Lawmakers split over how to safely hold 60 day legislative session | KOB 4

Lawmakers split over how to safely hold 60 day legislative session

Kai Porter
Created: November 06, 2020 07:56 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- State lawmakers are facing a logistical nightmare over how to hold the upcoming 60-day legislative session in January.

The 2021 legislative session is set to start on Jan. 19 .

During a meeting Friday afternoon, lawmakers discussed one possible option: The proposal involves keeping the Roundhouse closed to the public, but spending $250 thousand to rent out the Santa Fe Convention Center to hold in-person committee meetings that allow for more social distancing.

“The guiding principle here is public participation in a way that is safe,” said Brian Egolf, Democratic Speaker of the House. “It is important to note that our relatively short special session had this entirely virtual when it came to public participation and that was not ideal. I think we want to try to find ways to have the public more engaged in a one on one way with members, but also to physically attend a committee meeting to make their voice heard.”

But other lawmakers questioned that plan, saying the COVID-19 outbreak could be even worse in January. Some lawmakers suggested delaying most of the legislative session until later in the year.

“Has there been any talk about whether or not we can start it and then delay it if this pandemic and this virus continue to surge in New Mexico in terms of perhaps moving the bulk of our legislative session to probably starting in March,” asked Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, Democratic Majority Floor Leader. 

That would require Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham calling a special session or lawmakers calling an extraordinary session.

Other lawmakers suggested holding an entirely virtual session.

“I just think that we need to model the behavior that we expect from every New Mexican,” said Sen. Michael Padilla.

Lawmakers didn’t decide on a plan Friday. Instead, they will meet again later this month to continue the discussion.

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