KRWG

Vital Rural Infrastructure Bill Passes New Mexico House

Feb 24, 2021

Credit KUNM

  Santa Fe, N.M. – A critical measure facilitating rural infrastructure projects passed the New Mexico House of Representative today, and will now advance to the Senate. Here is a statement from the NM House Democrats:

 

Sponsored by Rep. Anthony Allison (D-Fruitland) and Rep. Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos), the House Judiciary Committee substitute for House Joint Resolution 9 proposes a constitutional amendment allowing an exception to the state’s anti-donation clause for basic infrastructure projects, including internet, water, wastewater services, natural gas, and electricity. 

 

Currently, New Mexico cannot legally provide the required match for federal funding for many infrastructure programs because doing so would violate the anti-donation provision in the state constitution. This is a serious obstacle for infrastructure investments and deprives rural communities of the basic services that much of urban and suburban New Mexico take for granted.

 

“HJR 9 came about when the pandemic revealed a lot of discrepancies in the availability of basic infrastructure, not just in my district, but all across the state,” Rep. Anthony Allison. “For many New Mexicans in our rural areas, following what seemed like simple public health orders was easier said than done. You can’t frequently wash your hands without running water, or avoid frequent trips to the store when you lack electricity for a refrigerator, or attend online school without adequate internet. With this legislation, we can begin making significant progress on addressing our rural infrastructure needs.” 

 

“Even in 2021, many areas of our state are in dire need of services that are essential to life today, such as electric, natural gas, water, wastewater, and internet access,”said Rep. Christine Chandler. “HJR 9 allows the state to invest directly in providing basic infrastructure to all New Mexicans and addressing the severe poverty facing many of our state’s rural areas.” 

The House Judiciary Committee substitute for House Joint Resolution 9 passed the House with a 44-24 vote, and will go next to the Senate for consideration. As a constitutional amendment, HJR 9 would proceed to a public vote after passing both chambers. 

Modeled after similar exceptions for affordable housing and economic development, HJR 9 would ensure that no legal barriers prevent the state from expanding infrastructure to rural areas for broadband and other critical services. If approved by voters, the amendment would require implementing legislation to ensure that tax dollars and other public resources are properly safeguarded, and that the legislature has appropriate oversight authority.

 

Members of the public can track legislation on the New Mexico Legislature website, access committee meetings and House floor sessions via the Webcasts tab, or participate by Zoom to provide public comment on committee hearings. During the 2021 Legislative Session, the House of Representatives is focused on passing critical legislation while protecting the health and safety of the public, the staff, and the legislators.