This past Tuesday, January 29, 2021, the State of New Mexico started the business of the First Session of the 55th New Mexico Legislature. The new session brought with it much change brought on by the 2020 election cycle where all 112 legislative seats were on the ballot. As such, Viante New Mexico has summarized key changes in chamber composition and leadership. New Mexico’s legislative branch is made up of 112 elected officials: 70 Representatives and 42 Senators. Each chamber has its own structure of leadership that ensures that business is handled in an orderly way while also allowing for the minority party’s voice to be heard.
About New Mexico’s House of Representatives and Key Roles
In the House of Representatives, Brian Egolf will retain the position of Speaker of the House. The Speaker of the House is the single most powerful role in this chamber. It is Speaker Egolf’s responsibility to appoint representatives to each of the 17 house standing committees and to name the chair and vice chair of each committee. He is also the presiding officer of the House, which means he controls its procedures.
The House of Representatives’ leadership structure also has a set of majority and minority leaders and whips. For the House Democrats, Representative Sheryl Williams Stapleton will remain the Majority Floor Leader and Representative Doreen Y. Gallegos will continue as Majority Whip. For House Republicans the leadership remains the same with Representative Jim Townsend as the Minority Floor Leader and Representative Rod Montoya as the Minority Whip.
About New Mexico’s Senate and Key Roles
The Senate Chamber is structured differently. Instead of having an individual making decisions, Senate Committees determine assignments and name chairs and co-chairs. Senator Mimi Stewart was newly elected by her peers to be the President Pro Tempore. In this role, she acts as the Senate Committee’s Chair and will preside over the Senate floor session in the absence of the President. The President is Lieutenant Governor-Elect, Senator Howie Morales. As a member of the Executive Body, he only votes in the event of a tie. Like the House of Representatives, the Senate has a majority and minority leadership structure. The Majority Floor leader will continue to be Senator Peter Wirth, with newly selected Senator Linda M. Lopez serving as the Majority Whip. The Senate Republican part has selected a new slate of leadership as Senator Gregory A. Baca serving as Minority Floor Leader and Senator Craig W. Brant as Minority Whip.
A Wave of Change
With all 112 Legislative seats up for election, the 2020 election brought with it a wave of change to the Legislature. Between the House and Senate there are 23 new members, which is a 21% change from the previous legislature. Democrats maintain control in both chamber of a 45-25 advantage in the House and 27-15 in the Senate.
With the former Senate Finance Chair, Senator John Arthur Smith voted out of office during the 2020 primaries, many wondered who would fill the powerful, budget guru’s shoes. Tuesday, President Pro Tempore Stewart named Gallup’s Senator George Munoz to the post. Many eyes will be on him and his committee as the state navigates the recovery ahead and demands for transparency around the budget crafting grow louder.
Here at Viante, we are excited to take an active role in the 55th Legislature. We are focused on identifying legislators working toward common ground solutions to address our state’s challenges within broadband. Together, we are confident we will create a way forward for New Mexico.