SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico’s 2020 legislative session wrapped up on February 20. During the 30-day session, lawmakers debated on a budget, a controversial gun control bill and bills geared toward improving New Mexico’s public education system.
The biggest chunk of the money, about $3.5 billion, will go towards public education which includes a 4% pay raise for teachers. Also, about $1 billion will go towards health and human services, $320 million to early childhood programs and $17 million to the Opportunity Scholarship.
The Opportunity Scholarship was a hot button issue this year. It was supposed to pay tuition and fees for all students at public universities in the state but ended up getting watered down by the end of the session. Now it will pay for the remaining tuition and fee balance for lottery-scholarship students at two-year programs.
Another highly debated bill that made it to the governor’s desk was the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection bill, also known as the “Red Flag law.” The bill would allow law enforcement to petition the courts to temporarily remove someone’s guns, for up to 10 days until a hearing, if they are a threat to themselves or others. If the courts feel that a person is still a threat, that ban could stretch out for a year.
Republicans tried to amend the Extreme Risk Firearm Protection bill several times during the session but fell short. When it came time to vote, Republicans held up a small version of the Constitution as a sign of resistance.
Another controversial topic was legalizing marijuana. Before the legislature started, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced her support for a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in New Mexico for adults 21 and older. The governor’s office stated that the legislation would generate thousands of jobs and create a major economy drive.
Despite the governor’s strong support, lawmakers voted to table the marijuana bill. Two Democrat lawmakers joined Republicans in a 6-4 vote. Senate Bill 115 would have sheltered the state’s medical cannabis program and expunged convictions from people’s criminal records for having small amounts of pot.
Even though legalization of recreational marijuana stalled in the Senate, Gov. Lujan Grisham says she wants to push for it next session.
The governor has until March 11 to act on legislation, all remaining bills will be pocket vetoed.