Lawmakers adjust to social distancing, face coverings and streaming public comment in special session

Politics - Government

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The 2020 special session began on Thursday afternoon. Lawmakers are back in the Roundhouse to fix a massive budget shortfall brought on by the pandemic and a decline in oil production. For the first time ever, the legislature is meeting during a global pandemic, but for safety measures, this session is running very differently than it normally would.

“This is very unusual,” said Sen. Sander Rue (R-Albuquerque). “People are cognizant of the distancing, wearing of the masks and not having the public here that is really the most unusual things for us as legislators because we’re used to interacting with constituents and people come up here to express their concerns.”

All lawmakers are now sporting a face covering and to keep up with social distancing, legislators are keeping six feet from each other. Some are even placed in the gallery for distance.

One of the most notable differences this session is the empty hallways, which are typically filled with people visiting the Roundhouse and listening in on bills. The public is being kept out of the building for this special session.

“We are going to have to rely on technology to get the word out,” said Speaker of the House Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe). “Yesterday we conducted the first interim committee meetings from the buildings from remote device. We will be able to have members of the public listen in on committee meetings and have public comment.”

However, lawmakers said if people do call in for public comment, they hope they will be civil. This comes after a couple of internet trolls made racist remarks and inappropriate sayings during an interim meeting before the special session.

Once the special session started, the Roundhouse’s web streaming service was already facing some technical problems. We’re told if there are any live streaming issues, lawmakers will not continue their meeting until it is fixed for transparency purposes.

Lawmakers expect this session to only last a few days, but the governor has added extra bills for lawmakers to look at, like police reform, tax relief, and election changes.

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