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Measure addressing emergency powers clears committee

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In this November 2019 file photo, State Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, speaks to the audience at a meeting of the Chaves County Federated Republican Women. House Joint Resolution 6 (HJR 6), sponsored by Nibert and state Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Albuquerque, would place on the ballot a proposed constitutional amendment requiring the governor to call the Legislature into special session if an emergency declaration or emergency public order needs to be in place for more than 90 days. (Daily Record File Photo)

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A proposed state constitutional amendment that would give the Legislature more of an opportunity to weigh in on future emergency public health orders and state emergency declarations last week moved one step closer to being sent to voters.

The House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee last Thursday voted 5-0 to forward House Joint Resolution 6 (HJR 6), sponsored by state Reps. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, and Daymon Ely, D-Albuquerque, to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.

If ultimately approved by majorities in both the state House and Senate, HJR 6 would place on the ballots of New Mexico voters a proposed constitutional amendment requiring that all emergency public health orders or emergency declarations expire after 90 days, unless the governor calls the Legislature into special session before that deadline.

During such a special session, lawmakers would have the opportunity to amend, terminate or suspend the emergency or order, if they can get the three-fifths majority of members in each legislative chamber to do so. If the three-fifths majority in each chamber does not take action, the emergency would be extended for another 60 days.

Should the governor at the end of the period feel the need for another extension, she would again call the Legislature into special session. The pattern would continue every 60 days thereafter until either the declaration or order is allowed to lapse or the governor or Legislature takes action to end the emergency.

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Nibert and Ely have each said that the legislation is not meant to limit the executive branch’s ability to respond to a crisis, but to ensure the legislative branch can participate in the response to a public emergency order.

A similar proposal passed the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee earlier this month in the form of House Bill 139 (HB 139).

Ely during Thursday’s hearing said the only differences between HJR 6 and HB 139 is that a constitutional amendment can require three-fifths support for an action to be taken, whereas legislation requires a simple majority. He added that unlike legislation, which requires the governor’s signature to become law, a constitutional amendment needs a majority in both houses to get onto the ballot.

Nibert said Monday he and Ely are seeking to have both HJR 6 and HB 139 go before the House Judiciary Committee, of which he and Ely are both members, where he said he is 100% confident they will be heard.

“It will be scheduled with House Bill 139 and we are going to do them at the same time,” Nibert said.

He added that it is quite likely that one of the two proposals will make it to the floor for a vote by the full House before the session ends in March.

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

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