2024 New Mexico Legislative Update: Mad Dash To February 15 Adjournment Deadline; Legislation That Has Passed House Or Senate; Most Measures Will Fail To Pass Both Chambers To Become Law As Time Runs Out

The 2024 New Mexico legislative session began on January 16 and it ends on February 15 at noon.  The 2024 legislative session is a 30-day short session dedicated to financial matters where much of the session is devoted to exclusively approving the state’s annual budget. There are 394 separate House Bills, 317 separate Senate Bills, 18 Senate Joint Resolutions, 15 House Joint Resolutions, 56 House Memorials and 12 Senate Memorials for a whopping 780 bills and memorials that have been introduced for consideration. Before any bill can become law, it must go through the committee process of each chamber, and if amended referred back to the originating chamber to approve changes, and be enacted by both chambers and even then, it could be vetoed by the governor.

A listing and the status of all the legislation here:

https://nmbilltracker.com/allbills

Both the New Mexico House and Senate were in recess on Sunday, February 11. This blog article highlights and reports on the progress made with legislation as of Monday, February 12.

PASSES TO BECOME LAW

On Wednesday, January 7, House Bill 171 was the first bill to pass both chambers of the New Mexico 2024 legislative session. House Bill 171 as amended is entitled the School Graduation Amendments and it passed the Senate on a 40-0 vote. The bill would update the state’s graduation requirements for its high schoolers, allowing for more student choice while keeping the number of mandated units at 24. House Bill 171 is a renewed version of a bill from last year’s legislative session that passed both the House and Senate but ultimately was vetoed by governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.

On February 9, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law House Bill 171.  which overhauls and codifies into law  the state’s high school graduation requirements.   New Mexico’s updated high school graduation requirements are as follows:

  • Four units of English, the last of which could be more flexible, such as journalism course
  • Four units of math, two of which must generally be Algebra I and Geometry, but the rest of which appear to be flexible and could be fulfilled by such courses as financial literacy
  • Three units of science, two of which must have a laboratory component and the other which can be more geared toward things such as work-based learning
  • Four units of social science, which include U.S. history and geography, government, economics and financial literacy, and world history and geography. The final unit is also flexible and can include such things as psychology or ethnic studies
  • Five and a half units of electives, which vary wildly, and also can include financial literacy courses as well as computer science and career-technical education courses
  • Two courses set by the local school district or governing board
  • One unit of physical education, which can include courses in things such as dance and marching band
  •  Half a unit in health

The link to the quoted news source is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/news/for-the-second-time-a-bill-to-update-new-mexicos-graduation-requirements-is-headed-to/article_457dd9bc-c61d-11ee-84fa-270e68360ca7.html

The biggest changes to know about are that students will still need to earn 24 credits, but Algebra II will no longer be required but schools must still offer it. Students will now have to complete four full years of social studies classes, and that must include some personal financial literacy coursework. A semester of health with lessons on sexual abuse, assault, and prevention is now required. Career technical classes can count toward English, math, and science credits, and local school districts will get to decide on two graduation requirements for their students.

The link to the quoted news sources are here:

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico/new-mexico-governor-signs-off-on-new-high-school-graduation-requirements/

https://www.abqjournal.com/news/this-modernizes-graduation-requirements-governor-signs-first-major-bill-of-the-session-into-law/article_7370168a-c7aa-11ee-9e21-8b766e5a72f3.html#tncms-source=home-featured-7-block

2024-2025 BUDGET ENACTMENT STILL PENDING

House Bill 2 and House Bill 3 were combined to form the State Budget. On January 31, halfway through the session, the New Mexico House of Representatives voted 53-16 to send its nearly $10.2 billion 2024-2025 budget spending plan to the New Mexico Senate for approval and further amendments.

