KRWG

New Mexico Legislature

KRWG Public Media coverage of the New Mexico legislature.  Major partners include the Associated Press and the Southern New Mexico Journalism Collaborative.

New Mexico bar owners say liquor license bill would bankrupt them

Feb 8, 2021
imagebase.net

LAS CRUCES - Legislators working to increase the number of restaurants in New Mexico that can serve alcohol are trying to find a “soft landing” for bar and liquor store owners who have invested their life savings to purchase liquor licenses. That’s proving to be hard to do.

Liquor-license holders from throughout the state told members of the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee on Friday, Feb.5, that legislation to allow restaurants to buy restricted liquor licenses at a much lower cost would devalue their licenses. Many said they had used their licenses as collateral on loans for the business, and would go into default if the value of the licenses were decreased.

Bill calls for net zero emissions by 2050

Feb 8, 2021

LAS CRUCES - A bill sponsors say would set “nation-leading carbon reduction targets” passed in the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee on a 7-4 party-line vote Saturday, Feb. 6.

House Bill 9, the Climate Solutions Act, calls for a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by the year 2030, and net zero emissions by 2050. It also calls for a 60 percent reduction in methane, carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds. And, it would create the Climate Leadership Council to organize and lead the state’s efforts.

Rep. Phelps Anderson

  SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A Republican lawmaker in New Mexico who voted in favor of a Democratic-backed abortion bill has left the Republican Party. House Minority Leader Jim Townsend said on Friday that state Rep. Phelps Anderson of Roswell changed his voter registration to a “declined to state” after voting to repeal a 1969 law that criminalizes abortion. Anderson sided with seven Democrats in repealing the law, drawing criticism from his constituents as well as calls for his resignation. Anderson was elected to the House of Representatives in 2018 and won reelection in 2020. He also served in the House from 1977 through 1980.

New Mexico paid sick leave bill clears first hurdle

Feb 5, 2021
KUNM

LAS CRUCES - Legislation requiring paid sick leave to be offered to all workers in New Mexico cleared its first committee Thursday, Feb. 4, after the sponsors of two different bills on the subject agreed to combine their efforts.

House Bill 37, sponsored primarily by Angelica Rubio, D-Las Cruces, and House Bill 20, sponsored primarily by Christine Chandler, D-Rio Rancho, were combined into a committee substitute for HB 20. That bill passed the House Labor, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on a 5-3 vote.

House, Senate abortion bills both reach floor

Feb 5, 2021

LAS CRUCES - Legislation to remove a 1969 state law outlawing abortion that was made unconstitutional by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade has completed the committee process in the Senate, and is now eligible for debate by the full Senate.

Senate Bill 10 passed the Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote. It follows House Bill 7, which had already cleared the committee process in the House. Both bills would remove the outdated law from the books.

  SANTA FE, N.M. — State Senators are considering giving $30 million in tuition assistance for students at two-year colleges and funding a pilot program to help college dropouts finish their degrees.

The Opportunity Scholarship supports community college students before federal tuition funding is considered, meaning they can use any extra money to cover living costs. College officials fear the pandemic is leading to a drop in enrollment. There would be $4 million of the funds going to a pilot program aimed at former Lottery Scholarship recipients who left before finishing their four-year undergraduate degrees.

Both measures are supported by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham who has lobbied the Legislature to make two and four-year colleges tuition free.

Las Cruces, NM – On this edition of PUENTES a la comunidad, bridges to the community, host Emily Guerra spoke with Health Action New Mexico Executive Director, Barbara Webber, about the Prescription Drug Affordability Act, House Bill 154, recently introduced at the New Mexico State Legislature. The proposal sponsored by New Mexico State Representative Angelica Rubio would join thirteen other states with proposals to create a “Prescription Drug Affordability Board – PDAB.”

GOP efforts to constrain COVID regs blocked

Feb 4, 2021

LAS CRUCES - Two bills by Republican lawmakers seeking to give the Legislature more authority over the public health regulations implemented by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in response to the COVID-19 pandemic were rejected Tuesday, Feb. 2.

Senate Bill 74, sponsored by state Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca, R-Belen, would have required legislative approval within 14 days after the filing of a public health order. The bill was wounded but not killed Wednesday, Feb. 3, in the Senate Public Affairs Committee. Instead of a vote to table, which would have stopped the bill, committee Chair Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, gave Baca a chance to make changes and come back next week.

Firefighter pension bill gets $30M in committee

Feb 4, 2021
KUNM

LAS CRUCES - A bill to equalize retirement pay for firefighters left the New Mexico Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee $30 million richer than when it arrived Wednesday, Feb. 3.

House Bill 90 is intended to ensure that firefighters and other emergency services workers who are on extended shifts get full credit for their accrued retired benefits. Committee members supported the bill, but worried about a projected $30 million deficit to the retirement fund. So, they passed a $30 million amendment.

