March 9 at 12:00 noon was the deadline for Governor Michell Lujan Grisham to sign into law, or to veto any legislation enacted by the 2022 New Mexico 30-day legislative session that ended on February 17. This blog article reports on the legislation sign, vetoed or “pocket vetoed” by Governor Lujan Grisham.
BUDGET SIGNED INTO LAW
Governor MLG signed off on the $8.48 billion state budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year that commences on July 1, 2022. It is the largest budget in state history. The budget bill boosts state spending by $1 billion, nearly 14%, over current budget levels. The oil and gas revenue windfall has created historical revenues for the state giving lawmakers the ability to increase spending in education and to fund starting teacher pay to $50,000 annually and provide state employees with 7% pay raises.
The Governor signed off on a budget that includes increases in spending for public education, raises salaries 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 budget the Governor signed earmarks $130 million of unspent federal relief funds to bolster a lottery scholarship program so that college students who qualify would have all tuition costs covered for the next 4 years. The budget also appropriates more than $51 million to expand student enrollment and faculty numbers at New Mexico nursing programs, while also providing more financial aid for nursing students.
BUDGET LINE-ITEM VETOES
The Governor did use her line-item veto authority to eliminate some funding such as proposed spending for guardrails and $50 million for law enforcement officer recruitment and retention that was to be administered via stipends and only for law enforcement agencies that use a community policing model. She left intact funding for the State Fair and other entities negatively impacted by the pandemic. The Governor also vetoed several references to “public health orders” issued by her administration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying some of the vetoed language unlawfully intruded into the executive branch’s managerial duties.
REACTION TO BUDGET
Lujan Grisham described the overall budget plan an “unprecedented opportunity” to bolster New Mexico families. She had this to say:
“This budget makes transformative investments exactly where they’re needed: From historic raises for New Mexico educators and growing the country’s most expansive tuition-free college program to creating a new fund to hire public safety officers and unprecedented funding to fight food insecurity.”
Democrat from Las Cruces Rep. Nathan Small, the vice chairman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, said the spending infusions would fortify the state in key areas and has this to say:
“The historic investments we are making today will help us diversify our economy, create jobs, create our clean energy future, and ensure children across New Mexico get the high-quality education they deserve.”
CAPITAL OUTLAY BILLS SIGNED
The Governor signed into law 4 capital outlay bills, including Senate Bill 212, a $827.7 million public works projects package. The capital outlay package, primarily funded by bonds backed by future severance tax revenue, that appropriates $20 million for creation of a new state film academy and $20 million to rebuild the New Mexico State Veterans’ Home in Truth or Consequences.
The capital outlay bill includes $4.5 million for improvements at the State Fairgrounds in Albuquerque and $20 million for construction of a 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.
Major public works projects included in the $827.7 million public works bill are:
$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 ground 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.
Lujan Grisham used her line-item veto authority to strike down $4.6 million worth of proposed projects, primarily smaller projects like $60,000 to study constructing a new building at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque.
Governor MLG also signed a separate $258.8 million package of university, senior center and library projects funded by property tax dollars that will go before New Mexico voters in November. She also vetoed some spending language that limited how proposed capital outlay dollars could be spent.
CONTROVERSIAL “REBUTABLE PRESUMPTION” TO JAIL PENDING TRIAL REPLACED WITH 24 HOUR MONITORING BY COURTS
Governor Lujan Grisham signed off on the sweeping crime package passed that was a result of significant compromising. The most controversial provisions in the crime package involved the elimination of “rebuttable presumption” in pretrial detention and replacing it a 24 hour court monitoring program.
The Governor wanted major changes to “pretrial detention” which would have created a “rebuttable presumption of dangerousness” for defendants charged with certain violent crimes. Lujan Grisham wanted lawmakers to make it easier to keep defendants charged with violent crimes in jail until trial.
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 legislature rejected the “rebuttable presumption” legislation due to its likely unconstitutionality and practical concerns and instead enacted expanded.
The enacted and now sign crime bill legislation mandates the courts to provide greater supervision of defendants by requiring courts to share ankle monitoring data with law enforcement agencies upon request. It requires the courts to turn over GPS monitoring data to police and prosecutors during a criminal investigation to allow better tracking of pretrial defendants on electronic monitoring in an effort to prevent a charge defendant awaiting trial from committing another crime. The crime bill as enacted expands surveillance of criminal defendants as they await trial with 24-hour monitoring of ankle-bracelet tracking devices.