On February 11, the Senate Finance Committee approved House Bill 2 which is the $10.22 billion state budget enacted by the House passing the measure on a 9-0 vote with two committee members absent. It now goes to the full Senate for approval.  Among the items included in the budget approved by the Finance Committee is the allocation of $220 million from the general fund for road maintenance and beautification. Along with Senate Bill 300, which would add about $527 million, to the total of new money for the two items could be $747.8 million, which would be a record high.  Other items the amended House Bill 2 include:

  • Increase the amount seniors and disabled veterans can receive per month in SNAP benefits from $25 to $100.
  • Contribute about $25 million that would go toward police and corrections recruitment and retention, $20 million for state and local volunteer fire department recruitments and $11 million for emergency medical services.
  • Impact school meals, adding $20 million and making it a recurring expense

The link to the quoted news source is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/news/over-10-billion-proposed-house-budget-bill-passes-senate-committee/article_76385efe-c921-11ee-8094-6b77577abcc7.html#tncms-source=home-featured-7-block

SENATE PASSED LEGISLATION

As of February 12, the following  bills that have been enacted by the New Mexico Senate:

House Bill 129 establishing a 7 day waiting period on the purchase of a gun.  On February 10, the Senate passed House Bill 129 on a 23-18 vote after several Republican amendments aimed at carving out exemptions for military members and people who have orders of protection against another person. House Bill 129 has been amended three times. The waiting period was introduced as 14 days but was changed to 7 days. Also, if the required background check hasn’t been completed within 20 days, the gun seller can transfer the firearm to the buyer.   Supporters of the bill said it would help curb suicides and other acts of violence. Other states have also adopted similar waiting periods for firearm purchases. The bill goes back to the House for approval.

The links to quoted news sources are here:

https://www.krqe.com/news/politics-government/legislature/gun-purchase-waiting-period-bill-passes-new-mexico-senate/

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico/state-lawmakers-debate-gun-control-proposals/

Firearm waiting period bill passes Senate

https://www.abqjournal.com/news/senate-passes-bill-for-7-day-waiting-period-on-gun-buys/article_900d7b6a-c896-11ee-841a-a32daf248ee1.html#tncms-source=home-featured-7-block

House Bill 141, Supreme Court Justice Salary Increase, passed the Senate on a 33-6 vote.  This bill, which already was  passed by the House, would set the pay of Supreme Court justices at $232,600. A $6.1 million appropriation from the general fund would fund the pay increases. The bill now goes to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham now, and she’s rejected similar requests in the past. Bill sponsor Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, said he’s adjusted the bill this year removing state salary increases that match federal ones, hoping the third time’s a charm to get this passed.

Senate Bill 3 known as the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act passed the Senate on February 9 on a 25-15 vote. The bill moves to the House with only six days left in the session. If passed, it will require employees and employers to pay into a state fund that would allow workers to take paid time off when a child is born, for a family emergency, or another kind of medical crisis. Changes discussed centered around the length of time off workers could take. For maternity and paternity leave, employees can take up to 12 weeks off, but a floor amendment shortened the leave period for medical reasons down to nine weeks. The amendment also changed the leave from calendar year to application year to ensure that employees can’t take more than 12 weeks off in a year. Another change on the Senate floor was adding a required 20-day notice when possible. The Seante also expanded the time employees have to pay into this fund before they can apply for paid time off. The original bill only required 90 days but that was expanded to six months, a move that was popular with small business owners. Small business owners argue this bill would be a financial burden on employers and limit the ability of business owners to help out their employees on their own terms.

The links to quoted news sources are here:

https://www.kob.com/new-mexico/senate-floor-debates-paid-family-and-medical-leave-act/

https://www.abqjournal.com/business/amended-paid-family-and-medical-leave-act-passes-senate/article_fb77a8c4-c7da-11ee-a024-cfb0aad7231a.html

Senate Bill B15, Health Care Consolidation Oversight Act passed the Senate on a  27-15 vote.  This bill would allow the Office of Superintendent of Insurance to determine whether proposed hospital consolidations or mergers could negatively impact health care, excluding state- and university-owned facilities, for the next year. The legislation held an emergency clause but failed to get the two-thirds floor support necessary for the clause that grants immediate effect, if signed by the governor, to get through.

Senate Bill 17, Health Care Delivery and Access Act, passed the Senate on a 40-0 vote. This bill would impose assessments on most hospitals in the state and reimburse hospitals with the revenue generated.

Senate Bill 21, amended, Local Firefighter Recruitment, passed the Senate on a 36-0 vote. This bill would appropriate $35 million to a new program the legislation would create within the Department of Finance and Administration focused on firefighter recruitment.

Senate Bill 37 (committee substitution) Meat Inspection Act passed the Senate on a 38-0 vote. This bill would create a new office — the Office of Meat and Poultry Inspection Director — and give the New Mexico Livestock Board the authority to “ensure the safety and quality of meat and poultry” for consumption, according to the bill’s fiscal impact report. It would also require NMLB to inspect approved meat slaughtering, processing or manufacturing facilities.

