By Mike Cook
The first session of New Mexico’s 56th legislature ended at noon Saturday, March 18, as state senators and representatives passed the largest budget in state history, along with tax reform legislation and bills that oppose high-level nuclear waste storage in the state, address medical malpractice, voting rights, firearms, teacher salaries and education funding, human and gender rights, health and behavioral health.
The tax bill also provides for a tax rebate of $500 to most New Mexicans.
Here is a brief summary of some of the bills passed during the session. They will become law If signed by April 7 by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who can veto a bill outright and also has line-item veto authority. If she does not act on a bill by that date, it is pocket vetoed. June 16 is the effective date of bills signed into law by the governor, except for general appropriations bills and any legislation with an emergency clause or specified date.
- House Bill 2: General Appropriations Act, totals $9.57 billion, an increase of almost 14 percent from the current state budget. The bill, which maintains 30 percent reserves, includes a $302 million (eight percent) increase for public schools, a six percent raise for teachers, $135 million in appropriations to the New Mexico Early Childhood and Education Care Department, a six percent increase in funding for the state Children, Youth and Families Department, $489.5 million for recurring and non-recurring expenses in the Environment Department, $50 million to establish the Land of Enchantment Legacy Fund (a new conservation permanent fund), $124 million to the Office of Broadband Access and Expansion, $55 million for state airports and $230 million for state and local roads. The bill was sponsored by state Rep. Nathan Small, D-Doña Ana, chair of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. HB 2 passed the house 52-17 and passed the senate 25-16.
- HB 547: Tax Changes, “makes tax policy more equitable, provides relief for working families, eases tax burdens for small business and veterans and supports climate goals,” according to a news release from New Mexico House of Representatives Democrats. The bill reduces capital gains tax, flattens corporate income tax, reduces the state’s overall gross receipts tax by 0.5 percent over the next five years, increases the state’s low-income comprehensive tax rebate, provides tax rebates of $500 to individuals who filed 2021 tax returns and $1,000 to joint filers, increases the refundable child income tax credit, doubles the tax credit for parents who adopt a child with special needs and provides a new tax exemption for military retirement pay. The bill also creates tax credits for electric vehicle purchases. It also raises alcohol excise taxes by 20 percent, and distributes a portion to a new alcohol harms alleviation fund. HB 547 passed the house 50-18 and the senate 24-12.
- Senate Bill 53: Storage of Certain Radioactive Waste, “prohibits storage of nuclear waste in New Mexico without the state’s consent,” according to House Democrats. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Doña Ana. The bill passed the house 35-28 and the senate 21-13
- SB 523: Public Peace, Health, Safety and Welfare Medical Malpractice Changes, amends the state Medical Malpractice Act “to change the limitation of recovery for certain claims against facilities that are not hospital controlled,” according to nmlegis.gov. The bill is “a long-term fix to the malpractice insurance crisis that threatened to put independent providers and outpatient facilities in New Mexico out of business,” according to a news release from the New Mexico Senate Republican Office. The bill passed the house 63-0 and the senate 40-2.
- HB 130: K-12 Plus Program, would increase learning time from the current minimums of 990 hours for elementary school students and 1,080 for middle and high school students to 1,400 hours for all students. It passed the house 62-0 and the senate 34-6.
- SB 426 establishes a civil rights division in the New Mexico Attorney General’s office that would have the authority to investigate, intervene and bring civil actions related to civil rights violations, according to nmlegis.gov. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Doña Ana, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill passed the senate 23-15. The house vote was not available at press time.
- HB 9: Unlawful Access to a Firearm by a Minor (Bennie’s Bill), co-sponsored by state Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Doña Ana, “protects kids from gun violence and senseless tragedies by holding adults accountable for reckless storage of firearms,” according to New Mexico House Democrats. Lujan Grisham signed HB 9 March 14. The bill passed the house 37-32 and the senate 24-16.
- HB 306: Purchase of Firearms for Another, co-sponsored by state Rep. Ray Lara, D-Doña Ana, “makes it a felony to knowingly buy a gun for someone who can’t legally own it or intends to use it for a crime,” according to House Democrats. The bill passed the house 62-3 and the senate 28-10.
- HB 27: Breast Exam Health Coverage, eliminates out-of-pocket costs for breast examinations. The bill passed the house 58-0 and the senate 35-0.
- SB 310: Expands centers in New Mexico “to treat those in crisis as well as authorizing peace officers to bring individuals to these centers for evaluation rather than having to take them to the ER or jail,” according to House Democrats. The bill was sponsored by state Rep. Doreen Gallegos, D-Doña Ana. It passed the house 63-0 and the senate 35-0.
- New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said three bills passed by the legislature “are big wins for voting access, election security and election administration in New Mexico.” The bills are HB 4: Voting Rights Protections (the New Mexico Voting Rights Act; sponsored by Lara and passed the house 41-26 and the senate 27-14); SB 180: Election Administration Changes, which passed the house 44-25 and the senate 23-13; and SB 43, Intimidation of Election Officials, which passed the house 62-1 and the senate 38-0.
- HB 7: Reproductive and Gender Affirming Health Care Act “protects access to reproductive and gender-affirming health care by prohibiting counties and local municipalities from denying, restricting or discriminating against a person’s right to care,” according to House Democrats. Lujan Grisham signed HB 7 March 16. It passed the house 38-31 and the senate 23-15.
- HB 207: Expand Human Rights Act, “expands discrimination protections,” according to House Democrats. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Carrie Hamblen, D-Doña Ana. It passed the house 47-20 and the senate 26-10.
- SB 182: The Litter Control and Beautification Act, “improves recycling and litter cleanup in New Mexico,” said Steinborn, who co-sponsored the bill with Crystal Diamond, R-Sierra, Luna, Hidalgo and Doña Ana. It passed the house 62-0 and the senate 37-0.
- HB 8: Creative Industries Division in EDD, creates the division with the state Economic Development Department (NMEDD) “to spur the growth of New Mexico’s creative industries and diversity the state’s economy,” according to House Democrats. Steinborn sponsored the bill. It passed the house 56-10 and the senate 30-2.
- HB 118: Create Office of Entrepreneurship, creates the office in NMEDD “to provide greater support and resources for budding business owners in New Mexico,” according to House Democrats. Gallegos sponsored the bill. It passed the house 54-1 and the senate 32-4.
- HB 139: Flexibility in Fines and Fees “ensures that courts consider an individual’s ability to pay when imposing fines and fees.” Sponsored by state Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, D-Doña Ana. It passed the house 42-18 and the senate 35-1.
- HB 15: Special Immigrant Juvenile Classification “creates a path for young migrants, for whom returning to their home country is not in their best interest, to safely stay in the United States,” according to House Democrats. It passed the house 64-0 and the senate 33-6.
- HB 314: Cannabis Record Expungement, “streamlines expungement of criminal records for acts no longer prohibited with the legalization of adult-use cannabis,” according to House Democrats. It passed the house 51-5 and the senate 34-8.