During the 2021 New Mexico Legislative Session that ended on March 19, 158 bills were enacted. Friday, April 9, 2021 was the deadline for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to sign or veto any and all legislation enacted by the 2021 New Mexico Legislature’s 60-day session that ended on March 19. Any bills not signed by April 9, 2021 were automatically vetoed and it is referred to as the “pocket veto”.
Following is a breakdown of major bills signed into law:
House Bill 6: Allocates $60 million in federal Impact Aid to districts with vast amounts of tribal and other tax-exempt land. The funding will go to school districts that have a small tax base because they cover tax-exempt land for Native American communities and military bases. The state previously deducted much of the federal money from the districts’ funding allocation, blocking the funds from reaching their intended target.
House Bill 4 : Establishes the state Civil Rights Act. The Civil Rights Act was a major priority of the Governor. The law allows the filing of lawsuits in state District Court against a public agency and their employees, including police officers, for violation a person’s rights under the state Bill of Rights. The law also bars “qualified immunity” as a defense to the claims. Qualified Immunity is legal a legal defense available in federal court.
House Bill 10: Creates the “Connect New Mexico Council” to help coordinate broadband development.
House Bill 20: Requires private businesses to provide paid sick leave for their workers. The paid sick leave takes effect July, 2022. New Mexico joins 15 other states in requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave for their workers.
House Bill 29 and Senate Bill 80: Prohibits discrimination in schools based on a student’s cultural headdress or certain hairstyles, such as braids, cornrows or weaves.
House Bill 47: “End of Life” legislation. This bill enables patients who are terminally ill with the capacity to make informed decisions at the end of their lives to obtain medication for self-administration to help them avoid significant pain and suffering at the end of their lives. The legislation includes significant safeguards for patients and medical practitioners alike. A provider must, among other checks and balances, determine that the terminally ill patient has the mental capacity to make an informed and voluntary decision as well as the capacity to self-administer the medication.
House Bill 55: The bill adds transparency to the capital outlay process and requires the publication of how legislators allocate their capital outlay money. This is considered a transparency measure under debate for years and has been resisted by legislators.
House Bill 68: Expanding the Space Flight Informed Consent Act.
House Bill 76: Allowing denial of air-quality permits to companies convicted of environmental crimes in other states.
House Bill 128: Imposes new reporting requirements for misconduct by school personnel.
HB 177: The Homemade Food Act allows people to sell homemade foods directly to consumers, including out of their home, online and through the mail. It eliminates the burdensome permit requirement that is currently required by the state Environmental Department. It legalizes sales in Albuquerque. New Mexico had one of the strictest laws in the country on homemade food sales with 49 states allowing the sale of foods made in a home kitchen.
House Bill 222: Establishes an ombudsman’s office to investigate and resolve problems with special education.
House Bill 231: Protects polling locations on Native American land.
House Bill 234: Increases oversight of the state’s guardianship system, including new subpoena powers for the State Auditor’s office to access records.
House Bill 266: Requires additional training for certain special education teaching licenses.
House Bill 270: Permitting the testing of self-driving vehicles on New Mexico roads.
House Bill 291: Low Income Comprehensive Tax Rebate and the Working Families Tax Credit. The bill allows the maximum rebate for tax breaks for low-income families to increase from $450 to $730 per year, depending on family size and income levels. According to the Taxation and Revenue Department upwards of 550,000 New Mexico taxpayers will be able to benefit from the tax breaks or about 55% of the total number of state personal income tax filers. Under the legislation, 42,000 New Mexicans from the ages 18 to 24 who were previously not eligible for the Working Families Tax Credit, along with roughly 10,000 immigrant workers who are not U.S. citizens will be allowed to claim the credits.
House Bill 317: Creates new health care affordability fund financed by higher surtax on insurance companies.
Senate Bill 1 (special session): Expands the Local Economic Development Act to allow new incentives designed to recruit large companies to New Mexico. The law authorizes some of the tax revenue generated by large-scale construction projects of $350 million or more be recaptured and used by the state’s “closing fund” to offset the costs of business expansions and relocations.
Senate Bill 8: Allows the state and local governments to set pollution control standards that are stricter than those imposed by the federal government.
Senate Bill 17: Allocates $30 million over the next two years to schools serving a concentration of low-income families with the funding earmarked for math, reading and other programs to support students.
Senate Bill 32: The legislation will ban traps, snares and wildlife poisons on public land. It passed the New Mexico House by one vote, 35-34.
Senate Bill 40: Makes it easier to participate in extended learning and K-5 Plus programs.
Senate Bill 42: Increases taxpayer-funded contributions into the pension system for educators. Government employers will increase their contributions into the fund by 1% for each of the next two years. Legislative finance analysts project the cost will be $34 million in 2022 and $68 million in 2023 fiscal years.
Senate Bill 84: The Community Solar Act is enabling legislation that allows residential consumers, small businesses and some public institutions to directly purchase solar-generated electricity from private developers who will build and operate community-scale facilities around the state. A broad coalition of clean energy advocates supported the bill to provide renters, low-income households, and commercial and government entities that lack capacity for rooftop installations to tap into solar generation.
Senate Bill 93: Establishes a state Office of Broadband Access and Expansion. New Mexico has ranked among the worst states in broadband access. According to a Legislative Council services report 21% of students in public schools in the state live in households without internet subscriptions, according to a 2020 legislative report.
