SANTA FE – Despite criticism over her hard-charging agenda, Gov. Susana Martinez remained adamant Wednesday that New Mexico lawmakers can promptly tackle the once-per-decade task of redistricting and a wide range of other issues in a special session that began this week.
Martinez told reporters that meetings she held with top-ranking legislators on the session’s opening day were productive and that she doesn’t feel the session needs to be a long one.
“We can’t wait. We have to start working hard now, and I have all the faith in the world we’ll get it done,” she said.
Martinez, who took office in January, cited a March 2010 special session in which legislators passed a $5.6 billion budget and various other bills in four days as proof the Senate and House of Representatives can take decisive action.
However, that special session didn’t include redistricting, the politically charged job of redrawing political districts to reflect population changes.
A number of Democratic lawmakers have bristled at the number of issues Martinez asked legislators to take action on during this year’s session and suggested some of the issues should be put off until the Legislature convenes in January for its regular session.
In addition to redistricting, Martinez added nine issues to the session proclamation – the to-do list for lawmakers – including proposals to consolidate three state government agencies, give government the authority to enact fireworks bans in cases of extreme drought and repeal a 2003 law that allows illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.
Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, said Tuesday that Martinez’s session proclamation was full of political rhetoric that was “antagonistic.”
Martinez denied that charge Wednesday.
“Those are important things,” she said of the issues included on the agenda. “I don’t see those as campaign issues. I see those as something that the Legislature and the governor need to work together (on).”
Although special sessions on redistricting have not included other agenda items in recent state history, Martinez said some of the issues she’s hoping to see passed would boost New Mexico’s sagging economy.
“I think the legislators are ready, I’m ready – we’re going to roll our sleeves up … and do the work that needs to be done so jobs get created now and not wait until January,” she told reporters.
The special session is expected to cost about $50,000 per day.
— This article appeared on page A6 of the Albuquerque Journal