Citing omicron, NM House to put some meetings online for legislative session

By: and - January 13, 2022 4:38 pm

The New Mexico House of Representatives, pictured Dec. 6, in Santa Fe. (Photo by Patrick Lohmann / Source New Mexico)

UPDATE 1/14/21 at 3:13 p.m.:

Chris Nordstrum, a spokesperson for the Senate Democrats, said the Senate Rules Committee today came up with its own protocol for handling the virus. The policies will be voted on when the Legislature convenes next week, and likely enacted, he said.

Committee and floor meetings would be held in person, though lawmakers will have the choice if they choose to or their health needs require it, he said.

New Mexico House Democrats, the majority party in the state, announced Thursday that committee hearings will be conducted online only. This announcement was made ahead of the 2022 legislative session, which convenes Tuesday. 

It’s unclear at the moment whether the state Senate will do the same, and what both chambers’ choices will mean for members of the public wishing to comment. No decisions have been made at this moment on the Senate side, according to Senate leadership spokesperson Chris Nordstrum.

The Senate Rules Committee, which has been meeting all week, will decide tomorrow on rule changes, Nordstrum said.The rules for 2021 expired at the end of the calendar year.

“They will be looking, especially with omicron … to figure out ways that legislators can fully participate if there’s an infection or exposure,” he said. “But the specifics of how that will work, we don’t know yet.”

The New Mexico Legislature meets once a year, for either 30 or 60 days. The 2022 Legislative session will conduct at least some operations virtually as COVID-19 cases surge across the country, propelled by the highly infectious omicron variant. 

At least one representative has said she’d prefer a virtual legislative session, citing the surging omicron wave and the number of lawmakers with young children. 

“With us going into the session around the same time that we’re expecting a surge, I’m not going to lie— I’m kind of freaked out,” said Rep. Angelica Rubio (D-Las Cruces), before Egolf’s announcement. “I have a couple of elder parents who I see pretty often. I really wouldn’t want to put them at risk.” 

The House floor sessions, when the entire body meets to vote on legislation forwarded by committees, will be in person, a House spokesperson told Source New Mexico. But lawmakers can choose to participate in those virtually, the spokesperson said.

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Patrick Lohmann
Patrick Lohmann

Patrick Lohmann has been a reporter since 2007, when he wrote stories for $15 apiece at a now-defunct tabloid in Gallup, his hometown. Since then, he's worked at UNM's Daily Lobo, the Albuquerque Journal and the Syracuse Post-Standard.

Shaun Griswold
Shaun Griswold

Shaun Griswold is a journalist in Albuquerque. He is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, and his ancestry also includes Jemez and Zuni on the maternal side of his family. He grew up in Albuquerque and Gallup. He brings a decade of print and broadcast news experience. Shaun reports on issues important to Native Americans in urban and tribal communities throughout the state, including education and child welfare.