Senate Bill 71, sponsored by Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, has passed one Senate Committee and would create an Office of Housing that would be attached to the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration. The governor would appoint the office’s director, who would oversee studies on housing issues and work with government agencies and private developers to plan and fund projects.  The office will require three or four full-time employees, which will be funded from the Governor’s office budget. The office would be tasked with working hand in hand with the quasi-governmental New Mexico Mortgage Finance (MFA) Authority and other organizations. But according to the the legislative analysis, the Mortgage Finance Authority has raised concerns about overlap with the MFA noting the office would duplicate much of the work it already does,” the report said. On February 8, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham showed up in a Senate committee to push personally for the bill to create a state housing office. The Senate Committee voted 5-4 to advance the bill to the Senate Finance Committee with no recommendation, instead of the more common “do pass” recommendation.

The link to the quoted news source is here:

Housing bill backed by governor barely survives committee hearing

Senate Bill 88, Electronic Driver’s License Credentials passed the Senate on a 38-0 vote. This bill would allow the Motor Vehicle Division to give out electronic driver’s licenses.

Senate Bill 106, Declaration of Independence Anniversary,  passed the Senate 38-1 vote.  This bill would set aside $150,000 for a state semi quincentennial commission to plan and put on celebrations for the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, which is July 4, 2026.

Senate Bill 108, amended, Distribution to Election Fund, passed the Senate ona a 41-0 vote. This bill would create a new distribution from the tax administration suspense fund to the state election fund, with a maximum transfer amount of $15 million.

Senate Bill 116, the Tobacco Fund is not a Reserve Fund passed the Senate on a 38-0 vote.  The tobacco settlement permanent fund would be removed from the general fund reserves by this bill. The fund was created in 2000 as part of an agreement between the state and big tobacco companies, according to the New Mexico State Investment Council. The bill’s fiscal impact report states removing the fund would allow it to “be invested with higher return targets.”

Senate Bill 127, known as the Professional Psychologist Act Changes passed the Senate on a 36-0 vote. The bill would give licensed psychologists with a special type of certification to prescribe and administer injections for psychotropic drugs as well as intramuscular and subcutaneous injections. It would also change the structure of the Board of Psychologist Examiners and the committee which reviews complaints against prescribing psychologists.

Senate Bill 129, Cybersecurity Act Changes, passed the Senate on a 37-0 vote. This bill would amend the Cybersecurity Act, including adopting more cybersecurity rules and standards.

Senate Bill 128, amended, State Fire Retirement, passed the Senate on a 37-0 vote. This bill would add state fire members to a renamed coverage plan and increase service credit by 20% for state fire members in service on or before June 30, 2013.

Senate Bill 135, Step Therapy Guidelines, passed the Senate on a  38-2 vote. This bill addresses step therapy and prior authorization. It would regulate how insurers can require patients to use preferred or less expensive medications before moving on to non-preferred or more expensive medication, regardless of health insurance. The bill sponsors say this would make medicine more accessible.

Senate Bill 241, Aging Department Background Checks, passed the Senate on a  32-6 vote.  This bill would require employees and volunteers with the Aging and Long-Term Services Department working in adult protective services, the long-term care ombudsman program and consumer and elder rights to undergo criminal history records checks. Selected applicants would also have to undergo background checks.

Senate Bill 142, Behavioral Health Facility Notification, passed the Senate on a 39-0 vote.  This legislation would not allow residential behavioral health facilities to admit patients without trying to get family contact information for patients, so patients could notify their family of admission.

Senate Bill 151, committee substitute, Premium Tax to Emergency Services Fund, passed the Senate on a 35-0 vote. This bill would send an additional $11 million to the Emergency Medical Services Fund.

Senate Bill 148, Tax and Fee Admin Fees, passed the Senate on a  34-0 vote. This bill would remove administrative costs and fees withheld by the Taxation and Revenue Department for administration of local government revenues by fiscal year 2029. The fees would continue on certain distributions.

Senate Bill 161, committee substitute, Acute Care Facilities Subsidies, passed the Senate on a 37-0 vote.  This bill would appropriate $50 million to provide subsidies for 12 hospitals in rural parts of the state.

