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SANTA FE – More metal detectors – not pandemic restrictions – will greet visitors to the Roundhouse on Tuesday as lawmakers open a 60-day session and prepare for the first in-person State of the State address in three years.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is set to deliver the annual speech inside the New Mexico House of Representatives before a joint session of both chambers.
The Legislature’s first-day agenda also includes choosing a new speaker of the House, reshuffling some committee posts and preparing legislation to cover the cost of the session itself.
The opening day for lawmakers also comes as police investigate a string of shootings at the homes and offices of Democratic elected officials in Albuquerque.
State Police officers have been assigned to the Capitol this session – as usual – and visitors will be screened for firearms as they enter the building. Legislative staff said they are adding extra metal detectors to help accommodate the influx of visitors.
In a meeting of legislative leaders Monday, Senate Minority Whip Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, also asked State Police to have contingencies in place after the shootings in Albuquerque.
“I just want to make sure that, if we have an issue, we can beef that up,” he said of the police presence.
Raúl Burciaga, director of Legislative Council Service, the administrative arm of the Legislature, said State Police expect to be present in the building each day as long as lawmakers are meeting, either in committee or during a chamber floor session.
“We are as ready as we can be,” he said.
The public was barred from the Capitol for parts of 2020 and 2021 before COVID-19 vaccines were widely available. Vaccination and masks were later required for visitors.
But there’s no vaccine or mask mandate this year.
Legislators said Monday they will be happy to see the Roundhouse return to normal activity.
“We’re certainly looking forward to having a good day tomorrow, and having family and friends with us,” Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said Monday. “We’ve missed that tremendously the past two years.”
The session comes after a tough campaign season – with abortion and crime the focus of attack ads – and Democrats maintained their control of the executive and legislative branches of government.
They will have a 45-25 edge over Republicans in the House and a 27-15 majority in the Senate.
House Democrats have nominated Rep. Javier Martínez of Albuquerque to serve as the new speaker.
If confirmed by the full chamber, he would replace Brian Egolf of Santa Fe, who did not seek reelection and is leaving the Legislature.
Both chambers may also ratify some changes in committee leadership.
The House Judiciary Committee is losing its chairperson, Democrat Gail Chasey of Albuquerque, after she was picked to serve as the majority floor leader.
On the Senate side, Democrat Katy Duhigg of Albuquerque has been recommended as the next chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee.