Legislative Roundup: 3 Days Remaining In Session

Legislative Roundup
SFNM News:

Temper, temper: Tensions flared between two Democrats in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday during a discussion of Senate Bill 98, which deals with compliance with minimum wage laws on public works projects.

The verbal dust-up took place between the sponsor, Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, a member of the committee, over how best to define public records requests regarding employee wages.

Testy exchanges of dialogue and accusations of making faces dominated the conversation for a few moments, and at one point Candelaria stood up and declared he was leaving the committee. “That’s the third potshot he’s taken at me,” he said of Ivey Soto — who in turn complained he wasn’t allowed to look Candelaria or his witness in the face during questioning. 

Committee Chairman Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, calmed both men down, asking them to not get personal.

“We’re in our final days [of the session] and things get a little heated,” he said, restoring order quickly. 

Coincidentally, Cervantes opened Monday afternoon’s hearing with, “We’re of good nature and good cheer, as opposed to your Senate Finance Committee, where there’s a lot of grumbling.”

The Judiciary Committee voted 9-1 to move the bill forward. 

Pick up that trash: The House voted 60-0 in favor of a bill calling for an advisory committee to help the New Mexico Department of Tourism address littering along state highways. House Bill 317 also would allow the state to change the way tourism funds are used to clean up highways, opening access to the money to local and tribal governments. The bill next goes to the Senate for consideration.  

No tax break for military retirees: A bill that would have provided an income tax break for military retirees living in New Mexico was tabled Monday by the House Taxation and Revenue Committee, which said there wasn’t time before the legislative session ends Thursday to work the measure into the state budget. 

House Bill 249, introduced by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, could have given up to $2,500 in tax breaks per military retiree, according to a fiscal impact report. The report said more than 21,000 military veterans live in New Mexico.

Medical cannabis restrictions: The House on Monday passed legislation that would stop out-of-state residents from obtaining medical marijuana licenses in New Mexico.

The measure cleared the House in a 44-19 vote, with House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, recusing himself because he is lead counsel in an appeal of a court case tied to the legislation. In a letter to the Legislature’s Chief Clerk Lisa Ortiz McCutcheon, Egolf said his recusal comes “in the the spirit and letter of the State of New Mexico’s laws and rules relating to ethical conduct.”

More that 420 out-of-state residents currently have medical marijuana licenses in New Mexico, according to the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Senate Bill 139 previously passed the Senate in a 32-8 vote and now goes to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office.

Senior fund approved: A bill backed by the governor and aimed at providing services for the state’s senior citizens was passed by the full Senate on Monday. House Bill 225 would create the Kiki Saavedra Senior Dignity Fund, which is named after a longtime state representative from Albuquerque. The bill will now go back to the House for a concurrence vote after the Senate made a technical change.

According to the bill, the purpose of the fund is to address services like transportation, food insecurity, physical and behavioral health, case management and caregiving. The Senate Finance Committee amended the bill to remove the provision that the fund would be administered by the Aging and Long-Term Services Department, and instead requires the fund be subject to annual appropriation by the Legislature.

“We are working within the budget process to create the Kiki Saavedra Senior Dignity Fund and to ensure that it receives the funding it needs and that it fits in with the overall budget for the state,” said Rep. Debbie Armstrong, sponsor of the bill and House Health and Human Services Committee chairwoman

Looking ahead: The state Department of Agriculture will host its annual Roundhouse Feed — basically a buffet line of agricultural culinary offerings — at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Capitol Rotunda.

Quote of the day: “I want to thank you for being a part of my life.” — Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, speaking to House members after they paid homage to his career Monday. Trujillo is not running for reelection. Trujillo called himself “a man of few words,” which, for the most part, he has been during his nearly 18 years in the Legislature.

Quotes of the day: “You are, in fact, a role model, sir.” — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, speaking on the Senate floor as retiring Sen. Bill Payne, R-Albuquerque, was being honored.

“That’s the last you’re going to hear of me.” — Payne, after he was honored by the Senate and introduced his final memorial.