Home News Local News Nibert to propose limiting governor’s emergency powers

Nibert to propose limiting governor’s emergency powers

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Alex Ross Photo In this file photo, State Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, addresses an audience at a November 2019 meeting of the Chaves County Federated Republican Women. Nibert said last week he intends to introduce legislation and a House Joint Resolution to place limits on the governor's emergency powers.

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State Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, said he intends to push for legislation and a proposed constitutional amendment restricting the governor’s emergency powers during the special legislative session that began Monday.

In an interview with the Roswell Daily Record, Nibert confirmed he will try to introduce both measures, but acknowledges both proposals face long odds of passage or even being heard.

“They will probably be deemed to not be germane and won’t go very far, but I am committed to doing that until we get that across the goal line,” Nibert said.

He added that he will also try to advocate for the measures come January in a 30-day regular session.

“I think that is an important issue we need to get hammered out. We have given the executive too much power,” Nibert said.

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In both special and 30-day legislative sessions, legislation is largely limited to matters related to the budget and items on the governor’s agenda, but Nibert notes that prohibition does not include joint resolutions, which are vehicles that can be used to send to the voters a proposed state constitutional amendment for ratification during a statewide election.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Nibert and other Republicans have accused Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, of overstepping her authority as governor as it relates to her issuance of public health orders, and excluding the legislative branch from the state’s response to the pandemic.

Nibert has proposed measures that would require approval from the Legislature if a public emergency lasts beyond a certain period of time.

The idea got some bipartisan backing during last year’s 60-day regular session when Nibert was joined by state Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, in introducing both House Bill 139 (HB 139) and House Joint Resolution 6 (HJR 6), which passed several committees before eventually stalling.

HB 139 would require any public health emergency order or emergency declaration issued by a governor to expire after 90 days. If an extension of the emergency powers is needed, the governor would need to call the Legislature into a special session, during which lawmakers through a simple majority in both legislative chambers would have the opportunity to terminate, suspend or modify the order. If lawmakers do not amend or end the order, it will be extended for 60 days.

The extension would then come to an end, unless another special session is called requesting an additional 60-day extension.

HJR 6, which was also sponsored by Nibert and Ely, would submit to voters a proposed constitutional amendment to enshrine the process outlined in HB 139 into the New Mexico Constitution. However, unlike HB 139, HJR 6 would require a three-fifths vote by the Legislature to change or cancel a governor’s public order or emergency declaration.

Advocates for the measures say they are needed to give the Legislature more of a role in emergencies and to assert itself as a co-equal branch of government.

Critics of the proposal, such as House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, say such a measure would only be used as a way for critics of the public health orders to bash Lujan Grisham — and that given New Mexico’s constitutionally weak, all-volunteer Legislature, lawmakers lack the structure necessary to respond during a pandemic or other public emergency.

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

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