On Tuesday, the New Mexico Legislature convened for a one-day special session after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called members of the New Mexico House and Senate to appropriate $330 million in COVID-19 relief to New Mexicans as a last-ditch attempt to use up what was left of the money appropriated through the federal CARES Act. The aide preliminarily acted to give $1,200 checks to the unemployed, grants to businesses, and housing assistance.
It should be noted that the Governor’s two-time lockdown of the state has resulted in the loss of countless small businesses, which in turn has forced people onto unemployment, whereby they are unable to pay for food, supplies, and rent. Without the strict lockdown, there would be no need for any relief for workers and businesses. The $330 million Democrat bill had no provisions to give aid to essential workers.
Republicans in the New Mexico House of Representatives worked to amend the Governor’s bill to add essential workers into the appropriation so they would also receive relief. However, Democrats vehemently rejected the measure, which was proposed by Rep. Rebecca Dow (R-Truth or Consequences) with Speaker Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) claiming that the essential workers hurting through COVID-19 were lucky because “they have a job,” whereas the people only included in the Democrat bill did not have jobs.
Egolf then pre-emptively cut off debate on the Republican amendment, proceeding to a floor vote despite further debate on the motion by Republicans, such as state Senator-elect David Gallegos (R-Lovington), who was denied the right to speak on behalf of his constituents on multiple amendments and motions.
“I attempted numerous times to speak on various amendments but to no avail. The Speaker refused to allow me to be heard. This is not a democratic system, it is an oligarchy and he and the governor tightly hold the power and are afraid of dissent. We must keep fighting for this state we love and for the voice of the minority in our state who continue to be silenced. We cannot let their tyranny stand,” wrote Gallegos on his Facebook page.
During the roll call for final passage of the Democrat bill, Rep. Jason Harper (R-Rio Rancho) was called on to vote, to which he then said, “Since we’re throwing the rules out and using them when we’d like, I’ll explain myself now and then vote. Mr. Speaker, you have made a mockery of this body and of the rules. You are choosing to use the rules that you want, and I am choosing to use the rules when I want. Mr. Speaker, I am disgusted with you and how you have run this body. There is nothing wrong with going to closing remarks by Representative Dow and voting on that and voting on the bill. But you again are a bully and use that chair to sue your whims. I vote yes, thank you.”
“I wanted to support the bill, I appreciate what has happened, but this is just a shenanigan that is improper, unethical, and certainly not transparent,” said Republican Leader Rep. Jim Townsend (R-Artesia) while casting his “no” vote.
After the vote, Republican Whip Rep. Montoya (R-Farmington) took the floor and scolded Egolf for his blatant prejudice to the Republican minority, his hostility, and refusal to follow House rules. “Whatever we pass out of here today is going to be completely illegitimate, and I am very disappointed, Mr. Speaker, in the blatant effort, once again, to ignore the rules, try–with lawyer talk–to talk us through a quick discussion on this, when we are wasting more time on this when we could have already voted on the motion,” said Montoya.
All other legislation sponsored by Republicans, such as a bill to limit Gov. Lujan Grisham’s emergency powers, was tied up in committee and died on arrival. The Democrat relief bill was passed through both chambers and now goes to the Governor for her signature after the hurried special session.