Legislative Roundup: 20 Days Remain In 2023 Session

Rural air service expansion: A measure supporters hope would make more airplane flight options available to rural New Mexico unanimously passed the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee on Saturday.

Senate Bill 433 would expand the state’s existing Rural Air Service Enhancement Grant Program, letting municipalities with small airports like Las Cruces, Hobbs, Carlsbad and Alamogordo compete for grants of up to $2.5 million to entice planes that can carry up to 100 passengers. Currently, only small planes carrying up to 30 passengers are covered.

Sen. Ron Griggs, R-Alamogordo, one of the bill’s sponsors, said this could help subsidize connections between New Mexico’s smaller airports and larger regional hubs like Phoenix.

“It’s a competitive grant award through the division,” Griggs said. “There’s no guarantee there’s the money there to do it. It just gives us all an opportunity to apply and see if it works.” 

Elections bill: A bill to update New Mexico’s election code passed the Senate along party lines Saturday after the body rejected two amendments offered by Republicans, including a proposal to require voters to show identification at the polls.

“The voter ID [proposal] here is pretty simple,” Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, said before Senate Bill 180 passed 23-13. “You walk up. You show your ID. You get a ballot. You vote. End of discussion. I’ve never understood why this was a problem.”

A separate amendment introduced by Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, dealing with absentee ballots also was shot down by Democrats.

“There’s a lot of absentee ballot request forms that are sent to people’s homes,” he said. “This would just ensure that if we’re going to send these out, that it is from a government entity.”

After the vote, Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, issued a statement blasting “partisan” Democrats.

“They unilaterally made significant tweaks to the election code without regard for anyone but themselves,” he said.

Senate confirmations: The Senate unanimously confirmed the reappointment of seven of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Cabinet secretaries Saturday.

Senators heaped praise on all six of them, but Stephanie Schardin Clarke, secretary of the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department, received special recognition.

“Out of all the secretaries up there, this is the most important secretary we have,” said Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, echoed the sentiment.

“This young lady runs the cash register,” he said. “Very important job, the most important job.”

Other Cabinet secretaries the Senate confirmed:

  • Sarah Cottrell Propst, secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.
  • Jennifer Schroer, secretary of the New Mexico Tourism Department.
  • Elizabeth Ann Groginsky, secretary of the Early Childhood Education and Care Department.
  • Alicia Keyes, secretary of the Economic Development Department.
  • Stephanie Rodriguez, secretary of the Higher Education Department, and
  • James Kenney, secretary of the Environment Department.

Catalytic converter bill: Too many New Mexicans are waking up in the morning to discover someone stole their catalytic converters — devices found on a vehicle’s underbelly that convert toxic gases from the exhaust system into less toxic pollutants.

Converters have rare and valuable raw materials like platinum, palladium and rhodium, which act as an enticement for theft. 

Members of the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee voted unanimously Saturday to approve Senate Bill 133, which requires any secondhand dealer to get transaction information from anyone selling a catalytic converter.

The required information includes a photocopy or digital image of the seller’s identification, the date and time of the transaction, contact information and other data. Advocates say the measure can discourage the theft of catalytic converters and help track down crooks. 

Santa Fe police received 185 reports of stolen catalytic converters across the city between Jan. 1 and Nov. 19. A representative for Enterprise Rent-A-Car told committee members the company had lost $30,000 in damage to their cars in the past few months by catalytic converter thieves.

The bill, which already cleared the Senate, next goes to the House Judiciary Committee.

Let’s get creative: The House of Representatives voted 56-10 Friday to support a bill to create a Creative Industries Division within the state Economic Development Department. The new division, announced early in the legislative session, is designed to support creative industries in the state such as traditional arts and crafts, literary arts, software development, video game design and performing arts.  

“The Creative Industries Division established by House Bill 8 would invest in infrastructure for shared facilities like maker spaces, manufacturing facilities, foundries, and gallery space, as well as entrepreneur training, workforce development, national marketing, and expansion assistance for individual businesses,” according to a news release issued by the House Democratic caucus Friday night. 

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Quotes of the day: “You’re very straightforward, forthright and you don’t take any you know what. I won’t say it.” — Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, during Higher Education Secretary Stephanie Rodriguez’s confirmation hearing.

“We spent a little time with the secretary at a reception that they hosted, and my plus-one last week was my youngest daughter, Reece. And when we walked away, she said, ‘Alicia Keyes is her name?’ and she’s like, ‘Mom, that’s a cooler name than yours,’ so she has me beat.” —Sen. Crystal Diamond, R-Elephant Butte, during Keyes’ confirmation hearing.

“No, I was scratching my head.” —Sen. Bill Tallman, D-Albuquerque, when Lt. Gov. Howie Morales asked if he was raising his hand to speak.


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