New Mexico’s 14 district attorneys, though the District Attorneys Association, urged Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to veto language in the bill that provides the GPS information be shared without a warrant if there’s a “reasonable suspicion” to believe the data would provide relevant evidence. The state’s prosecutors contended the proposal would narrow their access to the location data of defendants who wear an ankle monitor before trial.
The District Attorneys and law enforcement argued “reasonable suspicion” makes it too difficult for them to obtain information about suspects’ recent whereabouts and could actually allow defendants to commit more crimes while on release.
But Senator Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, said the governor could not partially veto the bill under the state Constitution, since it was not a spending bill. He also described the legislation as a timely response to recent troubling crime trends, citing specifically a provision in the bill banning choke-holds and making other changes to law enforcement training. Cervantes said:
“It’s intended to put an emphasis on a less-militaristic approach to law enforcement,”
OTHER PROVISIONS IN CRIME BILL SIGNED
Other legislation signed into law by the Governor are:
1. Establish programs to recruit and retain law enforcement officers.
2. Allocate $50 million from the budget to establish an officer recruitment fund.
3. Strengthen penalties for gun crimes, including a felon in possession of a firearm and using a firearm to commit a felony.
4. Create criminal statutes for violent threats, property damage and chop shops.
5. Eliminate the statute of limitations for second-degree murder.
6. Increase to $1 million the death benefits for families of peace officers killed in the line of duty.
7. Establish the Violence Intervention Program Act and allocate $9 million from the budget to establish intervention programs statewide.
8. Allocate crime reduction grants, accompanied by $2 million in the budget for the grants.
The crime bill changes law enforcement training by banning choke-holds and teaching de-escalation techniques.
The crime bill bars the use of the “gay panic defense,” which involves defendants asserting the discovery of a person’s gender or sexual orientation caused them to harm the victim.
The bill redefines the role and composition of the Law Enforcement Academy Board and splits the board’s functions into two separate entities.
The legislation also creates new judges for the 2nd, 5th and 13th judicial districts.
In a statement after signing the crime package into law, Lujan Grisham had this to say:
“Every New Mexican deserves to feel safe in their communities – and they are demanding action from their government. … [This bill] expands upon the transformational work we’ve done in previous years, strengthening our state’s public safety system and making streets safer in every New Mexico community.”
Links to quoted news sources are here:
GOVERNOR SIGNS TAX PACKAGE INTO LAW
On March 9, the Governor also signed into law House Bill 163 which is a $529.7 million tax package. The tax package was approved by lawmakers in the last few days of the session. The tax package will cost the state an estimated $529.7 million for the fiscal 2022-2023 budget year that starts on July 1. Legislators backing the tax legislation claim that spending will increase and will help New Mexico families and businesses, while also boosting consumer activity.
Some of the provisions take effect on July 1, the beginning or the new fiscal year, while others are delayed until later.
The major highlights of the tax bill signed into law are:
Social Security retirement income is exempt from taxation for individual retirees who make less than $100,000 annually and remains intake for those who make over $100,000 a year in retirement. The income cut-off for married couples filing jointly is set at $150,000 per year.
Until now, New Mexico was just one of 12 states that levied a tax on social security income. Critics of the social security state tax exemption said the proposal would primarily benefit higher-income New Mexicans, since the state’s personal income tax is only levied on income above $24,800 annually for a married couple filing jointly.
Reduction of the state’s gross receipts tax rate from 5.125% to 4.875% over two-year period. The reduction is phased in over two years by 0.125 percentage points in July and the same amount in July, 2023.
A one-time rebate of $250 or $500 for taxpayers who made less than $75,000 last year. According to the state Taxation and Revenue Department, upwards of 850,000 of New Mexico’s 1.1 million taxpayers, or about 77%, will receive the rebates.
A tax credit of $25 to $175 per child starting in 2023, depending on income level.
A $1,000 income tax credit for nurses who work full-time in a New Mexico hospital.
Extension of the solar energy tax credit for eight years and increase cap on credit payouts.
Creation of a new gross receipts tax deduction for tampons and other feminine hygiene products.
REACTION TO TAX PACKAGE
Governor Lujan Grisham had this to say about the tax legislation:
“Over the last three years, we’ve had more tax reform that benefits business and taxpayers than in the previous decade.”
State Representative Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, who helped craft the tax legislation and had this to say:
“We are putting half a billion dollars back into the economy.”
That money is available to be returned to taxpayers – both directly as rebates and more indirectly under other tax provisions – due to state revenue levels surging to an all-time high amid rising oil production levels in southeast New Mexico.
Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, said the rebates will aid New Mexicans dealing with high gas prices and rising costs for other basic expenses and said this:
“That was the goal – to rebate money to the people paying the taxes.”
