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IN THE ROUNDHOUSE

Legislature ‘awash in money’ as it convenes Jan. 18 for 2022 regular session

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The second session of the 55th New Mexico Legislature will convene at noon Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, at the state capitol in Santa Fe.

New Mexico’s 42 state senators and 70 state representatives are expected to gather in person for the 30-day session, which will be conducted live and via Zoom.

If you plan to visit the state capitol building, 490 Old Santa Fe Trail, during the session, go to nmlegis.gov, click on “Quick Links” and then “Admittance to the New Mexico State Capitol” for vaccination requirements and firearms restrictions information. Click on “Webcasts” to follow the session online.

The Legislature meets in 30-day sessions in even-numbered years and 60-day sessions in odd-numbered years. “Short sessions” like the one this year, are restricted to budget matters and the governor’s legislative agenda.

In a Dec. 1 news release, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said her 2022 call will include a seven-percent raise for all New Mexico education personnel, “increasing pay for more than 50,000 K-12 educators and school staff across the state.” The governor’s call is also expected to include a cut in state gross receipts taxes and legislation to address crime issues and climate change.

“We’re looking at making important investments, supporting more teachers, supporting our schools, rebuilding infrastructure like roads and bridges and (expanding) broadband, supporting value-added agriculture (and outdoor recreation) and becoming the international leader in carbon free and clean energy,” said state Rep. Nathan Small, D-Doña Ana, who is vice chair of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. A former Las Cruces city councilor, Small’s House District 36 includes part of Las Cruces and stretches north to the Sierra County line.

The state’s current budget (FY22) is approximately $7.3 billion in recurring appropriations, which includes an increase of $169 million in new revenue over the previous year. Revenue estimates are that New Mexico will have about $1.6 billion in additional revenue for FY23, which begins July 1, 2022.

The legislature also is expected to increase state reserve funds from their current 25 percent to at least 30 percent during the session.

“We are awash in money but most of it is one-time dollars, making expenditures on capital projects very likely – roads, bridges, buildings as well as solar projects for existing buildings,” said state Sen. Ron Griggs, R-Otero, Eddy, Doña Ana. A former mayor of Alamogordo, Griggs represents state Senate District 34, which includes precincts in Chaparral in Doña Ana County.

A change to the composition of the New Mexico House of Representatives was announced Dec. 31, as state Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Valencia, retired. The Valencia County Commission will appoint a replacement for Baldonado, a Los Lunas real estate broker who was first elected in 2010. The five-member commission is comprised entirely of Republicans, so the appointment likely will not change the balance of power in the House.

The speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives is state Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, who lives in Santa Fe. The House majority leader is Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Bernalillo, of Albuquerque; the majority whip is Rep. Doreen Gallegos, D-Doña Ana, of Las Cruces. The House minority leader is James G. Townsend, R-Chaves, Eddy and Otero, of Artesia; the minority whip is Ron Montoya, R-San Juan, of Farmington.

The president pro tempore of the New Mexico state Senate is Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Bernalillo, of Albuquerque. The Senate majority leader is Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, of Santa Fe; the majority whip is Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Bernalillo, of Albuquerque. The Senate minority leader is Sen. Greg Baca, R-Bernalillo and Valencia, of Belen; the minority whip is Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Sandoval, of Rio Rancho.

The Legislature met in special session in December to redraw congressional and legislative districts as well as districts for the state Public Education Commission based on the 2020 census. Those elected in November 2022 will represent the newly drawn districts.