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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 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


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

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

March 27, 2017

Law enforcement leaders 'disgusted' by bill's defeat- Las Cruces Sun News

Regional law enforcement officials were disgusted by the defeat of a bill aimed to adjust asset forfeitures resulting from criminal investigations. The bill passed the New Mexico State Senate but was not brought to the floor of House of Representatives before the legislative session ended last week.

Senate Bill 202 was meant to reform the state’s Asset Forfeiture Act, which requires funds and property seized in drug and other investigations to be given to the state treasury as opposed to the law enforcement agencies handling the case. - - 3/27/17

March 21, 2017

Wrap-up of key bills from New Mexico LegislatureLas Cruces Sun News

HB 45 Would have extended penalties under the Baby Brianna Law to include victims up to age 18. Died in Senate Judiciary Committee.

HB 89 Would have legalized the sale and taxation of marijuana. Died in House Business and Industry Committee.

HB 174 Would require local elections to be held on the same day as general elections. Passed House and Senate, pending governor’s signature.

HB 202 A package of tax increases on gas, car and truck sales, Internet sales and medical services. Passed House and Senate. Governor has said she will veto.

HB 211 Would require that new standards be set for teaching science and math. Passed House and Senate, pending governor’s signature.

HB 241 Would have allowed teachers to use sick days without impacting their evaluation. Passed House and Senate; vetoed by governor; Senate voted to override veto, House override vote fell short.

HB 393 Would create new licenses plate devoted to chili peppers. Passed House and Senate, pending governor’s signature.

HB 398 Would have increased taxes on alcohol. Died in the House Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 412 Would have made major changes to state gross receipts tax. Died in Senate Corporations Committee.

SB 15 Would have capped interest rates on small loans at 36 percent. Died in Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee. A separate bill capping rates at 175 percent passed and is pending the governor’s signature.

SB 48 Would have expanded background check requirements on gun sales. Died in Senate Judiciary Committee. A similar bill in the House also died in committee.

SB 96 Would add new requirements to the Campaign Reporting Act. Passed House and Senate, pending governor’s signature.

SB 217 Would provide due-process protections for Medicaid providers in the state. Passed House and Senate, pending governor’s signature.

SB 224 Would have allowed voters to registers up to three days before an election. Died in House Local Governments Committee.

SB 227 Would set framework for installation of solar panels on state buildings. Passed House and Senate, pending governor’s signature.

SB 231 Would have increased taxes on cigarettes. Died in House Taxation and Revenue Committee.

SB 258 Would have lowered penalties for marijuana possession. Died on the House floor without a vote.

SB 268 Would have prohibited coyote killing contests. Died on the House floor without a vote.

SB 270 would have prohibited local enforcement of federal immigration laws. Died on Senate floor without a vote.

SB 354 Would establish new interagency group designed to lower the cost state pays for prescription drugs. Passed House and Senate, pending governor’s signature.

SB 360 Would have required utility companies to seek competitive proposals for energy procurement. Died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB 420 Would allow students to take an extra year off after high school and still qualify for the lottery scholarship. Passed House and Senate, pending governor’s signature.

SB 429 Would have shielded spaceport records from the public records act. Died in Senate Judiciary Committee.

HJR 8 Would create a state ethics committee. Passed House and Senate. Will be on the ballot in 2018.

SJR 21 Would have taken from the state severance tax to fund early child education. Died in Senate Finance Committee. -- 3/21/2017