Roundup at the Roundhouse, Feb. 24, 2021
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
NEW MEXICO HOUSE PASSES PROPOSED $7.4 BILLION BUDGET
The House of Representatives today passed HB-2 , the state's operating budget on a vote of 60-10.
The $7.4 billion budget increases state spending on public education, health care and relief to businesses in an effort to chart a financial path out of the coronavirus pandemic. The budget bill would increase annual general fund spending by $332 million, or nearly 5% of current spending obligations.
Leading Republican legislators opposed the spending plan.
Minority Leader Jim Townsend (R-Artesia) said he was reluctant to endorse proposed base salary increases for public workers.
"At a time of such unemployment, I think that was about $63 million in the budget that I personally found troubling," Townsend said. "The only good thing about this budget is that it is less bad than the previous two years, in which the Governor wasted $2 billion in surplus funds."
There was also concern about increased school funding when so many districts have remained online.
The budget bill now moves forward to the Senate.
LIQUOR LICENSES AND DELIVERY BILL PASSED IN HOUSE
The House has come to a bipartisan agreement in how to fix a decades-long problem with the state's liquor laws and approve some liquor delivery. The bill would create an entirely new license that would allow restaurants to sell liquor without full licensure, change the tax code for existing owners of liquor licenses and allow alcohol delivery under some circumstances. The House approved HB-255, 41-27. The bill gained support from some Republicans after House Minority Leader James Townsend of Artesia offered an amendment to permanently waive fees for some current license holders and any family that inherits the license.
REPUBLICAN LAWMAKERS: IT'S TIME TO REMOVE THE FENCE AROUND THE CAPITOL
Republican legislators have written to the Legislative Council in a call to remove the fence surrounding the Roundhouse. The request comes because lawmakers believe it suggests that public input isn't welcome during the Session, and they point out there have been no security threats. The letter was signed by Republican leaders in the House and the Senate.
"I think if we don't have any credible evidence, of some sort of threat, you know, there's no reason to have that fear. We can take it down," said Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca. "So that people can actually engage around the Capitol. Sometimes they gather in front. You know, they have messages they want to give to us and it's their right."
There's also the matter of the cost.
With no threat ever materializing, it's time to take down the fence. With the fencing and other security measures--like increased law enforcement personnel--the heightened security measures cost New Mexicans $33,000 a day.
CLICK HERE to read the letter.