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As governor says a special session is likely, Montoya questions what more the state can do

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times

AZTEC — During the weekly COVID-19 update, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she will likely call the Legislature in for a special session to address the ongoing pandemic and provide assistance to New Mexicans who are struggling.

But House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, questioned what the Legislature can legally do to provide that assistance.

If a special session is called, the governor will provide legislators with a list of areas that can be addressed during the session.

Montoya highlighted that a previous special session led to loan programs for assisting small businesses, but said many business owners chose not to pursue the loan. He said grants could be a more popular option for business owners needing help, but New Mexico cannot provide grants directly to businesses.

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The state constitution includes an anti-donation clause that prohibits the government from giving money to private industry.

That leaves few options going into a special session and Montoya said the options remaining include utilizing federal funding that New Mexico received from the CARES Act to provide more assistance.

State Rep. Rod Montoya

But with the Legislature limited in what it can do, Montoya said the federal government has more ability to assist people who are struggling with the pandemic. He expressed frustration that Congress did not reach an agreement for a second assistance package prior to the Nov. 3 election.

“They need to do their job and just get that done,” he said.

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Montoya has been critical of the governor’s leadership during the pandemic and was upset about the decision to reenact a shelter-in-place order, which he said was done without warning the legislators.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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