In Rep. Rod Montoya’s view, this year’s legislative session was “terrific.”

That is, for criminals, those wanting to close New Mexico businesses and lawyers looking to sue governmental agencies.

The Farmington Republican and around 20 other members of the GOP held a news conference Saturday afternoon to express disappointment over how this year’s session played out.

While Democratic lawmakers lauded their success in repealing a decades-old law criminalizing abortion, expanding tax credits for some New Mexicans and enforcing stricter environmental protections for the state, Republicans decried a lack of focus on issues that matter to working families.

Legalizing cannabis, enacting a state civil rights law that can hurt government workers and drawing down from the state’s permanent funds for any reason are not among those priorities, they said.

“If you look at all of the priorities that were presented, all of the big bills that were supposed to be done that were priorities [of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Democrats], they are not priorities of middle-class, taxpaying, traditional New Mexicans,” Montoya said. “That’s who lost.”

Referring to efforts to legalize the use of recreational cannabis — which may lead to a special session later this month — he said that if you look at what people in the state “really, really care about, pot is not up there.”

Republican leaders in the House of Representatives and the Senate used the occasion to once again call for the removal of a protective fence and barriers surrounding the Roundhouse, put in place just before the session began in January in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

“We have the public fenced off from their own building that they paid for,” said Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca, R-Belen. “We had no participation from them. We had no participation from outside interests who wanted to come in and discuss their problems.”

He said he hopes the fencing is down by the time the governor convenes a special session to push for cannabis legalization. The governor said the fence likely will be down by that time, though that decision is in the hands of the Legislative Council Service, which oversees the Capitol.

Republican lawmakers in both legislative chambers generally fought against most Democratic initiatives in this year’s session — well aware, perhaps, that theirs was a losing struggle. Democrats outnumber Republicans in both chambers by an almost 2-to-1 ratio.

House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, often has said the ideological conflict in the state is not one of politics — Republicans versus Democrats — but of geographical differences, which leads to clashes over how best to steward the land and how much government should play a role in an individual’s life choices, among other differences.

“There continues to be the urban-rural divide that plagues our state,” Townsend said Saturday. “The ability to look and listen to people who live in a different area of the state who have different [beliefs], who have different traditions, who have different lifestyles … that’s what we should build on.”

Republicans did work with Democrats on at least two big issues: redistricting and overhauling the state’s liquor license laws. But on many other issues — how best to tackle the state’s crime problem, whether to tap money from the state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund for education and how to support the public school system — they were mostly at odds with their Democratic counterparts.

And with the numbers favoring the Democrats, the best the Republicans could do, in many cases, was try to score votes from the other side in lengthy debates on the floors of their respective chambers.

In the end, they said, they represent both Democrats and Republicans in their mostly rural districts, and they may know best about what those people want.

Simply put, Montoya said after the news conference was over, many New Mexicans want to know, “Do I have a job?”

General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.

(8) comments

Grace Trujillo

The GOP are not there for working families of NM. Gerry Mandering Iredistricting) is not benefiting our people, it is benefit your party. We didn't want it but you had to push on it.

You should have approved the Legalization of Cannabis. The taxes from sales would have help create jobs and help the people in our communities with Substance Abuse Problems. For decades, NM has desperately needed Rehabilitation Facilities (that we lack in our state) but the GOP did not think of this either.

zach miller

so the GOP does nothing but sit on their hands the entire legislative session, and then when it is over they complain they didn't get anything done.

They party of "I can't even remember what my last argument was, even when its in the same sentence."

Cleve Spence

One thing is for certain the GOP never cares about working family! When it comes to small business and working families the GOP is all talk and no do!

Joseph Tafoya

That's why the Gov is going to call a special "Joint Legislation".

Stefanie Beninato

Succession of counties from NM, going on daylight savings time all year, putting In God We Trust on license plates are really going to help middle class New Mexicans.

zach miller

don't forget something about disallowing people to marry one another and forcing a publisher to publish books it doesn't want to anymore. Super important stuff.

Jerry Appel

New Mexico has either in last or next to last with the highest poverty rate, so the Republican call to help working families is only to help those already working? As to rural versus urban, this is another attempt to divide the electorate. Passing upgraded rules that require a cleaner environment helps everybody to stay healthier and safer instead of allowing businesses to ignore those facts in the unholy pursuit of profits. Speaking of helping working people, passing a recreational cannabis law will help working people start new businesses and raise new taxes, but maybe the Republicans are worried that their liquor store contributors will lose business to cannabis retailers. I know law enforcement will be happier because it can mean fewer drunk men going home and beating up women. Pot smokers tend to just want to eat and chill instead of get violent as all too many drunkards do.

Angel Ortiz

The GOP actually wants us to believe about working families? Pure rhetoric. They had Susanna for 8 years and all they did was dismantle programs that were doing exactly that.

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