OTHER TAX CHANGES HINTED
Governor MLG and legislators hinted that more changes to the state’s tax code could be in the works for next year’s 60-day legislative session. Specifically, the changes could include eliminating existing tax breaks and lowering base rates in an attempt to simplify the gross receipts tax structure, which has been described by critics as a “Swiss cheese” due to the many allowable tax deductions and credits. State Representative Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos said she plans to start laying the groundwork for the changes in the coming months, and other lawmakers signaled they’re ready to join in on the proposals.
The link to quoted news source material is here:
OTHER BILLS SIGNED INTO LAW
A total of 64 bills passed in the 2022 legislative session and the the governor has signed 55 into law. As reported by KRQE News 13, the bills signed into law, followed by links to the legislation include the following:
“CONSUMER AND PUBLIC PROTECTION” BILLS SIGNED
HOUSE BILL 132, among other things, addresses predatory lending by capping loan interest rates. Before the enactment of the law, New Mexicans could be charged up to 175% in interest on loans. The new law effectively caps interest at 36% in most circumstances.
HOUSE BILL 46 Creates the Office of Family Representation and Advocacy. This agency will help provide legal counsel to people going through child welfare cases.
HOUSE BILL 95 aims to get more New Mexicans enrolled in Medicaid. It streamlines the process for enrolling individuals.
EDUCATION BILLS SIGNED
SENATE BILL 140 expands the state’s Opportunity Scholarship. The bill clears the way for New Mexicans, regardless of age, to attend college for free by providing scholarship funds.
HOUSE BILL 43 aims to help charter schools access funds to pay for improvements to their buildings.
WORKER AID HIGHLIGHTS
SENATE BILL 1 boosts pay for New Mexico’s licensed teachers. Level 1 teachers (generally early career teachers) will now get a minimum of $50,000 per year. That’s up from $40,000. Other levels of licensed teachers get similar boosts.
HOUSE BILL 13 aims to diversify New Mexico’s pool of teachers by creating residency programs. Residents in the program will get an apprenticeship in a classroom and additional mentorship to become teachers.
HOUSE BILL 60 boosts pay to Native American language and culture teachers. Under the new law, they will now get the same salary as level 1 teachers in New Mexico, provided they work full-time in student instruction.
BUSINESS BOOSTS AND TAX CREDIT HIGHLIGHTS
HOUSE BILL 104 creates the venture capital investment fund. The money in the fund will be used to invest in new and expanding businesses in New Mexico. Job-providing businesses are a key focus of the bill.
HOUSE BILL 148 extends the deadline for applications to the Small Business Recovery Loan Fund, born out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The deadline was May 31, 2022 but is now extended to the end of December.
HOUSE BILL 163 extends tax credits for solar projects, creates an income tax credit for nurses, and exempts social security income from income tax for some individuals.
HOUSE BILL 164 directs the New Mexico Environment Department to coordinate uranium mine cleanup across the state.
The link to the full KRQE quoted news story is here:
BILLS VETOED BY THE GOVERNOR
The following bills were vetoed by the Governor:
HOUSE BILL 134 would have re-instituted the state’s Sports Authority Division, the government division responsible with promoting sports in New Mexico. The Governor wrote in her veto message that the Legislature failed to provide funding to administer the division and it would usurp the Governor’s authority to appoint and remove members of the Sports Advisory Committee.
New Mexico Representative Moe Maestas has this to say about the Governor’s veto of House Bill 134 on the Sport’s authority:
“I am very disappointed and perplexed by the Governor’s veto of House Bill 134, Her reasoning does not make any sense. The appropriation originally contained in HB 134 was removed and placed into HB 2 and the ‘junior’ budget. The bill that reached the Governor’s desk was meant to provide more efficiency by reducing the sports advisory committee from 25 public members to a more manageable 7 member body. Moving forward, the Governor needs to hire a sports authority director and immediately fill all the vacancies on the Sports Advisory Committee.”
SENATE BILL 48 vetoed by the Governor would have sent a little over $50 million to state agencies. Supplemental spending bills, called “junior” budget bills, usually surface in years when the state is flush with windfall funding as is the case this year. The spending is far smaller than what’s outlined in the main state budget that authorizes $8.5 billion for spending on education, health care and other purposes. Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike have in the past questioned the merits of allowing members to dole out money largely at their own discretion.
SENATE BILL 48 vetoed by the governor would have authorized about $25.2 million in one-time spending and another $25.2 million in ongoing spending. The money would have gone to a wide-ranging set of programs and priorities picked by lawmakers. Among the proposed items were law enforcement equipment, efforts to help homeless animals, student speech and debate clubs, medical equipment, meals on wheels for homebound residents and public safety programs and funding for food bank services in the East Mountains. Lawmakers have not taken up a supplemental spending bill in over 10 years before 2019, when an oil and gas boom resulted in surpluses.