Senate Bill 94: This bill makes major changes when it comes to college sports and allows college athletes to earn money from endorsements and similar work. NCAA rules prohibit such earnings by collegiate and the places New Mexico in conflict with NCAA rules. Nonetheless other states have passed similar legislation thereby placing pressure on NCAA to modernize its rules for student-athletes.
Senate Bill 140: This bill updates New Mexico’s child support laws to avoid the loss of $148 million in federal funding.
Senate Bill 160: This extends public financing to District Court candidates. Currently, public finance is available to Court of Appeals and Supreme Court candidates.
Senate Bill 219: Removing citizenship or legal residency requirements for certain occupational licenses.
Senate Bill 223: This bill authorizes $22 million in cigarette tax revenue bonds to expand the Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of New Mexico.
Senate Bill 304: Establishing the Citizen Redistricting Committee. The bill establishes a 7-member committee to propose 3 maps for New Mexico’s congressional and legislative districts. The 7-member committee is designed to limit the political influence over the redistricting of federal congressional and state district legislative districts. A retired appellate Judge will chair the committee. Legislators retain the authority to select one of the maps or amend them. Under the bill, the Redistricting Committee cannot rely on partisan or party-registration data to draw district maps. It can consider the addresses of incumbents only to avoid pairing them in one district while weighing other criteria.
GOVERNOR SIGNS $7.4 Billion Budget
On April 9, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the $7.4 billion dollar budget bill enacted by the state legislature during the 2021 regular legislative session. The budget includes investments for public education, early childhood well-being, economic development and pandemic relief, and behavioral health and infrastructure.
KEY APPROVED APPROPRIATIONS
The approved and signed budget includes:
Spending will increase 5% over the amended fiscal year 2021 budget, with 36% of new General Fund spending going to education initiatives.
Budget includes 1.5% raises for public school and higher ed personnel, as well as state employees and frontline health and social service workers.
$30.7 million increase to the Human Services Department to expand mental health and substance use disorder services.
$17.5 million increase for projects funded through the Local Economic Development Act.
$12 million in additional funding for the Opportunity Scholarship and Lottery Scholarship.
$17 million to restore and revitalize the state’s all-important tourism economic sector as New Mexico works toward the end of the COVID-19 pandemic
$300 million for roadway infrastructure and improvements.
HOUSE BILL 285
The governor also signed House Bill 285 which funds more than $511 million in projects across the state, including:
$10 million for improvements at correctional and health facilities
$12.5 million for Local Economic Development Act projects.
$52 million for tribal projects.
Nearly $48 million for public safety projects
$61 million for water and wastewater projects.
$49 million for higher ed institutions.
Upwards of $34 million for public schools.
$53 million for road projects.
More than $8 million for acequias, ditches and dams.
Gov. Lujan Grisham issued the following statement:
“This budget is responsible and responsive to the needs of New Mexicans right now and in the future. This legislative season has been a remarkable success for New Mexicans in every corner of our state – with almost a billion dollars in new targeted pandemic relief for businesses and workers and more, with groundbreaking new initiatives in economic development and health care and environmental protection, and with, finally, a solid and sustainable budget that maintains and increases funding for key programs that benefit children and families and workers while ensuring our reserves remain robust and healthy. I want to thank the Legislature and Department of Finance and Administration staff for their diligent work throughout this budget process.”
Links to news sources are here:
Friday, April 10, was the deadline to sign or veto bills enacted in the 2021 legislative session. In total, she vetoed 12 bills with veto messages outlining her objections, and she “pocket vetoed” 6 more bills without taking action.
Included in the vetoes were the following:
House Bill 103: This bill sought to raise about $179,000 in revenue through changes to fees paid by water and sewer utilities. In her veto message, Lujan Grisham described the fee increases as unreasonable.
House Bill 240: This bill was to fund a 24-hour emergency health care facility to Valencia County and allowed certain property tax revenue in Valencia County to be dedicated to the effort.
Senate Bill 328: This bill would have allowed for the extension of a water and sanitation gross receipts tax beyond the initial six years approved by voters. Lujan Grisham said voters should decide whether to extend the tax.
Senate Bill 375: This bill would have required annual training of all law enforcement in de-escalation techniques, crisis intervention and responding to people in a mental health crisis. In her veto message, the Governor said she did not object to the extra training but said she couldn’t support the bill because it would have changed the composition of the Law Enforcement Academy Board, weakening civilian oversight.
The governor vetoed 18 of the 158 bills sent to her by the Legislature in the regular session, a rejection rate of 11%. According to legislative records, Republican Susana Martinez, who served from 2011-18, vetoed about 28% of the bills passed during regular sessions of her administration, and Democrat Bill Richardson, who served from 2003-10, rejected about 15%, according to legislative records.
The listing of all bills signed and vetoed can be found at this link:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Although Friday, April 9, 2021 was the deadline for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to sign or veto any and all legislation enacted by the 2021 New Mexico Legislature’s 60-day session that ended on March 19, the deadline does no apply to the Special Session. The Governor has more time to sign the legislation legalizing the retail sales of marijuana that was passed in the 2-day special session. The Governor has until April 20 to sign it and the accompanying bills regarding the expungement of cannabis related convictions.