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Lujan Grisham unveils legislative priorities

In this Nov. 25 file photo, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signs a $330 million economic relief package aimed at helping small businesses and out-of-work New Mexicans. The bill was passed in a special session. (New Mexico Office of the Governor via AP, File)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham outlined more than a dozen legislative priorities Wednesday, with a heavy focus on economic recovery and education.

In a written statement, she said she supports legalizing marijuana use for adults, revising the state procurement code to promote spending within New Mexico and allowing restaurants to deliver alcohol.

The governor also is urging lawmakers to support budget changes aimed at delivering more money to school districts that serve low-income communities.

“New Mexico will recover from this challenging year,” said Lujan Grisham, a Democrat. “The question is what kind of future we want to make for ourselves after we put these crises behind us.”

Her priority list comes as New Mexico lawmakers prepare for a 60-day session with strict health protocols to limit the spread of COVID-19. The Capitol will be closed to the public, and legislators are preparing to conduct much of their work online.

The session starts at noon Tuesday.

Democrats maintain substantial majorities in each chamber, but 11 of the Senate’s 42 members will be new this session, driven in part by primary challenges that ousted some of the Senate leadership.

Lawmakers are free to introduce bills on any topic, although Lujan Grisham’s priority list may influence the agenda set by legislative leaders.

Republican legislators have assailed many of the governor’s priorities, and some have questioned the legality of holding much of the session online.

The proposals Lujan Grisham cited as priorities include:

• Boosting distributions out of New Mexico’s largest permanent fund to expand early childhood programs. The legislation is a proposed constitutional amendment that would also require voter and congressional approval.

• Repealing the state’s 1969 anti-abortion law, now largely unenforceable because of the Roe v. Wade decision.

• Establishing a “clean fuel standard” to reduce emissions.

Her economic priorities include overhauling a state program that provides loans to small businesses and nonprofit groups struggling amid the pandemic.

The state, she said, should also revise its procurement code to help businesses owned by Native Americans, minorities and women secure state contracts and to promote spending within the state.

Lujan Grisham said she would support allowing restaurants to deliver alcohol, among other changes to liquor laws. The legalization of recreational cannabis, she said, could also boost state revenue and promote job creation.

Her education initiatives include financial support for new scholarship programs, revising the funding formula for public schools and creating an ombudsman’s office dedicated to special education.

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