House GOP Leader Jim Townsend Questions House Speaker on Governor’s Abuse of Power, How the Special Session will be Conducted, and Stopping the Raid on NM’s Permanent Fund
Artesia, NM – House Republican Leader Jim Townsend sent House Speaker Brian Egolf a three-page letter highlighting three important issues which could greatly impact upcoming special session of the Legislature sometime in June. The letter requested the Speaker take three explicit actions: 1) initiate legislative oversight of an abuse of power by the Governor in spending money she is unauthorized to do so; 2) begin bipartisan consultations immediately how a remote or virtual special session would be conducted; and 3) express the position that no constitutional amendment to raid the Land Grant Permanent Fund would be considered during the special session.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued, the Governor has issued several executive orders which call for millions of dollars to be spent from the state treasury, however, only the Legislature has the constitutional authority to spend such large sums. The Governor is only authorized to spend no more than $750,000 per emergency declaration. Rep. Townsend is asking the Legislative Council to review this matter and have this group of legislators take appropriate action to preserve the Legislature’s authority.
Likewise, Leader Townsend questioned Speaker Egolf about alleged media reports that he already has a plan to change House Rules to permit a virtual special session, yet there have been no discussions with House Republican Leadership on the matter. The letter also expressed serious concerns about a proposal offered by the Governor to raid NM’s Land Grant Permanent Fund during the special session to close the budget shortfall. Such action would require passage of a constitutional amendment and such amendments are not permitted during a special session. Leader Townsend asked the Speaker to announce the Legislature will observe this long-time constitutional prohibition.
The lack of communication on such important matters between the House Republicans and Democrat leaders has become increasingly concerning as the shut-down inches its way forward. In addition, the Governor has yet to announce a date for the special session which is needed to address NM’s ongoing economic and budget crisis.
“It has become increasingly clear that the Democrats are circling the wagons and leaving New Mexicans out of the conversations on how government business is done and how we move forward,” said House Republican Leader Jim Townsend, “As elected leaders, we are expected to be transparent and open with the public and unfortunately it seems that there are some leaders who do not want Republicans at the table, much less the public, to create an effective recovery for our state.”