November 14, 2019

Final NM Legislative Session Update March 17, 2013

Posted on 17. Mar, 2013 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

Suspenseful Final Minutes of Session – “Fix it” Session Fixes Much

Taxes Cut to Encourage Business Development

Soundbite with Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle Avail at: http://youtu.be/QGdjBgLtScQ

Senate applauds as session ends: http://youtu.be/BP_jitvKSeo

Santa Fe – The “fix it” legislative session ended with state lawmakers successfully tackling numerous challenges facing the state, and the session ended in suspense. As the clock ticked down to the noon sine die, a compromise tax cut was passed by both chambers with one minute to share.  It is on its way to the Governor’s office.

Many important pieces of legislation to address New Mexico’s needs were passed unanimously in the Senate indicating the Senate worked diligently and respectfully together to address critical issues.

In the final minutes of the 60-day session, a compromise bill to encourage corporations to expand their operations in New Mexico passed the legislature. The bill that created suspense addresses a number of items including restoring the TV show tax credit that was just limited to that industry. The governor had vetoed a previous bill with the TV show tax credit  because she said she  had not received a rate tax cut for all corporations.

The provisions of the TV show tax credit were amended into the corporate tax cut in the final minutes of the session.  The Corporate Tax rate would be reduced from 7.6% to 5.9% over a five year phase- in. The tax savings would be over $8 million for the first year to over $80 million in tax savings the fifth year.  “I think it is going to send a message that if you come to this state, we are going to be on your side instead of businesses always wondering if their success is going to depend on what legislators decide.” Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle said at the close of the 2013 session. “These two or three tax cuts are really going to help with recruiting businesses and corporations.”

Three important fixes to better address the insolvency of public funds passed both chambers and are on their way to the governor’s office. A fix to the unemployment insurance fund also passed both chambers while the fate of Legislative Lottery Scholarship Program fix was not known in the final minutes.

“There were a number of problems that needed fixing this session and the Senate worked hard to tackle them,”  Senator  Ingle said.  “Some of the fixes will become law and some will need to be addressed at future sessions. I am especially impressed with the seven new Republican Senators who were very successful in their first session to pass important legislation for their districts and for the state in the Senate.  They hit the road running and they never stopped. This freshman class of Republican Senators  is  a very impressive group. They presented critical analysis of the legislation, and they debated the issues. I look for to continued great things from them going forward.”

The  State Senate  passed a balanced state budget. The budget is being sent to the governor for her action.  Highlights of the budget that will operate state government in fiscal 2014 include:

Overall operating budget:

$5.9 billion state spending plan

$246 million increase in state spending

4.4% increase from this year’s level

The largest budget item is Public Education  K-12:

$2.57 billion to Public Education, 4.6% increase, $112 million increase

Two of the three major bills were designed to fix the severe funding problems that have left public retirement funds insolvent were sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle. Senator Ingle also carried the bill to fix the Unemployment Insurance program situation.

INSOLVENT FUND FIXES

Education Retirement

Currently 37,000 retirees, 42,000 currently vested, 53,000 non-vested

SB 115a, sponsored by Senator Ingle,  makes numerous changes to the ERB. “This assures a healthier teacher pension plan, without changes, there might not be a retirement in the future,” Ingle said. The fix includes:

Increases employee contributions

Maintains employer contributions at levels enacted in 2005

Increases the age to quality for the cost of living adjustment for new hires

Requires minimum age of 55 to receive retirement benefits that are not reduced

State Employee Retirement Fix-

SB 27- also sponsored by Senator Ingle, shores up the pension system for over 86,000 public employees. Their annual cost of living increase would be 2% rather than the current 3% in order to close the gap between $6 billion in assets and cost of future benefits. Also require employees contribute an additional 1.5% of their salaries into the pension fund. Those hired after June of 2013 would have to work longer before they qualify for their pension.

Judicial Retirement Fix- attempts to address solvency.

Unemployment Insurance program

Its sponsor, Senator Ingle, said the bill assures adequate reserves and fairer premium rates.

