Lawmakers looking at ways to adjust budget amid pandemic

Politics - Government

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Lawmakers are back in the Roundhouse for a special session to fix a nearly $2.5 billion budget shortfall because of the coronavirus and oil prices. Legislators are in committee meetings discussing other bills outside of the budget like election and tax reform bills.

“So we’re trying to help people who that have been suffering under the economic stress of the pandemic,” Representative Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos).

Chandler is sponsoring a bill that the governor is pushing for, it would waive penalties for small businesses and individuals who were unable to file their taxes on time due to the pandemic. This is one of a handful of bills that the governor wants lawmakers to consider. However, some lawmakers are trying to introduce bills that are not on the governor’s call, things like allowing the delivery of alcohol, creating a civil rights commission, and even establishing private food inspectors to keep foods and meat stocked in the grocery store.

“We want to come up with a way that has our food supply secured in new Mexico and do what is best for new Mexico and so we want to set up a meat inspection at the state level,” said Sen. Cliff Pirtle (R-Roswell).

Although lawmakers can introduce bills it doesn’t mean they will be heard because that is up to the governor’s discretion. This session has already had a unique start. The public is not allowed inside the capitol, the usually flooded hallways are empty and lawmakers are trying to keep enough distance between themselves for safety.

This is expected to be a short session only lasting a few days but lawmakers have been preparing for weeks for potential changes to the massive $7.5 billion budget.

The governor originally said she would pursue changes to qualified immunity in police reform however, a House Democratic spokesperson said that is no longer on the table. Instead, the governor hopes to create a civil rights commission that would evaluate qualified immunity.

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