Want to attend the upcoming special legislative session in December or the regular conclave scheduled for January live?
Get your proof of vaccination card ready. And keep those masks on.
The Legislative Council Service, which oversees procedures at the state Capitol, released its policies for the upcoming sessions Tuesday. It said the state Capitol will be open to the public for both sessions, though with some limits — including proof of COVID-19 vaccination for anyone coming into the Roundhouse.
The sessions are expected to be held in-person in the Capitol, but will be streamed for those wishing to watch online.
Given the continued rise in the number of people testing positive for coronavirus “it is incumbent on us to protect everyone in the Capitol complex while conducting the state’s business,” Raúl Burciaga, council director, said in a news release.
“I believe the measures being taken for the special and regular sessions will allow fro the work to get done while greatly minimizing the risk for COVID spread,” he said.
Republicans reacted quickly, questioning why those who aren’t vaccinated will be prohibited from entering the building.
“This policy set forth by the Legislative Council Service, at the directive of the Democrat leaders of the Legislature, is another overt attempt to operate without accountability from the public,” Senate Republican Leader Greg Baca and Senate Republican Whip Craig Brandt said in a statement.
Their Republican counterpart in the House, Minority Leader Jim Townsend, also criticized the move, recalling stringent security measures at the Capitol during the 2021 regular session.
“The public should find it eerily unnerving that the same politicians who have held public meetings in the Capitol and across the state, including a climate summit, now want to again limit public participation in our upcoming legislative sessions,” he said.
But Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, issued a statement in support of the move.
“With these protections against COVID-19 in place for the upcoming legislative sessions, we are ensuring the best protections for the public who wish to participate in the legislative process and for our staff who do critical work,” she said. “We are following CDC and OSHA recommendations based on the science and medical community’s advice.”
Policies for the special and regular sessions in the coming months include:
• Proof of full vaccination for anyone entering the facility.
• Protective masks will be required throughout the building.
• No tours will be held during the sessions.
• Neither the House of Representatives nor the Senate will use pages.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Burciaga said it’s possible mandatory coronavirus testing may be implemented, depending on both U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state Department of Health guidelines.
Earlier this month, lawmakers voted to prohibit all firearms and weapons at the Capitol effective Dec. 6, the day the special session on redistricting is expected to start. The news release said all members of the public “will be subject to magnetometer screening or a bag search while entering the building.”
Burciaga said the two main entrances to the Capitol will be open for the public and a private security firm will be hired to conduct the door checks. He said his agency is putting together a budget for these services.
In addition, handicapped accessible entrances will be used as well, he said.
Looking back at the last three times the state conducted a special session on redistricting, Burciaga said the sessions ran at least 10 days and, in at least one case, 19 days.
The regular 30-day legislative session, which will primarily focus on the state budget, is slated to begin at noon Jan. 18 and run through Feb. 17.