Paves the way for infrastructure investments in rural areas

Santa Fe, N.M. – Legislation to aid rural infrastructure projects passed its final committee in the House of Representatives today. 

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 to allow 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.

“Our state can’t have an economy that works for everyone if so many New Mexicans are struggling with basic infrastructure,” said Rep. Anthony Allison. “In parts of my district, people have been unable to practice basic public health precautions like frequent hand-washing during the pandemic, because of the lack of running water. With this bill, we can seriously address the gaps in our state’s infrastructure, particularly for our rural communities which continue to be underserved.” 

“Our state can’t thrive if our rural communities lack the basic infrastructure to build and create new opportunities,” said Rep. Christine Chandler. “With HJR 9, New Mexico’s state government can be a much more active partner in supporting the kinds of projects necessary to build the basic and modern infrastructure our rural communities deserve—like the broadband services that so many New Mexico students are lacking.”

The House Judiciary Committee substitute for House Joint Resolution 9 passed the House Judiciary Committee with a 6-3 vote, and will go next to the House Floor. As a constitutional amendment, HJR 9 would proceed to a public vote after passing the House and Senate. 

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.

 - NMDP