Lawmakers poised to start a strange legislative session

The 2021 legislative session begins Tuesday at noon, against a bizarre backdrop that’s never been contemplated, much less seen. The Capitol building remains surrounded by fencing, concrete barriers and blocked roads. On Monday, it was guarded by state police officers and at least a dozen National Guard soldiers, who were seen patrolling the facility and manning entrance checkpoints. The annual State of the State speech, which usually highlights the opening day of the session, is off, at least on Tuesday. A spokeswoman for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said it eventually will be delivered, “likely remotely,” due to ongoing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Closed door special session will take place next weekend

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.

Status of some bills still in limbo while special session looms

A handful of bills passed by both the state Senate and House of Representatives continue to sit in limbo. Normally, those bills would be signed or vetoed by the governor. Instead, their fate likely lies with the judicial branch. The head of the Legislative Council Service (LCS), the nonpartisan administrative arm of the state Legislature, said he and his staff suggested to lawmakers and the secretary of state that some vetoed bills should actually be chaptered. Chaptering, or printing, the bills is typically the first step to writing them into state statute.

Legislature resists giving AG documents on Griego

The Legislative Council Service is fighting an effort by the Attorney General to access documents related to a former state Senator facing corruption charges. The office of Attorney General Hector Balderas subpoenaed records from the state Senate investigation that eventually led to Phil Griego’s resignation from the Senate. LCS, which handles administrative tasks for the 112-person citizen legislature, objected to the subpoena, saying state law protects the records. Documents from each side are embedded at the bottom of this post. Griego admitted to violating the state constitution and Senate rules with a land deal that he benefited from; the Senate voted to approve the transfer of state building that Griego went on to benefit from.

Lawmakers OK funding for Duran impeachment panel

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.