Senate Bill 169, Conservation Fund Changes. This bill would set aside $10 million for the supplemental land and water conservation fund, which is handled by the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

Senate Bill 175, Law Enforcement Fund Distributions, passed the Senate on a 39-0 vote. This bill aims to recruit and retain law enforcement officers, correctional officers, and probation and parole officers. Bill sponsor Sen. Leo Jaramillo, D-Española, said there’s around $25 million drafted in the budget for this, which is about $10 million less than the request in the bill initially.

Senate Bill176, Athletic Competition Act Changes, passed the Senate on a 20-16 vote. This bill would change the Professional Athletic Competition Act to add fighter weight classes and increase annual licensing fees for certain license types. It also would redefine some media terms.

Senate Bill 190, DWI Act, passed the Senate on a 26-8 vote.  This bipartisan legislation would add new DWI sections to the Motor Vehicle Code, including addressing penalties, fines and jail sentences. Senators talked about the nearly 100-page bill for over an hour on the floor, and some lawmakers on both sides of the aisles voted against it.

Senate Bill 201, Transportation Regulation, passed the Senate on a 35-0 vote.This bill would clarify transportation duties the New Mexico Department of Transportation holds, removing outdated technical language and making technical corrections.

Senate Bill 204, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Abq.), would make it a fourth-degree felony to carry a gun in a park or on a playground. There would be exceptions for law enforcement while on official duty. The bill is one of several gun-related bills under discussion at the Roundhouse. Others, like a waiting period for gun purchases, have received a fair bit of debate already. But the proposal to keep guns out of parks is just now being scheduled for initial debate in the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee with only a handful of days left in the lawmaking session.

Senate Bill 216, NMFA Affordable Housing Projects, passed the Senate on a 34-0 vote.  This bill  amends  the Finance Authority Act to provide financing for affordable housing projects and amend the local government planning fund to provide financing in order to develop affordable housing plans and flood maps.

Senate Bill 217, Severance Tax Bond Fund Distributions, passed the Senate on 34-0 vote.  The bill would provide for a minimum distribution from the severance tax bonding fund to the severance tax permanent fund every year for nine years.

Senate Bill 236, Metro Development GRT Increments, passed the Senate on a  20-9 vote . This effort would impact the procedure for determining gross receipts tax increments paying for metropolitan redevelopment area projects, including allowing new, approved construction in determining the gross receipts tax base.

Senate Bill 239, Lottery Scholarship Changes, passed the Senate on a  30-5 vote.  This bill would change the definition of a full-time student who’s eligible for the lottery scholarship and count summer semesters.

Senate Bill 300, Transportation Project Bonds,  passed the Senate on a 37-0 vote. This bill would allow for up to $205.8 million in bonding capacity from the severance tax bonding fund and $247 million in state transportation bonds to support certain road projects.

Senate Joint Memorial 2, amended, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Task Force, passed the Senate on a 30-0 vote.  This joint memorial would codify the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relative’s task force.

Senate Joint Resolution 16, County Official Salaries, passed the Senate on a  37-0 vote.  This joint resolution proposes to amend the state Constitution to remove the cap on county officers’ salaries. If it gets through the House side of the Roundhouse, it goes to voters in the November 2024 election or, if applicable, the next special election.

House Bill 41 known as the Clean Transportation Fuel Standards Act passed the Senate Conservation Committee on February 9  on a party-line 6-3 vote, with Democrats supporting its passage. HB 41 has already passed the House of Representatives on a 36-33 vote and it now heads to the Senate Finance Committee. The bill is intended to lower the carbon intensity of transportation fuels through the use of a carbon credit market. One of the main reasons people have cited for opposing the clean transportation fuels standards is the potential impact to prices at the pump since the states that have enacted clean transportation fuel standards tend to have higher gas prices. Bill sponsor Rep. Kristina Ortez, D-Taos, said the potential benefits of the bill is cleaner air and reduced respiratory illness and she also said the bill would spur economic development. Ortez said this:

“There’s been lots of fear-mongering around the gas prices.”

Robin Vercruse, the executive director of the Low Carbon Fuels Coalition refuted the claim that the bill would spur Eco comic development and said this:

“This claim … is contrary to basic economic theory in supposing that market competition will actually raise prices. …  The compliance cost, in this case the cost of credits in the program, will be passed directly to consumers. Theoretical studies reflect that assumption when they assign a cost per gallon. But here’s the thing: Real world data shows that is not the case. If the cost is passed directly to consumers, gas prices would rise and fall based on credit prices. However, there has been no correlation between credit prices in these programs and gasoline prices. That means these programs do not work in the real world as speculative studies would suppose.”

