In episode 78 we discuss what's happening in Santa Fe at the legislative special session. It's a unique situation up there; COVID-19 precautions have led to a locked-in session with no opportunity for citizens to attend in person. But first, we hear from organizers of the Albuquerque Juneteenth celebration commemorating 155 years since the official end of slavery in Texas, with the entire United States following soon after.

Hosanna Scott and Kieran Freeman of Black Voices ABQ are spearheading the Juneteenth celebration in Albuquerque this year. They've taken safety precautions in light of COVID-19, but they say it's more important to celebrate freedom and continue to push for the racial equity that people of color have been fighting for for generations.

KUNM's Nash Jones describes the scene at the state capitol building during the locked-down special legislative session that started yesterday. The only public access is online–causing a ruckus yesterday when callers using Zoom to comment used racist language and others rambled off topic. Citizens and several lawmakers, too, have had trouble accessing bills electronically.

Mary Parr-Sanchez is president of the National Education Association of New Mexico. She says teachers' pay in New Mexico is on the low side compared to other states and that it's not keeping up with rising insurance prices or the cost of living. New Mexico is losing teachers. Further, COVID-19 has thrown a monkey wrench into the budget and school administrators are unsure how to reopen safely.

Andy Lyman from NM Political Report talks over some of the ideas lawmakers in the legislature have for police reform. With a bill to create a Civil Rights Commission and another for mandatory body cameras for all officers, there are likely some reforms on the horizon.

New Mexico Sen. Cliff Pirtle tells us that small businesses that were shuttered by COVID-19 precautions could be paid reparations by the state. He also suggests making small cuts to nearly all budget items to help offset the losses from the oil market crash that created a fiscal emergency in New Mexico.

And now a check-in on COVID-19 news:

This weekend, New Mexico reported 208 new cases, 105 of them at the Otero County Prison Facility, bringing the statewide total to 10,565. As of Sunday, 134 people are hospitalized and the health department has designated 4,684 cases are recovered.

In a briefing with news media on Friday, Health and Human Services Secretary David Scrase discussed the state's criteria for recovered cases, noting that cases are only certified as recovered for people who remain in contact with health officials. The "biggest gap between total cases and recovered cases is not the people in the hospital; it's people who didn't complete the follow-up," he said.

Discover more about Black Voices ABQ; Learn more about Juneteenth history

What do you think legislators should prioritize during the meeting this week? Is police reform your top issue? Maybe education, or the budget generally? Share your thoughts by calling (505) 218-7084 and leaving us a message. We may include it in a future episode.


Your New Mexico Government is a collaboration between KUNM, New Mexico PBS, and the Santa Fe Reporter. Funding for our coverage is provided, in part, by the Thornburg Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the New Mexico Local News Fund.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story contained inaccurate information about Pirtle's committee assignments.