Three bills offered seeking to cap rate on loans

Feb 3, 2021

LAS CRUCES - State legislators attempting to lower the maximum interest rate for short-term loans are giving themselves multiple opportunities for success this session.

Rep. Susan Herrera, D-Embudo, has introduced two bills that would lower the annual percentage rate (APR) from 175 percent to 36 percent. She said Tuesday, Feb. 2, that she hopes both of her bills are set aside, and a Senate bill sponsored by Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, is the one to reach the governor’s desk. But she said they need to have a Plan B, and perhaps a Plan C.

House leaders claim record participation

Feb 3, 2021
KUNM

LAS CRUCES – New Mexico House leadership issued a news release this week claiming that more people are participating in the virtual committee meetings this year than ever before. More than 2,400 residents from 31 counties participated in the first full week of the session, which leadership described as “record numbers.”

Since attendance figures were not taken in the past, it’s impossible to say what the record is, and if it has indeed been broken.

Competing New Mexico marijuana bills introduced

Feb 2, 2021

  LAS CRUCES - The first marijuana legalization bills of the 2021 New Mexico legislative session were introduced this week in the state Senate, with legislation coming from members of both parties.

Senate Bill 13, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, and Senate Bill 288, sponsored by Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, would both establish new state commissions to tax and regulate marijuana sales. SB 13 would have a higher tax rate, with local governments taking a share.

Bill to promote prescribed burns reaches New Mexico House floor

Feb 2, 2021

LAS CRUCES - Legislation that would give landowners training and liability protection to conduct prescribed burns has advanced to the floor of the New Mexico House of Representatives after clearing the Judiciary Committee Monday, Feb. 1.

House Bill 57 passed unanimously and without opposition, but there were concerns that the bill does not give agricultural lands the same level of protection.


Coronavirus has infiltrated the Roundhouse, where New Mexico’s legislators are in the early weeks of a 60-day session. Since mid-January when the session began, at least three people in the capital have tested positive for the virus, including one GOP lawmaker. On Friday, Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf announced new rules, restricting participation in committee meetings to Zoom, and closing the House floor to most lawmakers. KUNM spoke with Matt Grubs from New Mexico PBS.

Aid-in-dying bill clears New Mexico House committee

Feb 1, 2021

LAS CRUCES - A bill that would allow health care providers to give aid in dying to terminally ill patients passed the New Mexico House Health and Human Services Committee after an emotional three-hour debate Friday, Jan. 29, in which legislators discussed their own personal stories of caring for friends and family in their final days.

House Bill 47 is named for Elizabeth Whitfield, a former district court judge who suffered through a lengthy battle with cancer over many years. She went to the Legislature in 2017 advocating for legislation allowing for aid in dying, but died last year, before seeing that bill passed into law.

New Mexico House GOP files lawsuit over new rules

Feb 1, 2021

LAS CRUCES - Republican leaders in the New Mexico House of Representatives have filed a lawsuit in objection to new rules imposed by Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, last week after it was announced that one House member and four staffers had tested positive for COVID-19.

The lawsuit alleges that the new rules, which require all debate to be conducted remotely and prevent most members from coming onto the floor, are a violation of members’ constitutional rights. And, it asks the state Supreme Court to issue a stay, blocking the new rules while it deliberates the case.

New Mexico bill would remove minimum wage exemption for high schoolers

Jan 30, 2021
Sen. Jeff Steinborn

 

  LAS CRUCES - Workers who also attend high school would have to be paid the same minimum wage as everybody else under a bill sponsored by State Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces. 

 

Senate Bill 35 would remove an exemption in the state minimum wage laws that allows high school students to be paid a lower wage than their co-workers. The high school wage is capped at $8.50 an hour, while the wage for other workers will increase to $12 an hour in 2023.

 

“I feel like this is a matter of simple fairness,” Steinborn said. “High school workers work incredibly hard. They contribute right along with everyone else, and they deserve the same wage.”

Bill to help restaurants and workers advances

Jan 30, 2021
KUNM

LAS CRUCES - A bill that would give a tax break to restaurants and a $600 check to low-income workers was passed unanimously and enthusiastically out of the state Senate Taxation Business and Transportation Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 26.

The only resistance came in a warning from Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, who cautioned that new federal restrictions of oil and gas production will have a negative impact on the state budget. But, there was complete agreement that restaurants in New Mexico have been harmed by restrictions put in place to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and need help.

Dow opposition can’t stop early childhood legislation

Jan 30, 2021
Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences

LAS CRUCES - As the lone voice against a constitutional amendment to increase funding for early childhood programs, Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences, was badly outnumbered Wednesday, Jan. 27, in the New Mexico House Commerce and Economic Development Committee.

House Joint Resolution 1 would increase the annual distribution from the Land Grant Permanent Fund from 5 percent to 6 percent, adding millions of dollars to the state’s early childhood education and care programs. It was passed out of the committee on a 6-4 party-line vote.

Small towns say private prison ban would be their end

Jan 30, 2021

LAS CRUCES - A bill that would phase out private prisons in the state advanced in the New Mexico House of Representatives on Thursday, Jan. 28, despite dire warnings from local leaders in Grants and Estancia.

