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New Mexico Legislature Opens 2023 Session

Kevin Meerschaert
The 2023 New Mexico Legislature readies to hear Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham give the State of the State Address.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham delivered her State of the State address on Tuesday, the first in front of a full Roundhouse in several years.
Lujan Grisham focused on some of the accomplishments she says occurred in her first term and the proposals she wants accomplished during the session.

She noted her proposal to extend the number of hours in the classroom, providing $750 dollar tax rebates for New Mexican workers, keeping violent offenders off the streets, and reforming the state tax code.

Lujan Grisham also reaffirmed the establishment of the Rural Health Care Delivery fund with a $200 million capital investment.

“Right now New Mexico is the only state where more than half the population is on Medicaid, including 80% of New Mexico’s children,” she said. “Expanding Medicaid coverage offers us a chance to revolutionize care and frankly become a universal health care state and that’s exactly what this administration intends to do. Building a healthier, longer-living, more prosperous New Mexico.”                         

Republicans were less than enthused with much of what the governor had to say.

Senate Minority Floor Leader Gregory Baca says the Governor’s plans to spend more money on education and other programs have not yielded the promised results.

“In listening to that address you would be under the belief that our state is in terrific being right now. That couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said. “We have a Governor who is subject to far-left extremists at this point. We heard about energy, but we didn’t hear one utterance about oil and gas in this state. Where we heard about education, and the answer is always to spend more money. We were promised a moonshot. That moonshot blew up on the launching pad.”          

New House Speaker Javier Martinez was sworn in with the rest of the lawmakers at Roundhouse.

He said he wanted Republicans and Democrats to work together for the betterment of New Mexico.   

One thing Martinez says he wants to get done this session is the modernization of the legislature.

“Legislative modernization is actually a bipartisan effort. It’s not simply Democrats trying to give themselves a raise” he said. This is truly about building a more equitable, more fair, more effective and more efficient system of government for the people of New Mexico.”        

The modernization plans under discussion includes having lawmakers get paid and hiring a permanent staff along with extending the 30-day session to also be 60-days.

Baca says Republican  opinions are mixed on the possibilities. He says he can see the pros and cons of paying legislators. He says it would open it up to more people being able lawmakers who can’t afford to do it as volunteers.

Such changes would require a Constitutional Amendment approved by the voters.

Martinez created some controversy Tuesday night while announcing committee assignments when he replaced longtime house member Gallup Democrat Patty Lundstrom as Chair of the powerful House Appropriations and Finance Committee. She was replaced by Las Cruces Rep. Nathan Small.

After the announcement, Lundstrom released a statement.

“As a minority woman and rural New New Mexico Democrat, I am saddened and concerned that the new progressive regime has inappropriately replaced my steadfast and prudent leadership of the HAFC and LFC in a pathetic attempt at political retaliation. I have fought for our state’s most vulnerable and protected our finances in our economically challenged state. The decision to replace me with a white man with less than a fourth of the experience in budget development is extremely damaging to New Mexico with the ever-increasing one-party system that retaliates against traditional, Hispanic, rural, Democrats. My fight is long from over, because I can't believe the message that this sends to our young women of color."

Kevin Meerschaert comes to Santa Fe from Jacksonville, Florida where he spent the past 20 years covering politics, government and pretty much everything else.