On February 17, the 2022 New Mexico Legislature 30 day legislative session came to an end at 12:00 noon referred to officially as “sine die.”
At it concluded, the 2022 New Mexico Legislative session approved an $8.48 billion state budget, the largest budget in state history. The budget bill boosts state spending by $1 billion, nearly 14%, over current budget levels. The enacted budget includes increases in spending for public education, raises for educators, state employees and state police as well as funds going towards initiatives for local economic development projects and housing programs for homeless people.
The enacted budget was the result of a Senate and House Conference Committee that worked out the final details of the budget. The Conference Committee report was introduced and heard in both Senate and House Chambers with the committee report adopted in both chambers. The enacted budget now goes to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for signature, but subject to line-item vetoes.
HIGHLIGHTS OF ENACTED BUGET
The newly enacted budget relies on the windfall in state government income from record surpluses from oil and production royalties and federal pandemic aid. The major highlights of the enacted 2022-2023 enacted budget are as follows:
Annual spending on K-12 grade public education is increased by $425 million to $3.87 billion, a 12% boost.
Starting July 1, the base pay for teachers will rise to $50,000, $60,000 and $70,000 depending on the level of a teacher. According to a fiscal impact report, New Mexico’s average teacher salary was just under $55,000 a year. That’s lower than Colorado, Texas and Utah, but higher than Arizona and Oklahoma.
On teacher pay, legislators approved a measure to allow Indigenous language teachers to be paid at the same rate as their peers, even if they don’t have an undergraduate degree. For Native American language teachers paid as teaching assistants in many districts, their salaries could triple.
Significant salary increases for judges is provided. The bill calls for a state Supreme Court justice to be paid in line with federal magistrates, or about $205,000 a year, a 33% raise of what justices makes now. Appeals and District Court judges would see similar increases because their salaries are set as percentages of what higher-ranking justices or judges make.
Annual Medicaid spending is increase by roughly $240 million to $1.3 billion as the federal government winds down pandemic-related subsidies to the program that gives free health care to the impoverished.
The budget contains salary increases of 7% for school districts and state government staff across the state. A minimum hourly wage of $15 for public employees and higher base salaries for teachers is provided.
The salaries for state police is increased by nearly 16%.
The enacted budget extends free college tuition to most New Mexico residents pursuing two- and four-year degrees. $75 million is allocated to the “opportunity scholarship” program, providing free tuition and fees for New Mexico residents. Unlike the existing lottery scholarship, it would be open to adults long after high school graduation and could be used for part-time course loads.
The enacted budget fully funds home-based care for thousands of people who have had severe disabilities since childhood.
The budget underwrites new intervention programs aimed at curbing gun violence.
Pregnancy-related Medicaid coverage is extended for a year afterbirths, up from two months, by spending $14 million. Most births in New Mexico are covered by Medicaid.
The budget bill funds an initiative from the governor to establish a training academy for the film industry run by a consortium of existing state colleges and universities.
The new budget provides $650,000 to found a climate change bureau as the state expands the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.
$1 Million in funding is provided to the Regulation & Licensing Department for cannabis control program operations.
$500,000 funding is provided for the crime victims reparation commission.
BUDGET FUNDING THAT FAILED
The final budget that made it oui of the conference committee, made up of House and Senate members, also eliminated funding. The conference committee eliminated $125 million for hydrogen hub tax credits and gave $50 million of that to broadband partnerships instead.
The unused hydrogen money will be used to increase reserves to more than 29%.
The conference committee also deleted budget language making law enforcement officer recruitment bonuses contingent on passage of a broad crime package.
Two items that also failed to make it onto the conference report include an item that would have appropriated $30 million dollars from the general fund for expansion of health care delivery systems and rural health care delivery systems in the Human Services Department as well as funding to New Mexico State University for soil and water conservation.
The links to related and quoted news sources are here:
$827 PUBLIC WORKS BILL PASSED
The 2022 New Mexico legislature enacted Senate Bill 212, a $827.7 million public works projects package. The capital outlay bill includes $4.5 million for improvements at the State Fairgrounds in Albuquerque and $20 million for construction of a new New Mexico Veterans’ Home in Truth or Consequences. The bill includes money for school repairs, watershed restoration efforts and the construction of a new state government building. The total dollar amount represents more than 3,600 different projects around the state.
A separate bill funds $259 million in projects for higher education institutions, senior centers and libraries.
Major public works projects included in the $827.7 million public works Senat Bill 212 include:
$75 million from the public-school capital outlay fund to the public-school facilities to make a distribution to each school district in fiscal year 2023 for the maintenance and repair of public-school buildings. This is the single largest line
$20 million for new administration building for the Department of Public Safety in Albuquerque.
$20 million to update the Veterans’ Home at T or C. The Governor had originally requested $60 million.
$4.5 million for state fair improvements.
