With revenue levels surging to record-high levels but New Mexico still dealing with the myriad implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, state lawmakers will return to the Roundhouse next week for the start of a 30-day legislative session.
They will be greeted with an agenda that’s already packed with proposals on crime, taxes, elections and energy.
Those issues have been added to the session mix by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has the authority to determine what non-budgetary issues should be considered during the shorter 30-day sessions that are held in even-numbered years.
But there’s no requirement that lawmakers act on all – or any – of them and the item that’s arguably atop the Legislature’s to-do list is approving a new state budget for the fiscal year that starts in July.
Both the governor and a key legislative panel have already released plans that feature similar proposed overall spending levels but different approaches to funding some state programs.
This year’s session will mark the first regular session in two years that’s open to the public, as the Capitol was off-limits to members of the public and lobbyists during last year’s 60-day session due to the pandemic.
However, it won’t necessarily be a return to normal since all visitors to the building will have to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine and pass through metal detectors in order to enter the building.
That’s because top-ranking lawmakers in November approved a new policy prohibiting firearms and other weapons in the Roundhouse.
Meanwhile, this year’s session will also play out just weeks after lawmakers approved new political boundary lines during the bruising once-per-decade task of redistricting.
And a new election cycle is on the horizon – all 70 House seats will be up for election in November and statewide offices will also be on the ballot.
That includes the Governor’s Office, as Lujan Grisham is seeking reelection to a second four-year term. At least seven Republicans are vying for the GOP nomination to run against her in the Nov. 8 general election.
There are two new legislators who have been appointed since last year’s 60-day legislative session – Democratic Reps. Pamelya Herndon and Kay Bounkeua, both of Albuquerque.
They replaced former Reps. Melanie Stanbury, who resigned after winning a special election to fill a vacant U.S. House seat, and Sheryl Williams Stapleton, who stepped down after being charged with money laundering, racketeering and fraud.
My colleagues and I hope you will follow our legislative coverage this year through the newspaper, social media and at our website – abqjournal.com/legislature.