What to expect as lawmakers convene for new session
SANTA FE — The New Mexico Legislature convenes Tuesday. Here’s a look at the House and Senate:
Start to finish
The Legislature convenes at noon Tuesday. It’s formally called the first session of the 53rd Legislature. Lawmakers adjourn after 60 days at noon Saturday, March 18.
The House has 70 members: 38 Democrats and 32 Republicans. The Senate has 42 members: 26 Democrats and 16 Republicans. There will be at least 19 lawmakers who are new to the Legislature or returning after a hiatus — 13 in the House and six in the Senate.
New Mexico has the nation’s only unsalaried legislature. Lawmakers receive $164 a day during the session to reimburse them for expenses. Travel is reimbursed separately at 53.5 cents per mile, allowing for one-round trip per session.
Under the state Constitution, the session lasts longer in odd years to allow for a wide range of policy initiatives in addition to budget, revenue and taxation measures. Constitutional amendments also can be considered, and several already are proposed to fund early childhood education, reduce restrictions on concealed handguns and replace the public education secretary with an elected state board of education.
Lawmakers are grappling with how to craft a new budget and close a current-year deficit amid plunging revenues linked to a downturn in the oil sector. Early solvency proposals run the gamut from take-home pay reductions for state workers and school teachers to tax increases on gasoline and food. Tax reform and economic development proposals also will be on prominent display in response to lagging employment opportunities and dissatisfaction with the economy.
Additional proposals are under consideration to reinstate the death penalty, increase DWI penalties and reform how the state handles political and campaign ethics complaints.
What to expect
There were 696 bills introduced during the last 60-day session in 2015. Of those bills, 191 were passed by the Legislature. The governor signed 158 measures into law and vetoed 33, including 14 that were approved unanimously.
The previous Legislature, under a Republican House majority, sent a single constitutional amendment to voters for approval in November that now allows judges to deny bail to defendants considered exceptionally dangerous. It also allows pretrial release to non-threatening people who might languish in custody because they cannot afford bail.
Democrats won back majority control of the House in November and further consolidated their hold on the Senate. State senators won’t be up for re-election until 2020.
The 2018 campaign to replace second-term GOP Gov. Susana Martinez already is underway. Democrat U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham declared her candidacy in December.
Contact lawmakers by calling the legislative switchboard: 505-986-4300. Find bills, committee schedules, lists of members and a link for webcasts of House and Senate proceedings on the Legislature’s website.