$3,280,000 to purchase and equip a helicopter for the sheriff’s office in San Juan county.
$3,000,000 to plan, design and reconstruct the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater at the Santa Fe Indian School.
$300,000 to plan, design and construct street improvements, including intersection safety improvements, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and traffic calming devices, throughout senate district 16 in Albuquerque represented by Democrat Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez.
$25,000 to plan, design and construct a memorial commemorating lives lost to the coronavirus disease pandemic in Albuquerque. Future generations will take note.
$6,000 to purchase an enclosure for an excavator for the acequia de Arriba in Taos county.
CRIME PACKAGE PASSES
House Bill 68 passed and it enhances some criminal penalties and offers retention bonuses to experienced police officers at certain stages of their career. House Bill 68 calls for increased criminal penalties for violent felons found to be in possession of a firearm. It includes a sentencing enhancement for individuals convicted of possessing a gun during aggravated burglary or drug deals. The firearms in question could also be subject to seizure and forfeiture under the proposed legislation. It also creates a crime of making a threat of violence targeted at schools or other public places. It would also require the judiciary to share ankle monitor data for pretrial defendants with law enforcement if needed for an investigation, among other provisions.
House Bill 68 includes efforts to expand police training and oversight, with funding for alternatives to traditional prosecution and incarceration. New Mexico would overhaul police training and oversight, hire more state district judges, and enhance criminal penalties for threatening a judge and for certain felons in possession of a firearm.
Legislators rejected “pretrial detention bill which would have created a “rebuttable presumption of dangerousness” for defendants charged with certain violent crimes. The rebuttable presumption bill shifted the burden of proof from state prosecutors, who must prove a case “beyond a reasonable doubt” to convict, to the defendant who would have to show they are not a danger to the public in order to be allowed to be released pending trial. The crime bill instead expands surveillance of criminal defendants as they await trial, with 24-hour monitoring of ankle-bracelet tracking devices.
TAX PACKAGE PASSES
The tax cut legislation House Bill 163 passed both the House and Senate. The tax relief package slightly reduce gross receipts taxes on sales and services by a paultry 0.25%, eliminate taxes on Social Security income for individuals earning $100,000 or less, and provide a per-child tax credit of up to $175 to parents. More than the $400 million set aside for tax changes in the budget bill.
House Bill 163, reduces the state’s gross receipts tax rate by 0.25% and exempts Social Security retirement income from taxation up to a certain income amount.
House Bill 163 includes a $250 tax rebate for all New Mexico adults who make less than $75,000 annually. Married couples filing jointly with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000 per year would get a $500 tax rebate. An annual income tax credit of up to $175 per child is also included.
“BUY NEW MEXICO” BILL 39 PASSES
Senate Bill 39 aimed at increasing New Mexico businesses’ standing for bidding preference and boosting Native American and veteran-owned businesses also passed.
The highlights of Senate Bill 39 are as follows:
Increase the bidding preference of New Mexico businesses seeking state and local government contracts from 5% to 8%.
Allow Native American businesses operating on tribal land to qualify as certified New Mexico resident businesses and receive the same bidding preference as other in-state companies.
Renew the 10% bidding preference for certified New Mexico resident veteran businesses.
Double the annual revenues cap for New Mexico veteran-owned businesses receiving the 10% bidding preference from revenues of $3 million to revenues of $6 million.
PAYDAY LOAN INTEREST RATES LOWERED
In consumer protection efforts, the 2022 Legislature enacted a bill caps annual interest rates on storefront loans at 36%, down from the very oppressive 175%. As a concession to the payday loan industry, a fee of 5% can be charged on loans of up to $500, and the maximum size of an installment loan is doubled to $10,000.
LEGISLATION THAT FAILED
There were 3 major legislation initiatives that Governor Lujan Grisham actively supported that failed: pretrial detention, the hydrogen development act and the voting right bill.
The controversial “Pre Trial Detention”, with versions introduced ib both the House and Senate, failed to pass either chamber. The proposal was backed by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller leaving all 3 of them looking somewhat foolish being unable to secure passage of the bill. Both Torrez and Keller went out of their way to testify in committees supporting the bill and lobby for passage.
Supporters of the bill, including families of those killed, said the legislation would be a commonsense step toward reducing crime. They argued it would keep dangerous offenders behind bars until trial and ensure they don’t commit new offenses. Opponents of the bill, especially the New Mexico Defense bar, challenged the the constitutionality of the proposal and said it would do little to reduce New Mexico’s violent crime rates.
