Proposal to curb governor's emergency powers stymied again - Albuquerque Journal

Proposal to curb governor’s emergency powers stymied again

A sign installed along I-25 near Santa Fe advises motorists of ways to limit the spread of COVID-19 in this February 2021 file photo. State lawmakers have proposed legislation to curb some of the governor’s emergency powers, which have been the subject of debate during the ongoing pandemic. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

SANTA FE — A renewed attempt to limit the emergency powers of New Mexico’s governor stalled Wednesday in a House committee.

The proposal, House Joint Resolution 3, will remain in the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee after a tie 4-4 vote on a motion to advance it.

Under New Mexico’s current law, public health orders expire automatically after 30 days — if they’re not ended sooner — but can be renewed by the governor an unlimited number of times.

Since declaring the COVID-19 pandemic a public health emergency in March 2020, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration has extended the emergency order more than 30 times and issued multiple related health orders.

The proposed constitutional change sponsored by Reps. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, and Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, would give the Legislature the authority to end a governor’s emergency order after 90 days.

If endorsed by legislators, the proposal would also have to be approved by statewide voters in November in order to take effect.

Backers of the proposal say the change is necessary to give lawmakers a greater role during declared emergencies.

But Lujan Grisham said last year such a change would make it harder for a governor to respond quickly to emergency situations, such as the pandemic that has killed more than 6,300 New Mexicans. She also said she would veto any bill on the subject.

After Wednesday’s vote, Nibert said he was disappointed by the opposition to the bill from Democratic lawmakers.

“It is the legislative branch that is the voice of the people, and their voices should be heard,” Nibert said.

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