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Special session underway at Roundhouse

SANTA FE, N.M. — A New Mexico special legislative session that’s expected to feature debate on high-profile crime bills and how to address a massive state budget is underway at the state Capitol.

Two newly-appointed legislators, Rep. Harry Garcia, D-Grants and Sen. Jim White, R-Albuquerque, have taken the oath of office in their respective chambers.

A pair of House committees are now meeting on three crime-related bills backed by Gov. Susana Martinez: a reinstatement of the death penalty for certain crimes, an expansion of the state’s “three strikes” law for violent felonies and an expansion of the “Baby Brianna” law that deals with child abuse.

Minority Democrats in the House objected that the Republican majority was making the crime bills a priority, rather than the budget fix, and said the public hadn’t had an opportunity to look at the just-introduced legislation.

“Why are we rushing on this?” Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, asked during the House’s floor session.

Meanwhile, a Senate panel is expected to take up several solvency-related measures shortly, and Senate Democratic floor leader Michael Sanchez of Belen warned members they could be in for a long night.

The House has yet to act on budget-related proposals, though the House Appropriations and Finance Committee voted unanimously to approve a bill that authorizes roughly $157,000 for special session expenses. That’s enough money to fund three days of operations — more money would have to be authorized if the session goes longer.

Rep. Larry Larranaga, R-Albuquerque, the chairman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, said members of the public will be given a chance to weigh in on all budget-related bills heard during the special session.

But Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela, D-Santa Fe, questioned whether the quick special session timeline was realistic, saying, “I don’t think we’re going to fix the entire budget deficit in three days.”

House Democrats also held a news conference with labor union allies this morning, at which they cautioned against spending cuts to social service programs.

Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, said he will introduce a proposal during the special session to create a new legislative committee that would oversee and investigate the Children, Youth and Families Department.

He said such oversight was needed in response to the recent death of 10-year old Victoria Martens of Albuquerque, who was allegedly drugged, raped and murdered. Three individuals, including her mother, are facing criminal charges in connection to the incident.

Click here for a link to today’s story on the special session and some of the solvency measures being considered.

And if you want to tune in to House and Senate proceedings, you can find links to webcasting on the Legislature’s web site here.

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