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New Mexico News Plus

April 7, 2017

New Mexico reins in payday loansLas Cruces Sun News

New Mexico is reining in high-interest loans from the storefront lending industry under HB480 signed by Gov. Susana Martinez. Signed on Thursday, the legislation effectively eliminates payday loans by definition and caps interest rates at 175 percent. Small loans that have terms less than 120 days are banned.

A proposal to raise New Mexico’s statewide minimum wage with HB442 to $9.25 an hour from $7.50 has been vetoed. Gov. Martinez said in a veto message Thursday that small business in rural areas cannot sustain the proposed increase and criticized the Legislature for proposing tax increases at the same time.

A SB227 to spur the installation of solar panels on New Mexico state buildings has been vetoed. Gov. Martinez said in a veto message Thursday the legislation would have required additional agency staff without providing the necessary financial resources. The bill from Democratic Rep. Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces would have directed the New Mexico General Services Department to pursue contracts with solar providers that save the state money on electricity costs over time with no up-front public investment. The General Services Department oversees 750 state buildings.

Gov. Martinez has vetoed SB393 that would have expanded financial disclosure requirements for lobbyists. Martinez on Thursday rejected new requirements that lobbyists report expenses under $100 that are spent on lawmakers and other public officials.

Gov. Martinez says she vetoed HB175 designed to curb the use of solitary confinement in jails and prisons because it could have endangered the lives of inmates and guards. Martinez on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have banned the placement of pregnant women and juveniles in solitary confinement. The bill also would have limited the use of solitary confinement on inmates suffering from mental illness. - -4/7/2017

April 6, 2017

Border agency fields pitches for Trump's wall with MexicoLas Cruces Sun News

One bidder wants to cover President Donald Trump's border wall with solar panels. Another suggests building a wall large enough for a deck that would offer tourists scenic views of the desert. In the competition to build the wall, traditional bids are interspersed with more whimsical ideas.

As Tuesday's deadline for bids passed, U.S. Customs and Border Protection declined to identify bidders or say how many there were, which is standard practice in government contracting. The federal government expects to announce around June 1 which companies will be hired to build prototypes. - - 4/6/2017

April 3, 2017

NM bill against racial bias at agencies vetoedLas Cruces Sun News

A bill designed to combat racial bias in hiring and promotional decisions at New Mexico state agencies has been vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez. Senate Bill 269 sponsor and Democratic Sen. Linda Lopez of Albuquerque said Friday in a statement that the veto means some state residents would continue to feel unwelcome and overlooked in the offices of New Mexico government.

The governor also vetoed the extension of a tax credit to smaller film production facilities that are currently excluded. Currently the tax incentives go to film and TV productions shooting at a back lot of at least 50 acres. The bill would have reduced the requirement to 45 acres to cover at least one site in the Las Cruces area.

Senate Bill 390 sponsor, Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, said the 50-acre rule is arbitrary. Martinez wrote that the current requirements are appropriate. The state can give out up to $50 million in tax credits each year.

Martinez signed House Bill 256 Thursday that provides $1.8 million for improvements to drinking water systems across the state and ensures federal matching funds, allows law enforcement to serve municipal warrants outside city limits and in neighboring counties, and establishes new provisions for revoking horse-racing licenses. - - 4/3/2017

April 4, 2017

Rolling Stone looks at N.M. medical marijuana bill -- Santa Fe New Mexican

Rolling Stone magazine last week published an article featuring a medical marijuana bill that passed the Legislature and is awaiting Gov. Susana Martinez's signature.

The story, headlined "How Medical Marijuana Could Help End the Opioid Epidemic," deals with House Bill 527, sponsored by House Minority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque. The bill would set into law the medical conditions that make a patient eligible to obtain medical marijuana in New Mexico. These conditions are now listed in rules issued by the state Health Department. But in addition, it also would add opioid addiction to that list of qualifying conditions. -- 4/3/2017


March 30, 2017

New Mexico creates repair fund for state trust landsLas Cruces Sun News

New Mexico's governor has signed legislation to gradually set aside up to $5 million to help repair damaged or polluted state trust lands. House Bill 24 signed by Gov. Susana Martinez on Wednesday creates the State Trust Lands Restoration and Remediation Fund. The account can be tapped to clean up illegal dumping, restore watersheds from wildfire damage or deal with invasive plant species. -- 3/30/2017


Secretary Zinke Takes Immediate Action to Advance American Energy Independence -- DOI Press Release

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke signed two secretarial orders to advance American energy independence.

Secretarial Order 3348 overturns the 2016 moratorium on all new coal leases on federal land and ends the programmatic environmental impacts statement that was set to be completed no sooner than 2019. Based upon the Department’s review of Secretary’s Order 3338, the order notes that, “the public interest is not served by halting the federal coal program for an extended time, nor is a PEIS required to consider potential improvements to the program.” The order notes that the federal coal leasing program supplies approximately 40 percent of the coal produced in the United States and is critically important to the U.S. economy.

Secretarial Order 3349 implements review of agency actions directed by the President’s Executive Order signed yesterday on energy independence. It also directs a reexamination of the mitigation and climate change policies and guidance across the Department of the Interior in order to better balance conservation strategies and policies with the equally legitimate need of creating jobs for hardworking American families. In particular, the order sets a timetable for review of agency actions that may hamper responsible energy development and reconsideration of regulations related to U.S. oil and natural gas development.

In an effort to ensure the public continues to receive the full value of natural resources produced on federal lands, Secretary Zinke also signed a charter establishing a Royalty Policy Committee to provide regular advice to the Secretary on the fair market value of and collection of revenues from Federal and Indian mineral and energy leases, include renewable energy sources. The Committee may also advise on the potential impacts of proposed policies and regulations related to revenue collection from such development, including whether a need exists for regulatory reform. The group will consist of up to 28 local, Tribal, state, and other stakeholders and will serve in an advisory.  -- 3/29/2017