Legislative Roundup: 7 Days Remaining In Session

Legislative Roundup
SFNM News:

Come fly with me: Members of the House Transportation, Public Works and Capital Improvements Committee voted 8-1 to give wings to a Rural Air Service Enhancement Act that would provide funds for small, rural communities that want to increase air service for tourism or worker transport.

House Bill 377, introduced by Rep. Patty Lundstrom, D-Gallup, would particularly help when it comes to transporting oil and gas industry workers employed on short-term contracts to the Permian Basin, Lundstrom said.

With just a week left to go in this year’s legislative session, it’s unclear if the bill will leave the runway.

Long-term lodging: The full Senate passed a bill Thursday that would allow municipalities to collect a lodgers’ tax for stays longer than 30 days. Senate Bill 119, sponsored by Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, is aimed at generating more revenue for areas of southeastern New Mexico that have seen a dramatic increase in long-term stays by workers in the oil and gas industry.

The bill also changes the allowable uses of occupancy tax revenue, permitting money collected after 30 days of a stay to be used for local infrastructure projects. Taxes collected on the first 30 days can only be used to promote tourism and fund tourist-related facilities.

“We are very much in need in southeast New Mexico, and specifically in Eddy and Lea [counties], for this bill to pass to take care of some of the infrastructure needs we have down there,” said Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs.

Going after fracking: Environmentalists gathered in the Roundhouse Rotunda on Thursday for a rally that excoriated oil and gas companies amid allegations that hydraulic fracturing is helping lead the planet toward ruin. Advocates cited a report released that day by the group Oil Change International, which concluded the state’s goals of reducing emissions will be undermined by its growing oil and gas production.

One speaker was Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, who is carrying legislation that calls on New Mexico to stop issuing new fracking permits. She told the audience the state should ban such permits for four years. “New Mexico has a long-term obligation to consider the effects of this on the globe,” she said.

Mariel Nanasi, executive director of New Energy Economy, also addressed the crowd, criticizing the governor and legislators for not pushing legislation to restrain the oil and gas industry.

“The Lujan Grisham administration and the Legislature are still acting at cross-purposes to this scientific necessity for survival,” she said.

Turning the page: Some 20 students from local schools flooded the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday to act as pages for a half-day, helping legislators send messages and learning about the legislative process.

Many lawmakers proudly introduced their pages during the morning session. Gabby Dobyns, a 9-year-old fourth grader who attends Wood Gormley Elementary School, was one of them. The student said she took part because “I wanted to learn about what they do over here. I want to help people.”

At one point, one legislator on the floor asked the girl to deliver a handwritten note to another lawmaker. It was hardly top-secret stuff, as Dobyns learned when she peeked at the message: “I’m very happy you are my friend.” The note was sent from Rep. Linda Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, to Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, Dobyns said.

Looking ahead: New Mexico PBS will air an interview Sunday with Sens. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, and Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, who have 66 years of experience between them in the state Senate.

Airing at 8 a.m. on KNME, the Report from Santa Fe program hosted by Lorene Mills will show the senators discussing topics such as the state’s surplus revenues, proposals to reform the tax code, the possibility of reducing the tax on Social Security income and the governor’s proposed early childhood education fund.

Quote of the day: “A senator and an expert. That’s kind of rare for that body.” — Rep. Patricio Ruiloba, D-Albuquerque, upon hearing that Sen. Bobby Gonzales, D-Ranchos de Taos, was going to testify as an expert witness on House Bill 377, the Rural Air Service Enhancement Act.

“If she puts on her cowboy hat, I will.” —Sen. George Muñoz, responding to Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez’s request to yield the Senate floor during debate Thursday. “Been there, done that,” Sedillo Lopez replied.

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