New Mexico lawmakers will return to the state Capitol for a special session in early April, about six weeks after their regular session ended, to consider financial relief for residents and a revised appropriations measure.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced late Friday the session will begin April 5.

The agenda includes an effort to ease the burden on New Mexicans grappling with high gasoline and grocery prices and a $50.4 million bill the governor vetoed earlier this month. The legislation, known among lawmakers as the “junior bill,” would fund hundreds of initiatives in their districts.

“As prices remain high nationwide, it is clear that we must act swiftly to deliver more relief to New Mexicans,” Lujan Grisham said in a news release issued Friday evening.

“Across the state, families are facing hard choices: can they afford to take their kids to school, to drive to work, to buy baby formula,” she said. “It is our responsibility to do what we can to ease that burden.”

The governor’s announcement ends speculation about whether the Legislature would convene an extraordinary session to override her veto of the junior bill, Senate Bill 48, a move that raised the ire of Democrats and Republicans alike.

In an executive message to lawmakers, Lujan Grisham said the bill circumvented the usual budget and capital outlay vetting process. She said she remained “unconvinced” the distribution of more than $50 million for projects across the state “upholds principles of fiscal responsibility.”

In some cases, Lujan Grisham wrote, projects were not fully funded. She also expressed concern about unfunded recurring expenses.

Following the governor’s veto, some lawmakers called for an extraordinary session, which, unlike a special session, doesn’t require a call from the governor. The Legislature also sets the agenda for such a session.

But there’s a high bar to convene an extraordinary session: Three-fifths of the lawmakers in each of the two chambers would have to approve of the move. And overriding a veto requires yes votes from two-thirds of them.

Democrats in the House and Senate held two private caucus meetings to discuss the idea without taking action.

Given this is an election year, a potential battle over the bill between the heavily Democratic Legislature and Lujan Grisham, also a Democrat, could have caused some political fallout.

Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca, a Republican from Belen, called her decision to hold a special session a political stunt.

“This special session is nothing more than a desperate attempt by the Governor to salvage her bid for reelection,” Baca said in a statement Friday night. “Her vindictive veto of a reasonable spending bill to fund law enforcement equipment, senior centers, aftercare programs, and other needs is inexcusable.”

The governor’s news release said she and Democratic leaders “worked in partnership to agree on parameters for a revised bill, including ensuring that projects are appropriately budgeted as recurring or non-recurring funding.”

Sen. Nancy Rodriguez, D-Santa Fe, on Thursday noted New Mexico is experiencing flush economic times with record oil and gas revenues. “To have a special session to give New Mexicans reprieve over these rising costs that seem to be hitting us in the face every day is important,” she said.

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.

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