March 18, 2023

Governor, legislators look back at the 2023 session

From left to right: Senate Floor Majority Leader Peter Wirth, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Lt. Gov. Howie Morales at a press conference in the Governor's Office Cabinet Room March 18, 2023.

Nicole Maxwell/New Mexico Political Report

From left to right: Senate Floor Majority Leader Peter Wirth, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Lt. Gov. Howie Morales at a press conference in the Governor's Office Cabinet Room March 18, 2023.

Republican and Democratic legislators voiced their thoughts on the 2023 legislative session shortly after it ended on Saturday.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham held a press conference with Democratic leadership from both the House and Senate.

Lujan Grisham opened the conference with a note on bipartisanship and the sometimes prickly interactions between the legislative and executive branches.

“This is not easy. Solutions take each of our areas of expertise and our priorities and passions and put it together,” Lujan Grisham said. “I do think, frankly, that New Mexico is leading the country in finding ways to come together… That doesn’t mean that we don’t get disappointed. It doesn’t mean there aren’t tense, difficult moments.”

Lujan Grisham was disappointed in public safety efforts.

Lujan Grisham endorsed about 40 bills and 10 passed with  what she called “strong public safety measures.” However she is looking for ways to enhance public safety.

“I am very motivated to find additional ways to make sure that we really do everything in our power that makes our communities and cities safer to be the safest place to live in the country and I think that each of us are dedicated to that,” Lujan Grisham said.

Lujan Grisham praised the legislature for its work on healthcare legislation.

“If you’re looking for a shining moment for this legislature, look no further than the work that they did in healthcare. They over delivered in both chambers for healthcare efforts, from the Health Care Authority to prescription drug changes that make patients pay less and that retail pharmacists have every tool in the toolbox to make sure that patients get what they need at an affordable cost, our gender reaffirming and protections for reproductive care.”

One of the more controversial bills was about medical malpractice insurance.

SB 523, a bipartisan medical malpractice bill, seeks to make sure independent outpatient clinics can get the malpractice insurance needed to remain in operation.

“That medical malpractice fix was necessary and critical to the security of every patient, every family, every community have access to the medical profession that they deserve, and it required a fix. It also gave us a chance to hit a little harder on some of the insurance companies,” Lujan Grisham said.

Lujan Grisham said that she felt the biggest achievement to come out of the legislature was SB 4 passing. The bill guarantees free breakfasts and lunches to all New Mexico children regardless of family income. 

“New Mexico is the number one state for universal meals,” Lujan Grisham said. “That is done while at meals and changing what we’re doing for kids’ health. As we make sure that universal meals are available.

Also at the press conference was Senate President Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, who  was pleased with HB 9, also known as Bennie’s Law, which makes a crime out of negligently allowing a child access to a firearm and negligently allowing a minor access to a firearm resulting in great bodily harm.

“I’m proud to be the Senate sponsor for the Bennie Hargrove Bill. We now have secure storage for students who many of our kids are getting their hands on these guns,” Stewart said.

However, Stewart voiced her frustration that attempts to come to an agreement on climate legislation between the energy industry and climate advocacy groups were unsuccessful.

“We’re seeing the impacts of climate change all around us. And for me, personally, that has just got to change. We’ve got to come together on how to use our ability as a government to try to lessen the impacts of climate change,” Stewart said.

The Republican perspective

Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, listed five things the House Republicans worked on through the 60-day session.

These were public safety, affordable and reliable energy, healthcare including rural healthcare and medical professional retention, protecting constituents’ constitutional rights and education.

“We try consistently to make sure that we have affordable rates, that we have lower gas prices, gasoline prices, and that we have reliable energy so that when you turn on the switch and the lights come on,” Rehm said about energy prices.

One of the biggest issues related to healthcare was the medical malpractice reform and how it could deter medical professionals such as doctors from either working in New Mexico or staying in New Mexico.

“We’re worried about malpractice insurance pricing, and hopefully we have a fix or at least a partial fix for that issue with some legislation that made its way to the governor’s desk,” Rehm said referencing SB 523.

Rehm had former district attorney Rep. Andrea Reeb, R-Clovis, speak about the public safety aspect of the session.

The freshman representative from Clovis was disappointed that several public safety bills, including those on bail reform and pretrial detention, never made it out of committee discussion.

“We had bills passed on the Democrat side through the House and Senate that basically would allow our most violent youth offenders out early, take away repeat offender enhancements and then make it easier on our probation and parolees to have a lighter sentence or have less restrictions,” Reeb said. “That is not the direction I was hoping we would take. But we are here still ready to work on these private initiatives with Democrats when they’re ready to come to the table and actually make a serious commitment to work on this.”