Warning: The video above contains offensive language.
SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – While lawmakers are expected to return to the state capitol building Thursday for a budget-focused special session, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is also now adding a lot more to their agenda. In a news release Wednesday, the governor announced a series of new proposals she wants lawmakers to decide on, including laws surrounding police reform, taxes, and elections.
The expanded agenda is far different than what Governor Lujan Grisham outlined just last month. During a May 20 news conference about the state’s COVID-19 response, the governor described the abnormal session as what she thought would be an “in and out” procedure for lawmakers.
“We expect to be done over the weekend,” Governor Lujan Grisham said of her initial projections about the special session. “And (we) are working with the leadership in the House and in the Senate to make sure that we have a productive special session, which is about making sure that any changes to the current fiscal year get addressed, to make sure that the state stays in the black … and that we’re doing everything we can to shore ourselves up to deal with a looming deficit for fiscal year 2021.”
Lawmakers have already spent several weeks outside of session debating proposals on how the state will cover the estimated $2.4 billion dollar budget hole, caused by the COVID-19 shutdown and a major drop in oil revenues. The state is likely to use a combination of budget cuts, reserves and federal relief funds to fill the financial void.
Governor Lujan Grisham is also asking lawmakers to look at a series of police reforms, including a possible ban on chokeholds and state law that could require body cameras to be worn by all law enforcement officers. House Speaker Brian Egolf is also expected to present a proposal to create a panel that would review the use of “qualified immunity,” law that protects officers from being sued individually.
In the realm of elections, a “modification proposal” sponsored by Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto and Representative Linda Trujillo is expected to be debated. While details about the proposal haven’t been shared yet, the presumable changes come after the Secretary of State urged people to use absentee voting in the June primary election. The absentee drive was pushed as an alternative to congregating at polling locations due to COVID-19.
A “tax relief” proposal is expected to be presented by Senator Peter Wirth and Representative Christine Chandler, alongside a “Severance tax support” bill for businesses and governments, sponsored by Senators Jacob Candelaria and John Sapien and Representatives Daymon Ely and Marian Matthews.
Some Republican lawmakers are saying it’s disappointing to see a pile of what is likely to be complex bills in a short, special session. Republican Senator Greg Baca of Belen said he’s concerned about what’s being presented, as the public won’t be allowed into the session.
“I think that these topics that she’d like to address, some of the public safety issues and policing and those sorts of things really are better left to regular session where we have more time to digest the subject matter and really look at the facts,” said Sen. Baca. “It certainly does bother me that these topics, they’re a really heavy lift, requiring a lot of debate and what we would have liked to see is some public input.”
Despite that, Sen. Baca is also planning on introducing a few bills, including a proposal for a new criminal statute on looting and another that would automatically terminate health orders after two weeks. Governor Lujan Grisham has sole discretion over what bills will be heard during the special session.
Another proposal would allow the governor’s authority for flexibility on liquor sales. Liquor stores couldn’t make any sales during the non-essential business closure because current law requires sales to take place inside of stores.
As lawmakers were trying to figure out the special session rules, trolls flooded their public comment section. During public comment in a House Rules Committee on Wednesday, commentators calling into the meeting spewed a variety of things from curse words to racial epithets. Lawmakers eventually cut off the Q&A because the ugly comments wouldn’t stop.