Members of the Legislative Council, on a videoconference call on Tuesday, outlined guidelines for the upcoming special session. The special session will take place on June 18, and will look drastically different than past sessions because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for precautions. The Roundhouse will be closed to the public, though media who wish to cover the proceedings in person will be able to attend, and staff and legislators will observe social distancing protocols. All committee hearings and floor sessions will be webcast. Staff will have personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer will be available throughout the state capitol, New Mexico Legislative Council Director Raul Burciaga told the legislators.
A panel of New Mexico legislators discussed a draft version of an updated sexual harassment policy Friday, a month ahead of the 2018 legislative session. This marks the first time the policy has been updated since 2008. Legislators have not undergone sexual harassment training since then, before many current legislators were even elected. The Legislative Council expects to vote on a final version on Jan. 15, the day before the start of the session.
Legislative leadership in both chambers and of both parties announced a bipartisan group of legislators will address the state’s sexual harassment policy. The sexual harassment policy was last revised in 2008, which was also the last time legislators underwent sexual harassment training. The group of legislators will work with the Legislative Council Service as well as outside attorneys to review the existing policy and recommend an updated draft policy to the Legislative Council. The Legislative Council, which is made up of members of each chamber, will then vote on adoption of the new policy in January. Leadership announced that the working group will look at applying the policy to staff, contractors, lobbyists and outside vendors in addition to legislators as well as “clearly outlining terms of enforcement” and outlining protections for those reporting sexual harassment from any retaliation.
Attorneys for Gov. Susana Martinez argued to the New Mexico Supreme Court that a legal challenge of her sweeping line-item budget vetoes should be dismissed. At a minimum, her lawyers argued last week, the case should be postponed until an upcoming special legislative session is complete. In response to a motion filed by the Legislative Council last month, Martinez’s lawyer Paul Kennedy argued that the governor did not exceed her power as governor when she vetoed the entire budgets for the Legislature and higher education. Kennedy, who has a high dollar contract with Martinez’s office, challenged the Legislature’s notion that the governor cannot legally veto two entire budgets. Related story: Gov’s office cites complex questions from reporters, busy schedule as defense in lawsuit
“The question presented is whether, during the bill-review period following a regular session of the Legislature, the Governor can veto items pertaining to the Legislature and state educational institutions in a general appropriations bill for the subsequent fiscal year without violating the principle of separation of powers,” Kennedy wrote.
The Legislative Council’s attorney in the lawsuit against Gov. Susana Martinez is stepping down from the case, just a day after the state Supreme Court agreed to hear oral arguments on the case. The case is challenging Martinez’s line-item vetoes to a state budget passed last month by the state Legislature. Late Monday, Thomas Hnasko filed a motion to withdraw from the case, which lists Martinez and Department of Finance and Administration Secretary Duffy Rodriguez as defendants. Hnasko is recusing himself because of a “perceived conflict of interest” and a request from the Risk Management Division of the state General Services Department. The motion says other attorneys at Hnasko’s firm, Hinkle Shanor LLP, “have been retained by [Risk Management] to defend designated state entities and employees against monetary damage and equitable claims asserted against those entities and employees.”
In a joint statement, Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, and House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said they believed there was no conflict.
The New Mexico Legislature filed a lawsuit against Gov. Susana Martinez Friday morning. The suit accuses Martinez of violating the state constitution when she vetoed the entirety of the budgets for the state Legislature and all higher education in New Mexico. Filed by the Legislative Council’s lawyer Tom Hnasko, the lawsuit calls the line-item veto of legislative funding an “attempt to eviscerate the ability of the other branch [of government] to perform its essential functions.”
In his filing, Hnsako asks the court to invalidate Martinez’s line-item vetoes of both the Legislature and higher education. “They’re suing the Governor because they want to raise taxes, and she’s the only one standing in their way,” Martinez spokesman Michael Lonergan said in a statement. “It’s disappointing because it shows a refusal to compromise as this is nothing but an attempt to bully her by short-circuiting the legislative process before a special session.
The special committee that will look into possible impeachment of Secretary of State Dianna Duran will meet on September 28, according to a press release from the two co-chairs of the committee. The House Special Investigatory Committee will meet at 9:30 a.m. at the State Capitol for the first time. The committee is made up of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. According to the release from Reps. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso, and Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, the committee will discuss hiring legal counsel, the rules of procedure for the investigation, a hearing schedule and other matters.
Shortly following Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s first court appearance Tuesday morning, state lawmakers approved a House subcommittee to consider impeaching her. Lawmakers in the interim Legislative Council, which is made up of members of both the House and Senate, approved $250,000 in funding to pay for the impeachment special committee. The funding will likely go towards the hire of outside counsel. State House of Representatives Speaker Don Tripp, R-Socorro, appointed a panel of bipartisan lawmakers to investigate whether Duran should be impeached last week. He told committee members that he anticipated the panel would want money to spend on lawyers.