STATE OF NEW MEXICO
Thursday, February 13, 2020
WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE LEGISLATURE
1. RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA BURNS OUT THIS SESSION
The Senate Judiciary Committee last night tabled SB115, the Cannabis Regulation Act, which would have legalized recreational marijuana. There were too many questions and concerns raised by lawmakers, but the decision to kill the bill seems a smart move. Such a law would likely increase crime, lead to underage use and driving impairment and black markets problems.
Just before the hearing, House Minority Leader Jim Townsend hand-delivered to the Governor a package of letters from New Mexico Faith Leaders in opposition to the bill.
It's unlikely the marijuana legislation will come up again this session.
2. OPPORTUNITY SCHOLARSHIP ACT MOVES FORWARD AS COST
The Senate Education Committee yesterday cleared the "free college" bill or the Opportunity Scholarship Act by a vote of 5 to 2. The plan aims to cover all college tuition and expense costs for New Mexicans, but there are new concerns about the rising costs of such a program. Now a Legislative Finance Committee's fiscal impact report reveals the governor's initial $35 million price tag would actually be $62 million per year. The left-leaning Democrats' out-of-control spending keeps growing. This would lead to even more spending by progressive lawmakers who don't seem to understand fiscal restraint.
"Where’s the money going to come from to fund this program beyond this year?" asked Rep. Craig Brandt, (R)-Rio Rancho. "The FIR (fiscal impact report) raises a lot of concerns in that respect." Brandt was one of two committee members, both Republicans, to vote against the bill.
The bill now heads to the Senate Finance Committee.
3. PUBLIC EMPLOYEES WOULD PAY THE PRICE SHOULD PENSION REFORM
The Senate has approved a massive pension reform package. Major provisions of SB72 would tie future annual cost of living adjustments to investment returns instead of providing automatic 3% increases. It also increases pension contributions by local and state public employees. This legislation is really hurting employees, who must rely on market changes for income and who must pay more into the system. This is just another case of our liberal legislature putting financial burdens on hard-working New Mexicans to fix a broken pension system, one with an unfunded liability of $6.6 billion.
4. PRC BILL TO OVERHAUL STRUCTURE ADVANCES
The House Judiciary Committee yesterday approved a substitute version of a bill that would dramatically overhaul the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission, moving many of the agency's key positions to the governor's oversight. The public Commission, which regulates utilities, would move from an elected body to an appointed one by the governor. This is just a power grab by Gov. Lujan Grisham, and some fear this move might lead to high utility rates down the road. The bill heads to the full House.
5. HOUSE PASSES REPUBLICAN TRANSPARENCY MEASURE
The public will soon have access to more legislative action thanks to Republican leadership. House Minority Leader Jim Townsend last night delivered a new transparency change to the House rules. House Resolution 1 will ensure that tabled votes in committee are made public. Now when a committee tables a bill, it essentially stops the legislation in its tracks. Beginning with the next legislative session tabled bills will be public record.
“This is a huge win for the people of New Mexico” said Townsend. “The more clarity we provide into the process in Santa Fe, the better. I am pleased to have the support of this entire body in their commitment to transparency.”
HR 1 passed the House unanimously.
Rep. Gregg Schmedes is a surgeon who lives in Tijeras and represents Bernalillo, Sandoval and Santa Fe Counties.
Committees: Consumer & Public Affairs, Health & Human Services
Sen. Steven Neville lives in Aztec and represents San Juan County. Sen. Neville is a Real Estate Appraiser who's been in the Senate since 2005.