The link to the quoted news source is here:

Clean Transportation Fuel Standards bill clears Senate committee

FAILED IN SENATE

Senate Bill 145, the Public Bodies and Federal Immigration Violation failed in the Senate on a 21-18 vote. This bill would have prohibited governments in New Mexico from entering or renewing agreements to detain people for federal civil immigration violations, including with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Senate Bill 146, Hospital Acceptance of Health Plans, was tabled by the full Senate on February 11. The bill would require county and contracting hospitals to accept certain qualified health plans available through the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange and provide affordable payment plans to uninsured patients.

The link to the quoted news source is here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/news/over-10-billion-proposed-house-budget-bill-passes-senate-committee/article_76385efe-c921-11ee-8094-6b77577abcc7.html#tncms-source=home-featured-7-block

Senate Joint Resolution 5, Public Employees Retiree Health Care Fund, failed in the Senate 14-25.  This joint resolution would have proposed to amend the state Constitution to prohibit the expenditure of retiree health care fund trust dollars for any purpose except the benefit of the trust beneficiaries.

HOUSE  PASSED LEGISLATION

The following legislation has passed the New Mexico House of Representatives as of February 12. It includes bills that have already been enacted by the Senate and those House Bills that will be forwarded to the Senate for action:

House Bill 2 and House Bill 3 were combined to form the State Budget. On January 31, halfway through the session, the New Mexico House of Representatives voted 53-16 to send its nearly $10.2 billion 2024-2025 budget spending plan to the New Mexico Senate for approval and perhaps further amendments.

Senate Bill 153, Early Childhood Fund Transfers, passed the House on a 52-14 vote. The bill would increase the distribution of the early childhood education and care program fund for programs such as child care assistance, doula and lactation support home visits and pre-K. The distributions from the fund would increase by $95 million.

Senate Bill 5, Firearms near polling places, passed the  House Judiciary Committee on a  7-4 vote.  The bill, which passed on the Senate floor last would prohibit guns within 100 feet of polling places, with some exceptions. It needs to pass the House floor before heading to the governor’s desk.

House Bill  7, Healthcare Affordability Fund Distribution,  passed the House on a  51-14 vote. The bill would earmark revenue from health insurance premium surtaxes for the health care affordability fund, rather than the general fund. The fund was established in 2021 with the goal of reducing health insurance and medical expenses. Currently, bill sponsor Reena Szczepanski said there is about $108 million in the fund balance.

House Bill 28, Public Project Revolving Fund Projects,  passed the House on a 65-0 vote.  If passed, the New Mexico Finance Authority would be able to offer loans from the “public project revolving loan fund” to schools, civic organizations, tribes and other state and local government entities. An amendment added some public and charter schools to the list of entities that would be able to apply for loans with the NMFA. The number is capped at 100.

House Bill 29, Public Project Fund Appropriations, passed the House on a 63-0 vote.  The bill would appropriate $13 million from the public project revolving loan fund to the drinking water state revolving loan fund, the local government planning fund and the cultural affairs facilities infrastructure fund in amounts of $6 million, $2 million and $5 million, respectively.

House Bill 33, committee substitute, amended, Prescription Drug Price Transparency Act, passed the House on a 67-0 vote.  Drug manufacturers would be required to report certain information, including the annual price increase, manufacturing and marketing costs and revenue from product sales, for prescription drugs that cost more than $400 for a 30-day supply. The data, which would be reported to the New Mexico Office of Superintendent of Insurance, would be used to create policy recommendations to lower drug costs in the future, House Bill 33 is sponsored by a handful of Democratic lawmakers.

House Bill 48, Oil and Gas Future Royalty Rate, passed the House on a 39-28 vote. Royalty rates for state trust land leases to oil and gas producers would be increased. Currently, the rates range from about 18% to 20%. The bill would raise that cap to 25% for prime real estate in the Permian Basin and other high-producing areas, matching Texas’ maximum royalty rate percentage.

House Bill 98, Accounts for Disabled Eligibility, passed the House on a 62-0 vote. This bill would increase the number of people with disabilities eligible for a type of federal savings account, which is tax advantaged. The proposed changes to “achieving a better life experience” account eligibility would allow people who became disabled before the age of 46 to qualify. Currently, the age is 26. Bill sponsor Rep. Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson, D-Albuquerque, said this change would help “catch” more veterans in the program.  Thomson said the change aligns with federal policy changes.

