SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Three days into the state’s legislative session and it still looks and feels pretty quiet at the Roundhouse, but there is work getting done behind the scenes. In a typical session, lawmakers would usually meet on the House or Senate floor each day but the pandemic has flipped the regular routine. So while lawmakers aren’t meeting on the floor this week, they already took care of a lot of business on the session’s opening day. “I think the public should expect is that this process is moving very deliberately,” said Rep. Daymon Ely (D- Corrales).
“We read in a lot of legislation, which is necessary being assigned to committees,” said Sen. Greg Baca (R- Minority Floor Leader). “Normally we would’ve waited to do that but we stayed late into the night on Tuesday so that legislation was read in and so now what we’re doing is getting them assigned to committees.”
Lawmakers explain that the pandemic canceled the typical fanfare of the first week of a new session, like the governor’s speech and discussing memorials. So instead, lawmakers got right to work when the session convened Tuesday by introducing legislation so that they can start assigning bills to committees. From there, the legislative process should start picking up. Behind the scenes, the legislative staff is using this time to print and analyze the proposed bills.
Although this is a new way to start the session, lawmakers said the energy is different this year because the public isn’t allowed inside the Roundhouse. “It’s a very empty feeling right now and I think it’s gonna have an impact on the nature of the legislation passes and go through the system, unfortunately,” said Rep. Alonzo Baldonado (R- Los Lunas).
Although the Roundhouse looks empty without the visitors and lobbyists, the public can still participate in this session virtually. On Wednesday, the Capitol was closed and lawmakers stayed home as a safety precaution.
The Senate has adopted a hybrid model of virtual and in-person meetings. The House Rules Committee will meet on Friday to discuss if they’ll go fully virtual with committees and floor meetings at the Roundhouse.
The next time House members will meet on the floor to possibly adopt those new rules will be on Monday. The Senate will next meet for their floor session on February 1.