Links to news sources are here:
The pretrial detention legislation would have created a “rebuttable presumption of dangerousness” for defendants charged with certain violent crimes. Under current state law, prosecutors are required to convince a judge in an evidentiary hearing that a charged defendant poses and immediate threat of violence to the public and to hold the defendant in jail until trial and not allow bond. The rebuttable presumption bill shifted the burden of proof from state prosecutors, who must prove a case “beyond a reasonable doubt” to convict, to the defendant who would have to show they are not a danger to the public in order to be allowed to be released pending trial. As written the bill was likely “unconstitutional” and violated the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
On January 20, the influential Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) released a 14-page memo analysis of the proposed “rebuttable presumption of violence” system and pretrial detention. LFC analysts found that low arrest, prosecution and conviction rates have more to do with rising violent crime rates than releasing defendants who are awaiting trial. The LFC report called into serious question if violent crime will be brought down by using a violent criminal charge to determine whether to keep someone accused of a crime in jail pending trial. According to the LFC report, rebuttable presumption is “a values-based approach, not an evidence-based one.” The LFC report said that while crime rates have increased, arrests and convictions have not. The LFC went on to say the promise of “swift and certain” justice has a more significant impact on crime rates that rebuttable presumption does not.
The link to a related blog article is here:
HYDROGEN HUB DEVELOPMENT ACT
The Hydrogen Hub Development Act failed after two separate bills went down to defeat and died in committee. The original Hydrogen Hub Development Act was tabled on a bipartisan 6-4 vote last month in the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee after aggressive opposition from environmental organizations. A second substitute bill was offered and it to was withdrawn.
The link to quoted news source material is here:
The Hydrogen Hub Development Act would have created a legal framework for hydrogen energy development in the state. Lujan Grisham Administration government officials and the oil and gas industry argued that the development of the state’s hydrogen can provide a tool for the transition to a clean energy economy. Supporters argued that hydrogen has many potential applications as a relatively clean-burning fuel that doesn’t emit carbon dioxide. Governor Lujan Grisham promoted the bill as a way to significantly boost efforts to lower carbon emissions in New Mexico while at the same time creating a whole new industry that offers sustainable, high-paying jobs. Environmentalists strenuously spoke out against it, citing widespread fear that promoting and accelerating hydrogen development with government incentives would hurt, rather than help, state efforts to combat climate change. Environmentalists argue that large-scale hydrogen production would do little to lower carbon emissions, perhaps make them worse, because hydrogen is made with natural gas that has a huge amount of carbon dioxide.
The link to a related blog article is here:
VOTING RIGHTS BILL DIES
Senate Bill 144, the voting right bill, failed to be enacted by the Senate after passage in the House. Der Führer Trump Republican Senator William Sharer, R-Farmington, effectively killed the measure with a filibuster on the Senate floor. In order to run out the clock on the legislative session, Sharer talked about San Juan River fly-fishing, baseball rules, Navajo Code Talkers and the celestial alignment of the sun and moon during his lengthy filler buster on the Senate floor.
The bill would have done the following:
1. Established a permanent absentee voter list.
2. Allowed voters to sign up once to receive absentee ballots for every general election, rather than having to apply for one each time.
3. Established a Native American voting rights act.
4. Directed counties to offer two secured, monitored drop boxes for absentee ballots.
5. Made it a crime to threaten or intimidate state and county election officials.
6. Restored the voting rights of people convicted of a felony upon release from incarceration, rather than after they’ve completed probation or parole.
Senate Bill 144 was sponsored by Albuquerque area Democrat Senator Katy Duhigg, a former Albuquerque city clerk in charge of elections, and Corrales Area Democrat Representative Daymon Ely. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham a d Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver had made its passage a priority.
HOUSE SPEAKER BRIAN EGOLF ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT
In a surprise and unexpected announcement, New Mexico House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, announced at the conclusion of the 2022 New Mexico Legislative Session, that he will not run for reelection this year for his District 47 seat. Speaker Egolf told the House of Representatives shortly before noon and the end of the session:
“This is the last time I will speak to you from this rostrum during the conclusion of a regular legislative session. … It’s time to put my young family first. … Neither District 47 or the [House] leadership belong to me. I will always count you as my colleagues but also, more importantly, as my friends.””
Egolf, 45, who has served as speaker since 2017, is considered one of the most influential politicians in New Mexico, as well as a vocal leader of progressive wing of the state’s Democratic Party. Speaker Egolf is an experiences and respected civil rights attorney. Members of the House stood and applauded Egolf as the session came to an end.
A new House speaker will be chosen next January.
The link to quoted news source material is here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Given the sure magnitude of the historic $8.48 budget enacted as well as the massive $827 public works bill enacted, the 30 day 2022 legislative session can be declared a success. The failure to pass the voting rights act was disappointing. Some would say the failure of the pretrial detention legislation was disappointing , but other anti-crime legislation passed and a more realistic approach is being taken to improve the criminal justice system. The failure of the hydrogen industry legislation should come as a shock to anyone given the complexity of the legislation and considering it in a 30 session was a bad fit from the get go.
Now on to the 2022 mid term elections.