GOP Whip Calls for ‘Special Session’ on Funds’ Albuquerque Journal

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In this 2017 file photo, House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, presents a bill to the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill. (Eddie Moore / Albuquerque Journal

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, on Monday called on legislative staff to circulate a document that would allow New Mexico lawmakers to come together amid a dispute over which branch of government has the power to allocate federal stimulus funds.

The unusual procedure – used successfully only once in the state’s history – would need the support of three-fifths of the members of each legislative chamber.

Democrats hold substantial majorities in the House and Senate, and they have given no indication they would support an “extraordinary session,” as the Constitution calls it.

Nonetheless, Montoya on Monday asked the Legislative Council Service to draft a document calling for an extraordinary session and distribute it to each legislator.

He first asked members of the Legislative Council – a bipartisan panel of high-ranking legislative leaders – to endorse the effort. But no vote was taken after House Speaker Brian Egolf D-Santa Fe said the council is supposed to maintain neutrality on the legislation.

Montoya’s push for an emergency legislative session comes as lawmakers on both sides express dismay at Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s veto on budget language outlining how to spend some of the federal stimulus money flowing into New Mexico .

Lawmakers say they have the power to appropriate money, just as they do with state funds. In a budget bill earlier this year, they sought to allocate about $ 1.1 billion in federal funds to help an unemployment insurance fund, a college scholarship program, and road repairs – a language on which the governor has vetoed.

Officials in the Lujan Grisham administration say the power to allocate federal funds rests with the executive, and they cite court cases supporting their position.

In an interview, Montoya acknowledged that it will be difficult to gain enough Democratic support to call a session. But he said it was time for lawmakers to assert their authority over state spending decisions.

“The governor unilaterally allocated these dollars without any contribution,” Montoya said.

Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said the governor has spoken to legislative leaders – including Republicans – about plans to spend federal money and will release more information soon.

The funding, she said, will be used “for effective and impactful purposes for the benefit of New Mexicans across the state.”

Egolf said the pressure for a special session is a waste of time.

“We don’t need to fight over it,” he said in a written statement. “Both sides of the legislature can have solid conversations with the governor about how to spend these dollars.”

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