SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico’s 2022 regular legislative session begins today. Lawmakers will gather for a short, 30-day session that looks like it will be packed with discussions ranging from how to spend billions of dollars to how to decrease state-wide crime.
Lawmakers tackled a lot in 2021 across three different sessions amid the pandemic. Following a 60 day regular session, a first special session addressed legalizing recreational cannabis, and a second special session saw lawmakers approving redrawn political boundaries out of the redistricting process. In 2022, crime and education are expected to be major topics. Here are some of the things to keep on an eye on during opening day, January 18, 2021:
Today: State of the State
- Today, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham will give her fourth “State of the State” address, the final one of her first of two possible four-year terms. Last year, COVID-19 related delays postponed the annual speech by a week, delivered via a recorded message. But the Legislature has scheduled time for the governor to speak this afternoon.
- The governor is expected to once again deliver Monday’s State of the State address virtually, however, it’s unclear if this message will be recorded or live.
- We’re also awaiting to see what will be on the governor’s “call” or executive message. The governor controls what legislation will be heard during a 30-day session.
- Last week, Governor Lujan Grisham submitted her proposal on how to spend more than $8 billion of state funds in the coming year. This time around, there’s more money to spend, thanks in part to increased revenue from oil and gas taxes. KRQE News 13 previously reported that the Governor hopes to bring new public safety job positions, increased pay for teachers, and even $50 million to support educating New Mexicans to work in the film industry.
- In addition to the Governor’s proposal, the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) also submitted their proposal of how to spend the money. Broadly speaking, their proposal focuses less on creating new job positions, which may not be filled in the current job market, and instead uses the funds to give targeted pay boosts to key workers.
- In the coming days, several committees will look over and discuss the bills. Once they create an amended version, which may contain parts of both the Governor’s and the LFC’s recommendation, it’ll go to the House and Senate floors for approval. It could take most of the session to finalize the budget.
- The Governor recently announced her support for several pieces of legislation aimed at reducing crime in the state. A proposed bill would add new rules to how judges should consider pretrial detention against criminals accused of certain violent or serious crimes. The proposed “rebuttable presumption statute” would assume certain accused criminals are a danger to the community and therefore suggests to judges they should be held in jail, without bail ahead of trial. This is a 180-degree flip on the current writing of the state’s constitution, which puts the onus of proving that a criminal is dangerous on the prosecutor.
- In the coming days, we can expect several other pieces of crime-related legislation to be introduced.
- Monday, January 17, the Senate Finance Committee discussed the “tough on crime” topics. The focus was to examine budgets for the court system. In the course of discussion, they discussed the cost of detaining accused criminals before trial and current procedures for criminal proceedings. They also discussed the pay disparity between state-paid judges and private-sector attorneys, who are generally better paid. A key question was whether or not better pay equates to better experience among New Mexico’s courts.
New leadership could shake up the votes
- Javier Martinez (D-Albuquerque) takes place of Sheryl Williams Stapleton as the House Majority Floor Leader in the New Mexico House. Williams Stapleton stepped down from her position July 2021 following accusations of alleged racketeering and money laundering related to her now former position with Albuquerque Public Schools.
- Speaker Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) will continue his role as the Speaker of the House, a position he’s held since 2017. Representative Jim Townsend (R-Carlsbad) remains the House Minority Floor Leader, a position he’s held since 2019.
- In the Senate, Mimi Stewart (D-Albuquerque) remains the President Pro-Tempore alongside Senate Majority Floor Leader Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe.) For the Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Gregory Baca (R-Belen) continues in his leadership position.
Demonstrators demand action on climate change
- Monday, January 17, hundreds gathered in Santa Fe to demand action on stopping climate change.
- Already pre-filed are several bills addressing various aspects of climate change in New Mexico. These include a resolution to give New Mexicans a right to a clean environment and a bill to limit statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Next few days might be slow, but Roundhouse is open to the public
- Generally speaking, the first few days of the session tend to be relatively slow. Housekeeping, the feed bill (i.e. the bill that pays legislators) and committee meetings take up most of each day.
- This year, the Roundhouse is open to the public, with some COVID-19 related restrictions. Visitors will need to show proof of vaccination (that’s two shots of Pfizer or Moderna within the last five months, or one shot of Johnson & Johnson within the past two months, or boosters if it’s been longer since previous doses). There is the possibility of exemption, if combined with a negative PCR test within 48 hours. The Legislature’s guidelines also require masks.