House Bill 134, Tribal Education Trust Fund, passed the House on a 68-0 vote.

This bill would create a trust fund to build education capacity for Native American students, including developing culturally relevant curricula and bolstering Native language programs. The current draft of the state budget bill sets aside $50 million for the fund, but sponsor Lente says the aim is to double that.

House Bill 141, Supreme Court Salary Increases, passed the House on a 52-0 vote.   This bill would increase pay for Supreme Court justices to $232,600. As of July 2023, the justices were paid $191,700 according to the 2023 Judicial Compensation Commission report. That leaves New Mexico at 29th for state supreme court justice pay, the report says.

House Bill 148, Water Project Fund Projects, passed the House on a 64-0 vote. The annual authorization bill would allow the New Mexico Finance Authority to offer loans or grants to public groups for approved water projects. More than 50 public entities already have qualifying projects. If the bill passes, the Water Trust Board will decide which projects will get funding.

House Bill 102, Magistrate as Court of Record, passed the House on a  35-27 vote. Magistrate courts would be required to record all proceedings as a “court of record” so that if an appeal is brought, the Court of Appeals can use those recordings as an appellate record. There are limited cases when the courts would not be required to act as a court of record. Any excess money would return back to the fund

House Bill 196, the Government Accountability Trust Fund, passed the house on a 39-28 vote.  This would create the government results and opportunity expendable trust and the government results and opportunity program fund. The legislation would change the overflow mechanism of the general fund operating reserve to direct dollars into the trust fund.

Bill sponsor Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces, has said this is a way to protect New Mexico when oil and gas dollars aren’t booming like they are now. Pilot projects could get funding floated over several years as other funding sources are identified for the future. The accountability part of the bill includes provisions to track and report the efficacy of such projects. There is funding attached to the bill included in HB2, the budget bill.  There was some controversy over changes between the original and committee substitute. Rep. Gail Armstrong, R-Magdalena, said some of the “guardrails” for funding had been removed between versions. Other representatives justified the changes, saying some provisions were “unmanageable” for certain entities.

House Bill 207, Public School Capital Outlay Grants, passed the House on 64-1 vote.  The bill would change one word in the law creating the Public-School Capital Outlay Fund. In the existing law, it states the fund “may be expended annually” for grants to school districts and charter schools to make lease payments. The bill would change “may” to “shall,” making the assistance “mandatory rather than discretionary.”

House Bill 211, Water Project Prioritization, passed the House on a 67-0 vote.   The bill would change the Water Project Finance Act to allow funds to head to wastewater projects. The bill’s fiscal impact report noted there was “significant demand” for wastewater project grants, and less demands for other projects like Endangered Species Act programs.

House Bill 232, Infrastructure Planning and Development Division, passed the house on a 65-0 vote.  The bill would create a new division in the New Mexico Finance Authority called the Infrastructure Planning and Development Division. The division would take over certain functions of the Local Government Division of the MFA, including the rural equity ombudsman role and handling infrastructure capital improvement plans for local governments.

House Bill 252 committee substitute, Adjust Income Tax Bracket (House tax package) is the tax omnibus bill and it passed the House on a 48-to-21 vote.  The House’s tax omnibus bill includes changes to the income tax structure as well as a handful of tax credits and deductions for certain New Mexicans.

The bill would reduce income taxes for all New Mexicans, with the largest cuts headed to the lowest tax brackets. A competing floor substitute, which proposed a flat 1% personal income tax regardless of income, failed on the floor. The tax omnibus includes a number of tax changes, including energy storage tax deductions, personal income tax restructuring by increasing the amount of tax brackets, adjusting tax rates, and changing income ranges within each bracket, rural healthcare practitioner tax credit, fire recovery tax credits, corporate income tax changes, angel investment tax credit, capital gains deduction, Medicaid home modification gross receipts tax deduction and childcare provider GRT deduction.

Tax omnibus passes House

House Bill 236, Public Safety Retirees Returning to Work, passed the House on a 56-7 vote.  This bill mirrors a Senate version.  The public safety measure would allow government retirees to return to work in public safety fields, including corrections, police, detention, courthouse security, EMT, paramedics and firefighters. They would be able to return for a period of 36 months while still receiving a pension payment.

