On Tuesday, the New Mexico Legislature met for the first session of the 56th Legislature, which is meeting for 60 days this year. 17 new members were sworn in, and Democrats elected Rep. Javier Martínez (D-Bernalillo) as the next state House speaker, succeeding former Speaker Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe).
Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham also gave her annual “State of the State” address, where she made clear her priority to ram through $10 million in funding for a new Las Cruces abortion facility and codify abortion up to birth into law.
She also announced she wants socialized “universal health care” in New Mexico, taxpayer-funded paid family leave, expanded “free” college programs, as well as millions more to fund the state’s already failing schools that rank behind all other states and the District of Columbia. She also called for a new state department, the “New Mexico Health Care Authority” to help enact her universal healthcare dreams, as well as universal gun bans in the state.
But the most surprising takeaway from the meeting of the 56th Legislature on opening day was the removal of more moderate Rep. Patricia Lundstrom (D-Gallup) from the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Speaker Martinez put progressive Rep. Nathan Small in the spot instead, garnering confusion about the leadership mixup.
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Lundstrom said following the news, “This is unbelievable.” She told the Albuquerque Journal, “I’m incredibly disappointed, and I’m absolutely shocked.” She said Martínez “said I don’t meet his vision.”
“The speaker has the responsibility and the prerogative to organize the House committees as he feels best meets the current needs of New Mexico,” House Democratic spokeswoman Camille Ward told the Journal. “With new leadership on both sides of the aisle and on many of our committees in this session, Speaker Martínez is beginning a new chapter to move New Mexico forward.”
Another member making a large move is Rep. Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos), who was moved from the chairwoman of House Taxation and Revenue to the powerful House Judiciary Committee, succeeding Rep. Gail Chasey (D-Bernalillo), who was recently elected Democrat House floor leader.
Initiatives Democrats seek to pass during the legislature include many of Lujan Grisham’s proposals, as well as “modernizing” the state legislature from a “citizen legislature” to a “professional legislature” where members of the House and Senate are paid, while they each are granted funds for district offices in their respective areas of the state.