Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

What you need to know about the 2022 New Mexico legislative session

SANTA FE, NM (KRQE) – Tuesday January 18 marks the start of another legislative session in New Mexico. Once again, 112 publicly elected lawmakers will come together at the State Capitol in Santa Fe to decide on everything from budgeting the state and spending billions of dollars to what new laws should be put on the books.

In an effort to navigate this complex process, KRQE News 13 has compiled a number of key terms to help you understand what our elected officials are up to. Whether you speak the technical jargon or have never paid attention to what’s going on in the Roundhouse, this should help you get the most out of KRQE News 13’s coverage of the 2022 legislative period.

The session

The New Mexico Constitution requires that Santa Fe lawmakers meet for a “regular” legislative session that begins every third Tuesday of the year. However, not every session is the same length.

In even years, lawmakers meet for 30 days, which is often referred to as a “brief meeting” or a “budget meeting”. In odd years they meet for 60 days – sometimes referred to as a “long session” or a “full session”.

During a regular 60-day session, lawmakers can attempt to pass bills on almost any topic. But during short meetings, like the 2022 meeting, they are limited to what they can discuss.

In short sessions, the legislature addresses budgets and financial resources, i.e. how the state should spend its money. They also address bills recommended by the governor via an “executive message”, what the legislature refers to as “the” [Governor’s] Phone call.”

Monuments and resolutions can also be discussed during a short 30-day session (see “Types of Legislation” below). Finally, in a short session, lawmakers can attempt to override bills that the governor vetoed at the end of the previous session.

Last year, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham vetoed twelve laws in one regular session and two special sessions. These could possibly be put up for discussion during the 2022 meeting.

Types of legislation

◎ bills – Bills are legislative proposals. They are introduced by the legislators who support the proposal. The original idea for the bill can come from a number of sources: legislators, lobbyists, or even government agencies.

◎ Resolutions – A resolution is an issue that the legislature wants to discuss; but either the issue cannot become law or the legislature does not want it to become law. There are three types: simple, simultaneous and common.

A joint resolution is adopted by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. These can be used to propose changes to the New Mexico Constitution. They can also be used to approve promotions such as the sale of state property.

A simultaneous resolution affects both the House of Representatives and the Senate, for example planning breaks. They can be used to set chamber rules or perform other legislative tasks.

A simple resolution only applies to the House or Senate. They can be used to make a statement, but these are rarely used, according to New Mexico lawmakers.

◎ memorials – A memorial is a formal message to a state government agency. They can be used to solicit government agencies to deal with a topic or to bring up a problem. Monuments are also used to commemorate specific days, events or places.

What happens every day

The main activities of each day are “Floor Sessions”. The plenary hall is the main stage of the legislative process where legislators meet to discuss laws and make speeches, ie “keep the floor”. During the plenary sessions, legislators can also take part in committee meetings and argue about the merits of their own bills.

Floor sessions happen almost daily and tend to get more hectic or longer as the session nears its end. The Legislature will be broadcasting floor meetings on webcam and KRQE News 13 will also be streaming key moments live.

In addition to the plenary meetings, the legislators also take part in the committee meetings. There are dozen of committees that discuss the merits of laws and propose changes. For a bill to come into force, it must go through the responsible bodies with a “do pass” recommendation.

When a bill passes through the appropriate committee or committees, it goes back to the chamber in which it was introduced – either the House of Representatives or the Senate. There, the legislature will hold its final debate before forwarding it to the other chamber. So when a bill is tabled in the House of Representatives, it is sent to the Senate, and vice versa.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives must approve the law. If changes are made, both the House and Senate must approve those changes as well. When an agreement is not easy to reach, lawmakers can set up a conference committee to resolve their differences with the aim of passing the law.

How does the law become law?

When a bill makes it through floor action as described above, it goes to the governor’s desk for final approval. She can sign the law, veto it, or just do nothing.

When the governor signs the law, it becomes law. But it cannot take effect immediately. Many laws come into effect 90 days after the legislative period. However, some have emergency clauses that take effect immediately. These emergency clauses are often attached to draft legislation that must come into effect immediately to keep the public safe.

If the governor veto the law, the legislature must decide whether it should become law. If two-thirds of the House and Senate vote to repeal the governor, the bill becomes law despite the governor’s veto.

If the governor simply does nothing, it is called a “pocket veto”. For bills passed in the last three days of the legislature, the governor has 20 days to take action. If the governor does nothing, the bill will not go into effect. In this scenario, lawmakers cannot vote to override the governor.

Last year Senator Jacob Candelaria (D-Abq.) Tabled a resolution that would limit the governor’s ability to use a “pocket veto” to kill banknotes. This resolution did not make it through the legislative process. So at this meeting, the governor still has the option to kill laws by taking no action.

How can citizens stay informed?

KRQE News 13 will cover key topics throughout the 2022 session. Every day we will be posting a roundhouse roundup on the KRQE News 13 website. The roundup is an easy-to-understand summary of the legislation legislators are working on. When important debates take place, we will also be streaming live videos from the Roundhouse to give you an insight into the legislative process.

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