With just one week to go, we are nearing the end of the 54th New Mexico State Legislature. The first seven weeks saw a total of 1,320 filed bills, which was less than the 3,000-5,000 bills that party leadership expected. However, this smaller batch is not reflective of less work or effort. Many of the bills are jam-packed with a wide array of issues like SB412 “Circus Arts Education” or HB182 “Reading Initiative Literacy and Biliteracy.” Viante New Mexico is actively monitoring approximately 450 bills that touch on education, crime, and quality of life. We monitor these bills by attending and listening to committee meetings, taking notes on the reasoning for each bill and the arguments that either support or oppose it.
An Engaged Governor
This session, we have seen the newly elected governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, be especially active in the process by signing over 40 bills and by being front and center during various phases of the legislative process. She has routinely attended joint sessions where members of both the house and senate have state and federal dignitaries speak about their hopes and plans for New Mexico. She has also been spotted at committee meetings to personally give her support for legislation, which is uncommon for a seated governor.
A More Divisive Legislature
Although there has been a great deal of positive work happening, the divisiveness has been front and center. The Republican/Democrat divide is growing because Republicans believe their voices are not being heard since they are a small minority and have become frustrated as a result. Out of this discontentment, House Republicans created a t-shirt noting their dissatisfaction with what they believe to be overly progressive bills making their way through the legislative process. Democrats say the shirts do not tell the whole story and have referenced the shirts during debates. For example, bipartisan tax bill HB579, which was introduced by Representative Jason Harper (R) and Senator Carlos Cisneros (D), was tabled in the House Tax and Revenue committee. The bill was seen by Democrats as redundant, with Democrat backed HB6, a similar tax bill, already advancing to the Senate. Democrats noted that Republican shirts that cited HB6 on the back were a small part of the reason why they were voting against the bill.
Many people expect there to be friction between the two parties, but there is a feud brewing that has made itself much clearer this session: the divide between urban and rural lawmakers. Things that used to be partisan issues like gun control, have now turned into large city versus small town fights. Historically, Democrats have proposed greater gun control, whereas Republicans have fought to protect gun owner rights, citing the second amendment. However, rural Democrats have parted from their pack, joining other rural Republicans on this issue saying that the legislation would negatively impact their districts. They argue they do not have the same level of access that the urban areas have to stores and government offices that would allow for rural residents to comply with additional reporting requirements that are outlines in the bill. They argue that the added regulations would disproportionately affect those rural New Mexicans.
Stay Tuned for Updates from Viante
As we go into the final week of the session, expect a flurry of activity with many bills that have not yet crossed over into the other chamber. We predict the divisiveness will further intensify as tensions and emotions run high to squeeze every drop of work out of the 60-day session. Members can count on Viante to continue to listen to both sides equally in an effort to identify what is common ground so that we can all find a way forward for New Mexico, together.