NM In Depth editors and reporters discuss 2024 legislative session outcomes

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New Mexico In Depth reporter Bella Davis joined Executive Director Trip Jennings and Managing Editor Marjorie Childress on Tuesday for a chat about the 2024 legislative session, which ended Feb. 15. 

Childress began by reminding everyone that all bills passed by the Legislature are still subject to vetoes from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Jennings added that the $10.2 billion dollar state budget and $1 billion dollar capital outlay legislation are subject to line item vetoes. That’s because they appropriate money and the state constitution gives a governor the power to eliminate words, passages and individual appropriations in any bill that spends state money. 

The audience asked what New Mexico In Depth was least happy about coming out of the session. “I’m upset that I don’t know more about how much money lobbyists spend on lawmakers,” Jennings said. A lack of disclosure and transparency was frustrating this year, Childress said, pointing to problems with the state’s online campaign finance reporting site that make it difficult to track lobbyist spending. Both fielded numerous questions about the state budget and ethics. 

Jennings gave an update on alcohol initiatives. The session ended without a serious response to the state’s high rate of alcohol-related deaths. But Childress said the Legislature did allocate millions of additional dollars for rural health care, which included money for behavioral health initiatives that could help with alcohol addiction. She also summarized how state lawmakers passed a law that will go a long way towards shoring up struggling rural hospitals. 

Davis described how a proposed tribal education trust fund faltered in the final days of the session. The fund would have provided an annual revenue stream for the 23 tribes in New Mexico to spend on language programs and other needs related to education. It appeared to have momentum through much of the session, but in the eleventh hour, the lead sponsor, Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo, pulled the legislation before it went to a Senate floor vote. Lente told Davis he had learned amendments were going to be added to the bill. Davis also talked about a memorial for a missing and murdered indigenous people task force that passed in the last hour of the session, as well as funding proposals for staff to focus on missing and murdered indigenous people.

Childress finished by reminding the audience that come next year, New Mexicans will see a lot of new faces in the Legislature as retirements are hitting both the House and Senate.

Watch the entire conversation here:

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