The state House of Representatives voted Wednesday to send a $9.57 billion budget bill to the governor for her approval. On a voice vote, the chamber concurred with the Senate’s amendments to House Bill 2, the last procedural step to send the bill to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk. The Senate amendments include, among other changes, an additional $130 million in recurring spending for initiatives to address hunger and new investments in the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship college tuition fund. But concerns were raised on the House floor about the way the Senate Finance Committee made some extra budget adjustments just a day after the committee had already approved the bill. That action, which took place Sunday morning, annoyed Republican senators on the committee and raised questions about behind-the-scenes deals and political pressure for changes that may have come from the Governor’s Office.
A bill to codify School-Based Health Centers into state statute passed the House floor by a 40-25 vote Wednesday night after hours of debate. SB 397, sponsored by state Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, heads to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk. The bill does not change anything about School-Based Health Centers which have already been in existence in New Mexico for the last 25 years. There are 79 School-Based Health Centers in the state and 54 of them are currently funded by the Department of Health. The bill generated considerable debate on the House floor with Republicans expressing concern over the right of young people to consent to their own healthcare.
State Rep. Jim Townsend, the House minority leader, said for a second he thought the governor “almost became a Republican.” In a news conference Tuesday at the Roundhouse after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s State of the State address, the Artesia Republican said the most “heartening” part of her 25-minute speech was the talk on fighting crime. The governor reiterated her plan to push for a package of measures to toughen penalties for certain violent crimes and make it more difficult for defendants in violent crime cases to be released from jail before their trial. “That must be addressed, and it must be addressed quickly,” Townsend said. Sen. Greg Baca, R-Belen, the Senate minority leader said the governor’s “tough-on-crime” rhetoric seemed like an effort to court state residents fed up with rising crime rates.
The New Mexico House of Representatives spent much of the second day of the second 2021 special legislative session discussing the merits of proposed maps. The special session is largely focused on redrawing the state’s political boundaries for U.S congressional districts and state House and Senate districts and is expected to last 12 days.
During a more-than three-hour presentation to the House, both Republicans and Democrats debated the merits of one congressional map concept in particular and whether a newly formed citizen led redistricting committee had presented the best map concepts for the Legislature to choose from. Later in the day, a House committee heard public testimony on a House map that is an amalgamation of three concepts from the citizen committee.
During a House committee of the whole on Tuesday morning, a representative of the citizen committee along with members of the prominent New Mexico polling company Research and Polling fielded questions and sometimes criticism from members.
Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences, who is also vying for the Republican nomination for governor, questioned a congressional map concept put forward by advocacy group Center for Civic Policy and adopted by the redistricting committee. Known as el mapa de la gente, or the people’s map, the concept would drastically change the three congressional districts and group rural areas like Roswell and Carrizozo with the urban Albuquerque area. According to the Center for Civic Policy, the goal of the map is to create a strong Latino or Hispanic district.
A bill extending financial relief opportunities to those hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic is on its way to the governor’s desk for a signature. The House of Representatives on Thursday voted 51-17 to approve Senate Bill 3, which offers long-term, low-interest loans up to $150,000 to eligible New Mexico businesses and nonprofits. The loans can be used for capital expenses, including making alterations to property to adapt to the challenges of the pandemic, such as building an outdoor dining area at a restaurant. The money will go to businesses whose net revenue was $5 million a year or less based on 2019 figures. The first year of the loan is interest free.
ByDaniel J. Chacón and Robert Nott, Santa Fe New Mexican |
To hear House Speaker Brian Egolf tell it, public participation in this year’s largely virtual legislative session has been robust even if the doors of the state Capitol have been closed to everyday New Mexicans. In the second and third weeks of the 60-day session, more than 6,100 residents from 32 of the state’s 33 counties have voiced their opinions during committee hearings in the House of Representatives — up from the 2,400 who tuned in the first week. Egolf’s office touted the numbers Tuesday in a news release, declaring virtual participation “continues at a record-setting pace” in the House. But how many New Mexicans have been shut out? “It’s hard to quantify,” Egolf said.
As the New Mexico Legislature enters its third week, the back-and-forth wrangling over whether the House of Representatives is following constitutional rules in running a virtual session is still playing out.
Lawyers for House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and the Legislative Council filed a response over the weekend asking the state Supreme Court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by House Republicans that claims rule changes allowing House members to participate remotely violates the New Mexico Constitution. The reason, they argued in a 31-page response, is that it’s not the court’s purview to intervene in legislative affairs, such as how lawmakers choose to run the annual session.
Nor can Egolf or the Legislative Council be considered parties in the complaint, the response says, since it was up to the full House of Representatives to vote to approve the temporary rules giving lawmakers the right to take part from their offices or homes via Zoom. “At the core of the legislature’s ‘essential function’ is the exclusive power granted to each chamber to fashion rules under which the legislative body will function,” lawyers for the defense wrote in their response.
“The Court has traditionally respected the procedures adopted by the legislature and has declined, based on separation of powers concerns, to consider constitutional challenges to those procedures,” they wrote.
The response goes on to say the petitioners have not made it clear how participating remotely — which is an option, not a requirement — restricts their rights. It also says the decision to set temporary rules to offer House members the chance to avoid the state Capitol during the COVID-19 pandemic protects those lawmakers and reduces the chance of spreading the virus. “The risk of an outbreak at the Capitol is a far greater threat to members ‘full participation rights’ than allowing members to attend the session via a videoconferencing service,” the lawyers wrote.
House Republicans contested the rule changes even before they were imposed, charging that members of the public have a right to be present for the session.
The state Supreme Court has temporarily denied a request by House Republicans to prohibit the enforcement of pandemic-related rules for this year’s legislative session. While the court continues to consider a final ruling, the current procedures for the 60-day session remain in place. After a contentious week that included a COVID-19 outbreak involving one Republican legislator and others who work at the Capitol, House Republican leaders filed a lawsuit Saturday with the Supreme Court, contending the new rules — passed by the Democratic-controlled House and adopted early in the session — are unconstitutional.
House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, and Reps. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, and Larry Scott, R-Hobbs, filed the lawsuit, which names House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and the Legislative Council as defendants. The Supreme Court, in a news release issued Monday afternoon, ordered “an expedited response” to the court petition by Feb.
Republican leaders in the state House of Representatives filed a lawsuit Saturday with the New Mexico Supreme Court, charging rules changes adopted early in the 2021 session are unconstitutional. House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, and Reps. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, and Larry Scott, R-Hobbs, filed the lawsuit. It names House Speaker Brian Egolf and the Legislative Council as defendants. The lawsuit asks the Supreme Court to issue a stay prohibiting the defendants from enforcing the rules until a final decision is rendered.
A day after revelations of several people with ties to the Roundhouse testing positive for the novel coronavirus, including a Republican lawmaker, House leaders in both parties traded accusations and verbal jabs, creating more strife in their already rocky relationship while also politicizing COVID-19. House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said some members of the GOP are consistently flouting the rules and putting others at risk. He said he is “constantly having to remind members to put on a mask” and “physically locking committee rooms as the only means to prevent certain Republican members from congregating.” “I had one member who was in a room with other Republican members not wearing a mask,” Egolf said during a virtual news briefing Friday morning. “I instructed him to follow the rules and put the mask on.