Frustrating and Challenging- These two words sum up how most people feel about this year’s legislative session.
It has been stated by many experienced politicos as the “worst session ever seen!”
With the Governor’s restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Legislature has taken on a total new look. The Capital is locked up by a 6-foot chain-link fence and no one is allowed inside but Legislators and essential staff. Everyone is wearing a mask and legislators are separated by plexiglass partitions between each chair in the Senate and House Chambers.
All Committee meetings are being conducted by ZOOM. The public, open, transparent process that we were all led to believe would be wonderful, has not actually played out that way. Webcast feed has been intermittent and sound quality at times not understandable.
To add to this chaos, the legislation being introduced is some of the most controversial in the history of New Mexico- Abortion, Cannabis, Civil Rights, Law Enforcement Issues, Gun Control, Labor Issues, Tax & Finance, Courts, Energy, Environment, Elections, Wildlife and my favorite, SB 347, “Confinement of Egg-Laying Hens Act”!
Another “Challenge” is the fact that the House and Senate are only holding two floor sessions per week. In the past, these sessions were held daily. The floor sessions are where bills are read into the record and given committee assignments. After bills are acted on in committee, their actions are reported to the floor. After their final committee assignment, bills are brought back to the floor where they are debated and voted on for final action. With only two floor sessions a week by each chamber, this has slowed the process even further.
February 18th was the last day for introduction of legislation, and we have seen 800 plus pieces introduced. As you can surmise by what I have described above, time will run out on this session and some of these bills will never see a committee hearing, and that is not all bad! Due to the characteristics of some bills, they have favor with the majority party, and some are moving faster than others.
The days ahead will get longer and more “frustrating and challenging” as bills start to enter the home stretch. The fight to the finish will become more contentious due to the high emotions surrounding all the controversial issues. I urge everyone to make their voices heard to their legislators very soon on these important issues which have the potential to change our way of life. My hope is that in some way your voices provide influence to the process, and that in the end, we will see our State a better place because of what has transpired.
Public & Government Affairs Director, Jerry Fanning