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Bill to limit governor’s powers will not be heard


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A proposal that would curtail the length of time an emergency declaration — including emergency public health orders — could remain in effect without Legislature approval will not be taken up during the special legislative session.

State Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, introduced House Bill 10 (HB 10) with House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Arteisa; as well as state Reps. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington and Jane E. Powdrell-Culbert, R-Corales.

“HB 10 was sent to the rules committee (House Rules and Order of Business Committee) again so it will most likely die,” Nibert said late Friday.

Townsend, who is a member of the committee, confirmed the committee will not meet again during the special session. He added Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, determined the bill was not germane to the governor’s call and so would not assign it to a committee.

“Speaker (Egolf) purposely killed the bill,” he said.

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Daniel Marzec, a spokesperson for House Democrats, said Saturday the governor sets the agenda for the special session and because it was not on her call, the legislation will not be heard.

HB 10 as written would have required any declaration of emergency, or disaster, or the invocation of powers pursuant to an act in the state’s Emergency Power Code, would not remain in effect for more than 30 days, unless extended by a joint resolution by both Houses of the New Mexico Legislature during a regular, special or extraordinary session, according to the draft legislation.

“The bill would force the governor to bring the Legislature into the loop in dealing with emergencies that last for more than 30 days,” Nibert said.

Should the governor determine an extension of emergency powers or declaration is needed before the end of the 30-day period, the governor would submit a request to the Legislature for an extension.

According to the proposal, the request would include a specific reason and time period for the extension, a plan of action to address the situation for which the declaration was issued, powers invoked and requests for any appropriations needed to address the emergency.

If the Legislature is not in session at the time, the governor would call the Legislature into session for that purpose.

Nibert said Friday the proposal is a response to the use of public health emergency orders by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to restrict public gatherings and other moves such as requiring businesses to suspend operations as a means of curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

Lujan Grisham has since modified some of those orders as part of a phased reopening of the state’s economy, however Nibert and other Republicans have accused Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, of exceeding her authority and not consulting with legislators by extending the orders and appropriating funds in response to the pandemic.

Lujan Grisham, he said, should have called a special session to weigh in on the orders and appropriate money.

“The governor has not sought input from the very branch of government whose constitutional duty is to appropriate funds and to be the voice of the people in each district,” Nibert said.

Similar legislation has been introduced by Sen. Gregory Baca, R-Belen, in the Senate. Senate Bill 19, though, specifically terminates emergency public health orders after 14 days unless extended by the Legislature.

Chris Norstrum, a spokesperson for the Senate Democrats said Saturday that SB 19 was not assigned to a committee. As a result, it will not be brought up for any votes.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext, 301, or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

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