House Bill 40, sponsored by Rep. Angelica Rubio, D-Las Cruces, and others, would make it unlawful to operate a private detention facility in New Mexico. It would also prohibit the state or any county, sheriff’s office or other government entity from entering into a new agreement or renewing an existing agreement. Detention facilities now operating would be allowed to complete the terms of existing contracts.

Budget chief urges caution after drilling freeze

Jan 30, 2021
George Muñoz, D-Gallup

LAS CRUCES - George Muñoz, D-Gallup, chairman of the New Mexico Senate Finance Committee, urged caution with state spending following the freeze on new oil and gas leases on federal lands announced this week by President Joe Biden.

Muñoz said the freeze would not stop the Legislature from addressing the state’s top priorities of helping businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and fully funding education. But, it may impact other proposals.

Storefront Lending Caps Up For Debate At Roundhouse

Jan 29, 2021

Small, fast loans often lead to a cycle of ever-deepening debt, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Lawmakers in New Mexico are considering whether to regulate the industry here further during the 2021 legislative session. Senate Bill 66 would cap the rates and fees so that they're in line with national averages with the aim of helping people in jeopardy avoid a pit of debt they can't climb out of. KUNM caught up with reporter Jeff Proctor to talk about the effort.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico is sticking with its approach to contracting with privately operated prisons — and possibly phasing them out as time and money allow.

State Corrections Secretary Alisha Tafoya Lucero on Thursday spoke out in opposition to a bill that would make it unlawful for the state and local governments to contract with private prisons across New Mexico. The bill from Democratic legislators including Rep. Angelica Rubio of Las Cruces would cut loose three private prison operators that oversee four New Mexico facilities — and nearly half of state inmates.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — State officials say a Republican lawmaker in the New Mexico House of Representatives and four employees at the state Capitol have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week. House Republican spokesperson Matthew Garcia-Sierra said in an email on Thursday that he was “informed one of our members tested positive, and I am also aware that there were four other positive cases.” Garcia-Sierra said Republican leaders are speaking with the state Department of Health about how to proceed. He also said Republican lawmakers and staff members have been told to stay home on Friday. Republican House Minority Leader Jim Townsend said the male lawmaker, who was not named, is asymptomatic and doing fine.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A proposal that would allow community solar programs to be established in New Mexico has cleared its first legislative hurdle despite questions from some lawmakers and concerns among investor-owned utilities.

The bill cleared the Senate Conservation Committee on a party-line vote Thursday. Democrats said it would complement state mandates for generating electricity from renewable resources by expanding access to solar energy for businesses and residents who are unable to put up their own solar panels.

Eunice, NM wastewater site serving oil/gas industry / New Mexico State Land Office

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Local officials and residents in New Mexico's oil patches are anxious as the Biden administration takes aim at the oil and natural gas industry with a series of new executive orders.

But the state's two U.S. senators support the actions, saying it's time to rethink the nation's energy policies and move toward what Democrat Martin Heinrich described as a zero-pollution economy. Freshman Republican U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell says the president's actions are hasty and could have dire consequences given the industry's effect on New Mexico's bottom line.

New Mexico Legislative Notebook

Jan 27, 2021

  LAS CRUCES - Anybody dealing with Zoom meetings knows the frustration that comes when the screen freezes in mid-sentence.

A tape of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s delayed state of the state address Tuesday, Jan. 26, had just such a delay, at an inopportune time. “I’d like to ask for a moment of silence … “ at that exact moment the screen froze.

New Mexico Clean Fuel Standard Act advances in Senate

Jan 27, 2021
Laura Paskus, New Mexico In Depth

  LAS CRUCES - Two bills that would give the state more authority to set its own environmental regulations passed through the Senate Conservation Committee Tuesday, Jan. 26.

 

Senate Bill 11, the Clean Fuel Standard Act, and Senate Bill 8 both passed on 6-2 votes. Both bills have two more Senate committees to clear before reaching the floor.

 

Senate President Pro Tempore Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, is the sponsor of the Clean Fuel Standard Act. She argued that the bill would improve our health and environment while at the same time boosting the economy by sparking investment in new energy technology.

Abortion Rights Bill Advances

Jan 26, 2021
KUNM

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Democratic legislators are advancing a bill to repeal New Mexico’s dormant, 50-year-old ban on most abortion procedures that could go into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion ruling.

A bill that would shore up abortion rights statewide won its first committee endorsement on Monday after lengthy and divided public comments. Twenty-five senators have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill. That's an indication of strong support in the 42-member, Democrat-led state Senate.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham delivered the annual State of the State address on Jan. 26, 2021, from the Roundhouse in Santa Fe. This speech was pre-recorded due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We annotate the transcript with our Your N.M. Government media partners New Mexico PBS and The Santa Fe Reporter, as well as New Mexico Political Report and the Farmington Daily Times. Find that here along with the video of her speech. 

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