SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Tuesday, January 18 marks the start of another New Mexico’s legislative session. Once again, 112 publicly-elected lawmakers will gather at the State Capitol in Santa Fe to decide everything from how the state should budget and spend billions of dollars to what new laws should go on the books.
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In an effort to help wade through what can be a complex process, KRQE News 13 has compiled a set of key terms so you can understand what our elected officials are up to. Whether you speak the political lingo or have never paid attention to what goes on in the Roundhouse, this should help you make the most of KRQE News 13’s coverage of the 2022 legislative session.
New Mexico’s constitution mandates lawmakers meet in Santa Fe for a “regular” legislative session starting the third Tuesday of every year. However, not every session lasts for the same amount of time.
On even-numbered years, lawmakers meet for 30 days, what’s often referred to a “short session” or a “budget session.” On odd-numbered years, they meet for 60 days — or what sometimes called a “long session” or “full session.”
During a regular 60 day session, legislators can try to pass bills on nearly any subject matter. But during short sessions, such as the 2022 session, they are limited on what they’re able to discuss.
In short sessions, lawmakers focus on budgets and financial appropriations, i.e. how the state should spend its money. They also address bills that the governor recommends via an “Executive Messages,” what lawmakers refer to as “the [Governor’s] call.”
Memorials and resolutions can also be discussed during a short 30 day session (See “Types of Legislation” below). Lastly, legislators in a short session can try to override bills that the governor vetoed at the end of the previous session.
Last year, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham vetoed 12 pieces of legislation across a regular session and two special sessions. These could potentially come up for discussion during the 2022 session.
Types of legislation
◎ Bills – Bills are proposed laws. They are introduced by legislators who sponsor the proposal. The original idea for the bill can come from a variety of sources: the legislators, lobbyists, or even state agencies.
◎ Resolutions – A resolution is a topic the legislature wants to discuss; but the topic either cannot become a law or the legislators don’t want it to become law. There are three types: simple, concurrent, and joint.
A joint resolution is one passed by both the House and Senate. These can be used to suggest changes to the New Mexico Constitution. They can also be used to approve actions, such as a sale of state property.
A concurrent resolution is one that affects both the House and the Senate, such as scheduling breaks. They can be used to set chamber rules or do other legislative housekeeping.
A simple resolution is one that only applies to either the House or Senate. They can be used to make a statement, but these are rarely used in New Mexico, according to the legislature.
◎ Memorials – A memorial is a formal message to a state governmental body. They can be used to ask governmental bodies to study a topic or address an issue. Memorials are also used to commemorate specific days, events or places.
What happens each day?
The main activities of each day are “floor sessions.” The chamber floor is the main stage of the legislative process, where legislators gather to discuss legislation and make speeches, i.e. “hold the floor.” During floor sessions, the legislators may also be in committee meetings arguing on the merits of their own bills.
Floor sessions happen almost daily, and tend to become more frantic or longer as the session gets closer to its close. The Legislature broadcasts a webcam of floor meetings, and KRQE News 13 will also live stream key moments.
In addition to floor sessions, legislators also participate in committee meetings. There are dozens of committees that discuss the merits of legislation and suggest changes. For a bill to become law, it has to pass through relevant committees with a “do pass” recommendation.
If a bill passes through the relevant committee or committees, it goes back to the chamber where it was introduced — either the House or Senate. There, legislators will have their final debate on the floor before sending it to the other chamber. So if a bill was proposed in the House, it will be sent to the Senate, and vice versa.
Both the Senate and House must approve of the legislation. If amendments are made, both the House and Senate have to approve of those amendments as well. If agreement isn’t easily reached, the legislators may have a conference committee to work out their differences with the goal of getting the legislation passed.
How does the legislation become law?
If a bill makes it through “floor action” as described above, it goes to the Governor’s desk for final approval. She can sign the bill into law, veto the bill, or simply do nothing.
If the governor signs the bill, it will become law. But it may not take effect immediately. Many pieces of legislation go into effect 90 days after the legislative session. Some, however, have emergency clauses that go into effect immediately. These emergency clauses are often attached to bills that need to become law immediately to help keep the public safe.
If the governor vetoes the bill, it’s up to the legislators to decide if it should become a law. If two-thirds of both the House and Senate vote to override the governor, the bill becomes law, despite the governor’s veto.
If the governor simply takes no action, it’s called a “pocket veto.” For bills passed in the last three days of the legislative session, the governor has 20 days to take action. If there is no action from the governor, the bill will not become law. In this scenario, the legislators cannot vote to override the governor.
Last year, Sen. Jacob Candelaria (D-Abq.) introduced a resolution that would limit the governor’s ability to use a “pocket veto” to kill bills. That resolution did not make it through the legislative process. So, this session, the governor still has the ability to kill legislation by taking no action.
How can citizens stay informed?
KRQE News 13 will be covering key topics throughout the 2022 session. Each day, we will post a Roundhouse Roundup to the KRQE News 13 website. The Roundup is an easy-to-digest summary of legislation the legislators are working on. When important debates are happening, we will also live stream video from the Roundhouse to give you an inside look at the lawmaking process.