Senator Mimi Stewart, President Pro Tem, NM State Senate
Air Dates: April 17-19, 2021
THIS WEEK: Senator MIMI STEWART,
President Pro Tem of the New Mexico State Senate
· Accomplishments & Challenges Of The 60-Day Legislative Session & The Special Session
· Positives & Negatives of “Legislature-By-Zoom”
April 15, 2021 – This week’s guest on REPORT FROM SANTA FE is Senator Mimi Stewart, President Pro Tem of the New Mexico State Senate, with a follow-up show on the accomplishments and challenges of the recent 60-Day Legislative Session, as well as the Special Session.
As these were New Mexico's first pandemic-induced Zoom legislative sessions, Senator Stewart evaluates the positives and negatives of “legislature-by-Zoom.” The positives included increased access for some members of the public and the infusion of energy of dedicated and dynamic new lawmakers. But a lot of the pandemic public health protocols made it more difficult to conduct legislative business - the installation of plastic barriers between senators, the actual masks that muffle speech, the ability/inability to actually access the zoom meetings, the difficulty of amending and substituting bills.
The Zoom online format revealed some structural weaknesses in the traditional way of conducting legislative business, revealing such issues as unconscious bias, misogyny, bullying, and more. Because the Zoom world reduces actual human interactions, Stewart observed "What I have learned is how much gets done because of our personal interactions" in the traditional legislative sessions.
Many things did not work well when using Zoom. Senator Stewart explains, "I am looking at hiring people to actually do some training for our senate caucus. How do you relate to people that are so different from you and are coming from a different background and may need a little bit more diplomacy than the way you treated them?"
As the President Pro Tem of the NM Senate, Stewart is well placed to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of the pandemic accommodations in conducting the legislature, and make improvements where needed. The new lawmakers also provide fresh perspectives and will help ensure, as noted by Senator Stewart, “…that we all do better... I am hoping the new people, and my attempt at getting us some training will make some changes. We have to change. We are public servants...we need to act like it."
The Senator and both Houses gratefully recognize that the Legislative Council Service and Raul Burciaga had a difficult job in keeping everyone in the Capitol safe and supporting the public health requisites for containing coronavirus transmissions between lawmakers, staff, and media working in the Capitol.