On Saturday March 18, the 60 day 2023 New Mexico Legislative Session came to an end at 12:00 Noon. In the last day and half, two major bills were enacted, Those bills were Senate Bill 13 protecting abortions providers and House Bill 547, the tax package.
SENATE BILL 13
On Friday, March 17, the day before the 2023 New Mexico Legislature was scheduled to adjourn , the House enacted Senate Bill 13 with a vote of 38-30. All Republicans opposed the bill and 6 Democrats voted against it. The bill is intended to shield doctors and nurses in New Mexico from out of state investigations targeting reproductive and gender-affirming care. The House action comes after the Senate passed the bill 26-16. The bill now goes to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and she is expected to sign it into law.
Senate Bill 13 makes law an executive order issued by Lujan Grisham in June 2022, just days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark case of Roe v. Wade decision allowing states to determine their own laws on abortion. On March 16, Governor Lujan Grishma signed House Bill 7 into law that prohibits government public bodies in New Mexico from interfering with access to abortion or gender affirming care.
Senate Bill 13 centers on action originating beyond state lines. Arizona and Texas outlaw aiding or abetting abortion. New Mexico is increasingly serves patients from those states and elsewhere. State public agencies will be prohibited from releasing information or otherwise cooperating with civil or criminal investigations launched from outside the state into medical providers who engage in “protected health care activity” in New Mexico, such as abortion or gender-affirming care.
A person harmed by a violation of the law could file a lawsuit seeking damages of at least $10,000 per violation. Senate Bill 13 also make it illegal for a 3rd party to transmit information related to a person’s or entity’s abortion or gender-affirming care with the intent to harass, humiliate or intimidate them.
It was 2021 Governor Lujan Grisham signed a bill repealing the 1969 state law criminalizing abortion ensuring the1969 law could not be enforced if the Supreme Court overturned federal abortion rights. Democrats during the 2023 Legislative Session have aggressively pushed to strengthen abortion rights following the U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling that individual states need to decide the issue of abortion.
In the 2020 Democratic primary campaigns, a woman’ right to choose and abortion played a major role in changing the makeup of the Legislature when long serving anti-abortion Democrats lost their Senate seats, clearing the way for the repeal of the 1969 law criminalizing abortion.
REACTION TO PASSAGE OF SENATE BILL 13
Lujan Grisham proclaimed Senate Bill 13 on abortion rights as “transformative” given the national political climate. The Governor said this:
“New Mexico stood up for science, for women, for LGBTQ families and individuals.”
Santa Fe Democrat State Representative Andrea Romero said the legislation adopted is designed to thwart out-of-state legal attacks. She had this to say:
“We’re in completely uncharted territory with the types of laws we’re seeing on the books now. … That’s why we’re here today — to ensure New Mexico will be a safe space for folks seeking care.”
Republican lawmakers vigorously contested the proposal attempting to stop enactment at every step. Republicans described Senate Bill 13 as an inappropriate strategy that would put New Mexico at odds with other states. Alamogordo Republican Representative John Block said this:
“I don’t want New Mexico to be isolated as its own island”.
Farmington Republican Representative Rod Montoya said Senate Bill 13 would abridge free speech rights and expose anti-abortion protesters to legal liability. Montoya also argued the bill could weaken oversight of predatory physicians or medical providers who are targeted by other states for legitimate reasons. Montoya said this:
“What we’re left to believe here is that every abortion provider is altruistic and I just don’t think we can go that far.”
The link to quoted news source is here:
SENATE ADOPTS HOUSE BILL 547 TAX PACKAGE
On March 17, shortly after midnight, the NM Senate voted 33-9 to approve the final version of a massive tax package that will provide $500 rebates to taxpayers and a phased in reduction to the gross receipts tax. A group of 3 House Representative and 3 Senators conducted several open negotiating sessions where they agreed on changes to the state’s film incentive program and a pared-back alcohol tax hike and other tax provisions.
TAX PACKAGE AGREED UPON
House Bill 547 tax package passed includes the following major provisions:
All New Mexicans who filed 2021 tax returns will get $500 rebate checks by this spring. Married couples filing jointly would receive $1,000 checks. The $500 rebates are less than the $750 rebate amount that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham proposed.
A phased in a 0.5% point reduction in the state’s gross receipts tax over the next four years. Those tax cuts could also be automatically undone if revenue levels drop significantly. The tax cut represents upwards of $1 billion a year in savings once its fully phased in by 2027.
A 20% alcohol tax increase that will impose about a 1% per drink increase on beer and a two-cent per drink increase on spirits. Revenue generated by the tax will be used to bolster alcohol treatment programs in the State. New Mexico has the highest per capita rate of alcohol-related deaths.
Veterans and retirees will get a tax exemption on military retirement pay up to $10,000 in 2022, then increasing to $30,000 in 2024.
Expansion of New Mexico’s film incentive program that triples the amount of allowable incentives per film project from $5 million to $15 million for productions by Netflix or other studios that are members of a state film partnership. The plan limit the amount of annual spending on such productions to no more than $40 million per year.
A tax break for teachers’ who purchase school supplies to an expanded child tax credit.
NO TAX “PYRAMIDING” PROPOSAL
What is glaring from reading the enacted House Bill 547 is the widely discussed proposed tax exemption for accountants, architects and other professional services that had been proposed as a way to reduce tax “pyramiding,” or taxes being levied several times on the same goods or services. The tax “pyramiding” legislation had bipartisan support and the Governor’s support. The tax pyramiding provision proposal has drawn fierce opposition from Albuquerque and other New Mexico cities and counties, however, as city officials argued it would reduce their revenue streams and complicate efforts to hire more police officers.
REACTION TO PASSAGE OF HOUSE BILL 547 TAX PACKAGE
Legislators said they did not agree with all parts of the tax package, but said the good provisions outweighed the bad.
Governor Lujan Grisham had urged legislators to trim back the tax package saying it “cuts too deep, too quickly” and could lead to future spending cuts if revenue levels decline.
Rio Rancho area Republican Senate Minority Leader Craig Brandt lauded Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for her role in helping broker a deal on the tax package and said this:
“Things happen up here; you change your mind sometimes. … A lot of the things that I asked for I got, so I appreciate that.”
Democrat Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth said this:
“Each of us have our own opinions, but it’s time to compromise and get this done. … I look at this is a first step —not the end. … The tax bill also contain[s] a significant gross receipts tax reduction, and one of the key elements of that of that bill, and that gross receipts deduction is a trigger, so that we are sure that if those if the revenues go down, that gross receipts tax that’s in there, we’ll back off.”
Albuquerque area Democrat Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez expressed disappointment about the alcohol tax and said this:
“We had an opportunity to make transformational change to address a huge social problem in our state, and we didn’t do it.”
The link to quoted news sources are here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Talk about cutting it close with enactment of both House Bill 547 and Senate Bill 13. As the saying goes, “Better late than never!” The 60 day session ended on March 18 at 12 noon. The legislative process has always been very messy, but it does work when legislator’s on both sides want it to work as evidenced with enactment of the House Bill 547 tax package.