On Monday, Speaker of the New Mexico House Brian Egolf confirmed to KRQE News 13 that the 2021 Legislative Session will be “100% virtual for the public,” meaning the “Roundhouse will be closed to the public.”
Previously, legislators were discussing utilizing the Santa Fe Convention Center to accommodate “social distancing,” however, that appears not to be the case, according to one report.
“Speaker Egolf said they will be expanding the use of Zoom so people can participate remotely in the session. They will even have closed captioning for people hard of hearing,” said the report.
The move to go 100% virtual, however, will be the final call of the Legislative Council, but Egolf appears to have the votes.
Republican legislators responded to the news that was delivered to them via tweet, instead of the Speaker letting them know any other way. Rep. Gail Armstrong (R-Catron, Socorro & Valencia Counties) wrote on Twitter, “So much for transparency!”
Rep.-elect Stefani Lord (R-Bernalillo, Sandoval & Santa Fe Counties) wrote to her followers, “If you don’t have internet. If you have a spotty internet connection. If you don’t know how to use ZOOM, well, your voice won’t be heard this year at the roundhouse. P.S. I can’t believe I learned about this on Twitter. Shouldn’t the speaker let the legislators know?”
The upcoming Legislature will be 60 days long and many hot-button issues including an abortion up-to-birth bill, recreational marijuana legalization, anti-gun bills, and other previously defeated legislation from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham are expected to be discussed. The move to go 100% virtual may hamper access to those who live in rural communities without access to a reliable internet connection, among many others.
Speaker Brian Egolf can be contacted via email at this address firstname.lastname@example.org.