Egolf says decision for no in-person comment during special session was ‘unanimous’—it wasn’t

On Wednesday, while responding to a citizen’s questions about the upcoming special session called by Gov. Lujan Grisham, Speaker of the House Brian Egolf was asked about the decision to not have in-person comment, which Egolf claimed in a Zoom call was to slow the spread of COVID-19.

New Mexico resident Todd Hathorn wrote to Egolf, “Closed means no public interaction.  Actions taken by the Speaker belie the words.  This move to close the session requires a suspension of disbelief.”

Egolf responded to Hathorn, writing back, “That is not true.  We explained in yesterday how the public will participate live by video and give comment directly to committees, by video or in writing.  The public does not offer comment on floor debates…never has.  This was a unanimous and bi-partisan decision.” 

But the Speaker’s comment appears to be false, as at least one Republican representative says they never were asked for their input on the matter, and that they disagree with the closed meetings. 

Rep. Greg Nibert (R-Roswell), wrote in an email to the Piñon Post, “The question was never presented to me.  If asked, I would respond that the Capitol is the people’s house and if people want to attend and take the risk, they should be allowed to do so.”

Other members have confirmed they were never asked their opinion including Rep. Martin Zamora (R-Clovis), Rep. Jane Powdrell-Culbert (R-Corrales), and Sen. Pat Woods (R-Broadview).

According to House Republican Leader Jim Townsend (R-Artesia), the motion to keep the Capitol closed was made during a WebEx virtual meeting, where there was no way for members to comment. He also noted that Republican Whip Rod Montoya also could not comment during the meeting and he texted the Speaker directly, which let him speak on the matter.

New Mexico Senate Republican Whip Stuart Ingle’s staff confirmed that he was not present for that conversation or vote, so no, it was not “unanimous.”

Speaker Egolf’s claim that the decision was both bipartisan and unanimous is false, since not every member of the House was asked their opinion. Piñon Post has reached out to every Republican member of the New Mexico House and the Senate, with none responding in support of closed meetings as of 11:57 P.M. on Thursday.

The closed-door special session will take place on June 18th, with no public allowed in the Capitol. Also, legislators will be paid per-diem before and during the special session if they choose to work from home.

The Republican Party of New Mexico called this decision “an insult and another hard slap in the face to all hard-working New Mexicans,” Chairman and former Congressman Steve Pearce saying, “The funds are tapped out, but they’ll still find a way to squeeze more for themselves and squeeze the public.”


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