The legislative session ends without the passage of the bill on marijuana; the governor calls an extraordinary session

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LAS CRUCES – The 60-day session of the New Mexico Legislature, which took place entirely on Zoom in a building in the state capital closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, s ‘ended on Saturday without the passage of a law to legalize marijuana.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has said she will convene a special session on the issue, most likely on March 31.

“I think legalization will be one of the biggest job creation programs in state history, creating entrepreneurial opportunities statewide for decades to come,” she said. . “I look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers to get the job done right. ”

Representative Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, who sponsored the marijuana legalization bill, said he arrived in the Senate too late in the process.

“When the bill went to the Senate, there were still a lot of priority bills to consider,” he said. “It would have jeopardized a lot of good laws.”

The bill was blocked in the Senate Judiciary Committee until March 17. Committee chair Joseph Cervantes D-Las Cruces opposed the bill and removed it from the committee’s calendar at a previous meeting.

Representative Martinez said he supports the governor’s call for a special session

“I believe New Mexico is ready,” he said. “The governor has indicated that she is ready, and I think the Senate is ready. And I hope we can do it as soon as possible. “

Several of the governor’s top priorities have been passed, including a constitutional amendment to increase funding for early childhood education that must be approved by voters; bills to provide both low-interest loans and grants to small businesses affected by the pandemic; reform of state alcohol laws to allow more liquor licenses; and the removal of an invalid law still in force prohibiting abortion.

“I would consider this to be an extremely successful session, especially given the COVID challenge,” said Senator Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces. “First and foremost, we kept everyone safe, and that allowed us to continue a very strong program.”

Most of the House session on Saturday morning was devoted to a bill requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to their workers. Republicans spent the maximum allowable time of three hours debating the bill before it was passed. That left little time for anything else on the last day.

House Majority Whip Doreen Gallegos, D-Las Cruces, said a compromise on a bill to establish an independent commission to lead the redistribution effort paved the way for the House to do a lot of things on the last day .

“We were certainly sometimes more polarized this session. Towards the end we were able to succeed and work together and at the last minute we were able to get a lot of momentum to get a lot of important bills through, ”said Gallegos. “It took a lot of negotiations and we worked on it all day, then around 10pm (Friday) we were able to make a deal and the floodgates opened.

Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences, was the sponsor of one of the redistribution bills

“One of the most important pieces of legislation to promote open and transparent government is an independent redistribution commission,” said Dow. “For the first time, the public will have a say in who represents them, rather than redistributing behind closed doors and with partisan data focused on the protection of incumbents.”

One of the bills that failed this year was an attempt to reduce the annual percentage rate for small loans, which stands at 175 percent. Senator Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, introduced a law to lower the APR to 36%. This was changed in the House to increase the rate to 99 percent. Soules refused to accept this amendment and requested that a conference committee be formed to work on the details. He later said the House refused to remove that number.

Representative Gallegos, who was part of the group that formed the House compromise, said the bill, as originally drafted, simply did not have the backing to get through the House.

“My job as whip is to count those votes, and I knew the votes weren’t there, so we tried to compromise,” she said.

Soules said he would keep trying.

“We will be back for the 30-day session (in 2022),” he said. “The governor has pledged to bring it to 36%.”

President Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said the focus of this session was recovery from the pandemic in the economy, education and health care. And he said they were able to take care of the three.

“We have a substantial record of achievement,” he said.

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