and nutrition program improvements in public schools.

Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, proposes appropriating $30 million to the state Department of Finance and Administration to provide free, healthy meals for every student.

Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, aims to allocate $25 million for school safety, though the one-page bill offers no details. Muñoz said in a brief interview Wednesday each district would get to decide how to use the money.

Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, introduced a bill that would give the Mora Independent School District $78,000 to update and install surveillance cameras and security entry doors.

Quote of the Day: “I’ll let the D’s deal with that.” — House Minority Leader Ryan Lane of Aztec, when asked to comment about new House Speaker Javier Martínez’s decision to remove Rep. Patty Lundstrom as chairwoman of the influential House Appropriations and Finance Committee.