Public access to Statehouse still banned amid pandemic

New Mexico

State Sen. Benny Shendo, right, speaks with a healthcare worker before receiving a routine COVID-19 test in the parking garage the state capital building Monday, June 15, 2020, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Shendo, of Jemez Pueblo, got the test along with other legislators and state workers ahead of a special session that starts June 18. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico will continue banning direct public access to the Statehouse in favor of remote internet video access as legislators gather this week to rewrite the state budget.

A divided Supreme Court rejected a petition Tuesday from nearly two dozen rank-and-file lawmakers to keep the doors of the Legislature open to the general public with a reduced limit on occupancy to guard against the coronavirus.

A bipartisan panel of leading lawmakers and their legal advisers insisted that public attendance would make it nearly impossible to avoid close human contact that allows COVID-19 to spread.

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