SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico’s 60-day Legislative Session is over. It was unique as it was fully virtual for the public and in the middle of a pandemic.
Coronavirus concerns kept the public out of the “People’s House.” Lawmakers conducted the state’s business virtually, and because of reported security threats, fencing was put up around the Capitol and a heightened police presence was noticeable.
However, during this 60-day legislative session, lawmakers focused primarily on pandemic relief. They put aside hundreds of millions in grants and loans to help struggling businesses, and provided a rebate for low-income New Mexicans. “When you look at what we’ve done, it’s just phenomenal,” said Senate Pro Tempore Sen. Mimi Stewart (D).
Lawmakers are also sending the voters a question of whether the state should dip into the permanent fund for childhood education, and in the final minutes of the session, they were also able to pass a bill requiring private businesses to provide paid sick leave.
But not every proposal made it though. “I brought a list two years ago, here it is and I’ve checked off a whole bunch of things but guess what – there’s only one thing left that is not checked off and we’re going to do it,” said Senate Majority Leader Sen. Peter Wirth (D- Santa Fe).
The question of legalizing recreational marijuana didn’t get debated on the Senate floor in the final 24 hours of the session. Plus, a bipartisan push to limit the governor’s powers in public health emergencies stalled, and a proposed increase in bumping up the minimum wage to $15 also fizzled out.
But they found time to debate controversial issues. Lawmakers were able to pass a bill that would provide medical aid in dying for terminally ill adults, and repeal the state’s abortion ban. “I’m a little sad to say we were a little disappointed about the agenda that was pressed onto this legislature,” said Senate Minority Leader Sen. Greg Baca (R- Belen).
Republicans, who are in the minority in both chambers, feel like this session missed the mark in helping New Mexicans. “We still have 50,000 people across New Mexico unemployed and we did nothing to help them and instead, what we offered was handouts to try to keep these businesses floating,” said Rep. Rod Montoya, House Minority Leader (R- Farmington).
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham believes this session accomplished a lot. “This is a session about our recovery, our health, and our future,” the governor said.
A handful of bills have already got the governor’s signature, and so now, she will be looking over other legislation that passed for final approval. The most important bill – the budget – was also sent to the governor Friday. The majority of the $7.4 billion budget goes to public education.