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Pack it in

The front of a building with a clock on it.

One of the things I always loved most about New Mexico in Focus as a viewer — before I took the executive producer gig last spring — was the show’s legislative coverage. Gwyneth Doland, my longtime friend and co-conspirator, in hornrims and a sporty blazer, shoving a microphone into the faces of the powerful after asking a perfectly-crafted, nine-word question it would’ve taken me a minute and a half to get out? Yes, please. 

So, I’m delighted to now be part of the team that will once again bring Gwyneth’s dispatches to your screens each week as the Legislature does its thing. (Also, by way of shameless self-promotion: Gwyneth is now one of the longest-tenured statehouse reporters in New Mexico, and she works for us.) 

On this week’s show, we’re giving you a double dose. Gwyneth caught up with Republican leaders to get their reaction to Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s State of the State address — and to give viewers a sense of the minority party’s plans and strategies for this year’s session. She also hosted a three-part discussion with journalists Trip Jennings and Jessica Onsurez looking ahead to what New Mexicans should expect during the next month. 

An exchange between Gwyneth and Jessica piqued my interest. 

Gwyneth began with a quote State Auditor Joseph Maestas had given the Santa Fe New Mexican in which he said Lujan Grisham “breaks the mold when it comes to traditional budget sessions,” such as by taking on gun control and other hot-button issues. “It’s a 30-day session; there’s a 15-day cutoff for introducing new legislation, so it’s going to be hectic.” 

“Fifteen days,” Gwyneth intoned. “That should put this short session into perspective. Is the governor asking too much of our elected officials by trying to pack a monthlong budget session with proposals aimed at things outside of the budget: social issues — guns, housing — and does this bring back last year’s talks to ‘modernize’ the state Legislature, extend the session, add paid staff, things like that?” 

Jessica pointed out that the so-called modernization debate isn’t likely to fade away anytime soon; nor are each of the dozens of items on the governor’s wish list likely to reach her desk by session’s end on Feb. 15. 

The back and forth reminded me of the scope of the work lawmakers face. New Mexico has grown an awful lot in the last several years, both in terms of the size of its annual budget and the severity of our challenges. Think education, climate change, police violence and poverty, to lightly run a fingernail over the surface. 

Let’s have a crack at all of that in the space of 30 days! Daunting, no? 

Jessica finished her answer to Gwyneth’s question thusly: “It’s definitely going to be interesting to watch, if not chaotic and hectic.” 

-Jeff Proctor, Executive Producer