Fairer rates based on employers’ use of fund

Workforce Solutions sets formula, assures soundness

Implemented in 2015

Legislative Lottery Scholarship- To shore up this fund to provide scholarships to New Mexico colleges for New Mexico high school graduates, the  Senate voted 40-0 to use a quarter of the payments, around $40 million, from the  tobacco settlement to help pay for the lottery scholarship program.  The Senate also passed a memorial to study solutions to the dwindling fund.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Republican Senators introduced various pieces of legislation to help small business and the Senate passed bills to improve the state’s economic health.

Capital Outlay: The New Mexico State Senate passed a bill to invest $222 million into vital infrastructure for New Mexico.   Senators said the investment will help create economic development opportunities throughout the entire state. Funding comes from the extractive industries, mostly from oil and gas production.

Senator Sue Wilson Beffort (R-Sandia Park) sponsored a bill passed by the Senate to help revitalize small towns in rural NM by lowering taxes on microbrewery production. Senator Pat Woods (R-Broadview) would help revitalize by the Frontier Communities Programs that passed the Senate.

The viability of the $209 million Spaceport in Southern New Mexico received the much needed law to limit liability lawsuits against suppliers.

Senator Neville’s bill  to assure clean water tanks in New Mexico cities and towns passed both chambers and is headed to the governor’s office.

The Senate and House passed a bill to boost the TV industry in the state. It would increase to 30 percent the rebate for money spent on TV production if they shoot at least six programs in a single season.  The governor vetoed this bill.

All Republican Senators voted against raising the state minimum wage to $8.50 an hour from the current $7.50. But being in the minority, the minimum wage passed the Senate. The wage would be the highest in the region and Republicans feared it would kill business opportunities in the state.

Senate Minority Whip Bill Payne (R-Albuquerque)  sponsored a bill exempting  UNM from a special utility fee, encouraging its own renewable energy generation.

A bill sponsored by Senator John Ryan (R-Albuquerque) passed both chambers. It is  to encourage more  tourism and economic development by allowing  New Mexico restaurants and bars to be more competitive by extending Sunday sales of liquor.

A bill passed both chambers, sponsored by Senator Sander Rue (R-Albuquerque)  makes it easier to apply online for professional and occupational licenses. “It is time we gave up the typewriter and move into the 21st Century,” Senator Rue said.

A novel bill sponsored by Senator Bill Sharer (R-Farmington) was introduced to repeal nearly every sales tax and income tax and replace them with a 2% across-the-board consumption tax. “Simplifying  the entire system increases economic opportunities and retains the same revenue for the state.”

A bill sponsored by Senator Carroll Leavell (R-Jal) passed both chambers. It fixes a mistake in the law to assure the rural job tax credit actually creates new jobs.

A bill introduced to invest $2.5 million in state money to mitigate the damage caused by the drought in the lower Pecos river basin and the Carlsbad irrigation district service area was sponsored by Senator Leavell.

A bill is on its way to the Governor’s office was sponsored by Senator Pat Woods (R-Broadview) . It  allows boy scouts to purchase an inexpensive fishing license.

There were also Senate bills introduced to:

help military families obtain professional licenses easier in the state. Sponsored by Senator Bill Burt (R-Alamogordo.)

exempt military retirees from state income tax to spur economic development.

increase alcohol training and reduce to a misdemeanor mistake of serving to a minor. Sponsored by Senator Burt.

eliminate the double taxation on Bio Diesel  fuels delivered to the state. Sponsored by Senator Ingle.

protect consumers regarding fertilizers and soil conditioners. Sponsored by Senator Woods.

change existing liquor laws to provide for more available licenses to increase economic opportunities in the state. Sponsored by Senator Ron Griggs (R-Alamogordo).

bill to end Day Light Savings, sponsored by Senator Cliff Pirtle’s (R-Roswell).

end skills and knowledge test for hired custom harvester drivers sponsored by Pirtle.