House Bill 253, the Capital Outlay Changes, passed the House on a 63-0 vote. The bill would make changes to the state’s capital outlay program. Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo, said the changes would make the program more “sustainable.” A “nonreverting fund” to be known as the capital development and reserve fund would be created by the bill and managed by the State Investment Council. Money in the fund would be available to the Legislature to go towards capital projects costing less than $5 million, and for the planning and design of more costly projects.

House Bill 270, Higher Ed Tech Enhancement Fund Provisions, passed the House on a 62-1 vote. This bill primarily would clarify the requirements for the tech enhancement fund for research institutions in the state, stating that the below colleges are, in fact, eligible to receive funding awards. The University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and Navajo Technical University would be able to use technology enhancement fund dollars to match federal and private grants. An amendment removed a $70 million appropriation attached to the original bill.

House Bill 271, Public Finance Accountability Act, passed the House on a 63-0 vote. This bill would codify requirements that capital outlay grant recipients conduct annual audits and make the audits public records. If the audit show “material weaknesses or significant deficiencies,” according to the bill’s fiscal impact report, funds wouldn’t be distributed until the grant recipient fixes the problems.

House Bill 298, Service Members Suicide Prevention, passed the House on a  59-1 vote.  The bill would require the Veterans Services Department to raise suicide awareness for service members and increase prevention resources for active-duty service members and veterans as well as their families.

House Bill 302, Department of Defense Military Recommendations, passed the House on a 65-0 vote . Child care programs certified by the U.S. Department of Defense would not be required to meet additional state licensing requirements.

House Bill 308, General Obligation Bonds, passed the House on a 67-0 vote.  The bill proposed $289.6 million in general obligation bonds, $30.4 million of which would head to senior citizen facilities around the state, $19 million to libraries, $229.6 million for education projects and $10 million for the state Department of Information Technology to improve its public safety radio communications system.

HB316, Felon in Possession of Firearm Penalty, passed the House on a  53-11 vote. The measure would increase penalties for felons found in possession of a firearm. People with felony convictions would face five years in prison if found with a gun or destructive device. A repeat offense could lead to nine years behind bars.

Links to quoted news sources are here:

https://nmbilltracker.com/allbills

https://www.krqe.com/news/politics-government/legislature/roundhouse-roundup-guns-on-playgrounds-drug-price-transparency/

https://www.abqjournal.com/news/capitol-recap-here-s-what-happened-at-the-legislature-on-friday/article_87ecc59c-c7a3-11ee-9bf7-b7fe94f0f0da.html

https://www.abqjournal.com/news/capitol-recap-heres-what-happened-at-the-legislature-on-wednesday/article_6057708e-c61a-11ee-84c3-a387919b874a.html

https://www.abqjournal.com/news/capitol-recap-here-s-what-happened-at-the-legislature-on-thursday/article_8d94a148-c6dd-11ee-9a5a-b7db8854180d.html

https://www.abqjournal.com/news/capitol-recap-despite-snow-statehouse-still-buzzing/article_373b3c18-c88f-11ee-9f2c-dfb6ca413793.html#tncms-source=home-featured-7-block

COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS

With a mere 3 days left in the 2024 legislative session, lawmakers are having longer days and nights, packed schedules and marathon sessions getting bills through the House and Senate committees and ultimately voting on the chamber floors. Legislation that will likely consume a large percentage of the remaining time is the final enactment of the budget and all the gun control legislation that is still pending and awaiting committee hearings.

It’s clear that the overwhelming majority of the 780 bills and memorials introduced will not make it out of any committees nor be enacted by both chambers by the February 15 at 12:00 noon when the session comes to an end. By and large the entire 2024 thirty day legislative session will go down as accomplishing very little. The biggest news thus far that has come out of the session are the changes made to high school graduation requirements and the fact that the Governor’s gun control package went virtually no where except perhaps the 7 day waiting period and no guns allowed at polling places.

Simply put, trying to squeeze in so much work into a 30 session is crazy and no way to do business.  Too much time is spent on feel good public relations such as introducing family members, watching performances, reciting long memorials, recognizing local sporting teams,  dance groups and organizations, and  singing birthday songs to each other and generally lounging around and talking about other things unrelated to the work at hand.

Thirty day sessions should be a thing of the pass as should be 60 days sessions and a full time, pay legislature with much longer sessions is long overdue but that will likely never happen given the desire to hold on to the quant notion of having a citizen’s part time legislature.

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About

Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.