In her veto message, the Governor wrote:
“It is littered with tens of millions of appropriations. Yet SB 48 circumvents the important budget and capital outlay process that forms the basis for other large appropriation bills. … “Fiscal responsibility must be a cornerstone principle … both in boom times and in times of economic uncertainty.”
GROWING SUPPORT FOR “EXTRAORDINARY SESSION”
The Governor’s veto of Senate Bill 48 has resulted in a very public clash between lawmakers and the Governor. There is a growing number of New Mexico legislators who are expressing support for calling themselves into special session through an emergency procedure that would allow them to override Governor Lujan Grisham’s veto of a $50 million spending bill.
Convening such a session requires support from three-fifths of each chamber of the Legislature. Democrats in the House and Senate, who have solid majorities in both chambers, will be meet privately to debate whether to pursue an extraordinary session. If enough lawmakers agree, it would be just the second “extraordinary session” in New Mexico history. It would represent a political rebuke of Lujan Grisham in an election year where she is seeking a second term.
Democratic Representative Derrick Lente of Sandia Pueblo said the bill gave legislators a chance to deliver resources to overlooked programs and parts of the state. Road safety and educational curriculum, he said, were among his priorities. Lente had this to say:
“To have it all just vetoed by our governor is extremely unfortunate.”
Representative Roger Montoya, D-Velarde had this to say:
“[The governor’s] disregard for the work me and my colleagues have done to fulfill our duties and responsibilities to our communities is deeply troubling.”
Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque had this to say about the veto:
“It was an unnecessary affront to the legislative process. It was picking a fight that she didn’t need to pick.”
The Governor’s spokes person Nora Sackett pushed back on criticism that the main budget failed to address priorities that made it instead into the smaller budget bill. She pointed out that the budget package approved by Lujan Grisham includes $24 million for initiatives that will help food banks, $15 million to double a Native American education fund and $10 million to help people without homes. Sackett said this:
“The governor agrees that those kinds of programs are priorities which is why they are funded in the budget.”
The link to quotes news source is here:
A “pocket veto” is where the governor takes no action to veto. For bills passed in the last three days of the legislative session, the governor has 20 days to take action. If there is no action from the governor, the bill does not become law. With a “pocket veto” the legislators have no right to vote to override the governor.
The Governor “pocket” vetoed the following legislation:
SENATE BILL 2 called for bringing the pay of Supreme Court justices in line with the salary of federal magistrates, or about $205,500 this year, a 33% increase. Appeals and district judges would have seen corresponding increases.
SENATE BILL 174 would have required semitrucks to stay in right lane
HOUSE BILL 15 revised a rule for tribal gross receipts taxes
HOUSE BILL 62 created a grant opportunities council
HOUSE BILL 219 increased salaries for county elected officials
The links to quoted news source material are here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
By all reports, it is clear that the 2022 thirty day short session was a success which included enacting a historical budget, tax deductions and passage of more funding for education and teacher raises and a crime package. What has thrown a wet towel on the success is the veto of SENATE BILL 48.
As a former Bernalillo County Commissioner, a 10 year congresswoman and now Governor, you would think the Governor would know how to “pick and choose” her fights wisely, especially in an election year where she is seeking a second term and where all 70 House representatives are also on the ballot with her. Legislators too want to be able to go back to their constituent’s and be specific that they have made a difference.
The veto of Senate Bill 48, also though easily justified by the “bean counters”, was a self inflicted damage that should have never of happened, not in an election year. If the legislature does indeed to decide to call themselves into and extraordinary session, it will be an embarrassment and a reflection that the Governor no longer holds sway over her own political party. The Governor needs to get on the phone with the leadership of both Chambers and discuss ways where they can go forward without an extraordinary session.
Links to a related blog articles are here:
2022 New Mexico Legislature Rap Up: Historic $8.48 Billion State Budget And $827 Public Works Bills Enacted; Anti-Crime Measures And Tax Reduction Measures Enacted; Hefty Raises For Teachers, Judges And Govt. Workers; Pre Trial Detention, Hydrogen Hub Development Act And Voting Act Rights Act Fail; Speaker Egolf Retires
Upwards of 14% Of New Mexico House Projected Not To Seek Another Term; Abolish Citizens Legislature; Create Full Time Legislature; $100,000 Funding For Study; POSTSCRIPT: Guest Columns