PUBLIC SAFETY/ END CORRUPTION

Anti-corruption bill sponsored by Senate Minority Caucus Chair Steve Neville (R-Farmington) passed  both chambers is being  sent to the governor’s office. If signed into law, it will change the makeup of the State Investment Council so the $16 billion permanent fund can become better secured and better invested for future generations.  Senator Neville sponsored another bill on its way to the governor’s office to allow defendants to be charged more of their probation and parole costs.

Senator Mark Moores’(R-Albuquerque) bill became law to provide that police dogs be offered first to their trainers or handlers when the dogs retire from service.

Senator Sander Rue’s (R-Albuquerque) bill is on the governor’s desk to increase penalties for procurement code violations, as well as increase transparency, making it more difficult to bride state officials for state work.  Both chambers also passed Senator Rue’s bill to allow CYFC to conduct criminal history checks prior to placing a child in a home when there is an emergency.

Additional bills were introduced to:

remove the statute of limitations for murder in the 2nd degree.

obligate everyone to report child abuse

crack down on drunk drivers’ who use their vehicles as weapons.

increase careless driving penalties if someone dies or is seriously hurt.

allow ignition interlocks for certain DWI crimes to allow people to be productive citizens.

seize campaign funds and throw out of office immediately guilty corrupt government officials.

prohibit naming public buildings after living people.

allow sheriff and police to have more vehicle choices to catch criminals.

make cell phones and electronic devices contraband in prison.

lessen  punishment for not wearing a lifejacket.

allow school districts to decide whether 3 employees can have a handgun in school for production.

require background checks for EMTs.

Protect some state employees with protective license plates.

Require voter rolls to be checked to ensure that noncitizens are not registered to vote in New Mexico.  If they are registered to vote illegally, the bill allows a court process to cancel that voter registration.

allow school districts to decide if up to three employees could have a conceal carry  handgun to protect the schoolchildren and educators.

EDUCATION

Senator Craig Brandt’s (R-Albuquerque) bill requiring public schools to allow homeschoolers to take classes and be paid for it, is headed to the governor’s desk.

SB 260 that would have given early intervention help to students deficient in reading from kindergarten through second grade, and to insure no child is promoted beyond the 3rd grade who cannot read,  was tabled in committee.

The fate of Public Education Department Secretary Hanna Skandera was discussed at length in the Senate Rules committee in Scandera’s confirmation hearing. No vote was ever allowed to be taken.

Also introduced:

A bill sponsored by Senator Gay Kernan (R-Hobbs) was designed to keep costs down for students who need to take an exam to receive a high school equivalency diploma passed the Senate. She sponsored another bill to give public school districts an additional year of budget flexibility to deal with continuing  budget shortfalls.

HEALTH  CARE

There was a bill to encourage private long-term insurance program to give New Mexicans more choice while allowing them to retain more of their estate for their heirs when they eventually go on Medicaid was sponsored by Senator Lee Cotter (R-Las Cruces.)

Affordable Care Act requires a state operated Health Insurance Exchange. The Senate passed legislation that would establish a state operated exchange.

Other initiatives:

Driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants – The compromise bill, SB  to stop issuing driver’s license to most undocumented immigrants passed the  Senate.  A House bill, HB 606, to change the way driver’s licenses are given to illegal immigrants was awaiting action in the Senate.

Gun Control-  HB 77- Requires background check between one private citizen and another private citizen at gun shows, taking away property ownership rights by inserting a 3rd party into the sale and nowhere is that allowed in the constitution.

PRC Reform- SB 8- the Corporations Division would move to the Secretary of State’s office. HB 47 would create a separate Insurance Division and remove it from the PRC.

There were several attempts to draw money from the state land grant permanent fund. There was also debate to return straight ticket voting to state law.

The House voted on a bill to lower the penalties for small amounts of marijuana.

Senate passed a bill to allow voters to make online changes to their voter registration information.  HB 588 “pilot community engagement team” to provide help to mentally ill before they reach a crisis point.

At the close of the session Saturday, not all of the action in the House and the ultimate action by the governor were known.

This End of Session Report was submitted by Diane Kinderwater of the New Mexico State Senate Republican Office. Ms. Kinderwater can be reached at 505/986-4702

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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