Tue. Feb 25th, 2020

NM Legislators have many things to consider this 2020 session

SANTA FE (KSMX)- As a joint session of the New Mexico Legislature prepared to take in Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s state of the state address to begin the 2020 30-day session, a major question-mark issue is cannabis legislation.

Immediately after last year’s 60-day, New Mexico Legislative session adjourned, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham went on record saying legalizing cannabis would be an issue for this year’s session. A legalization bill passed the House of Representatives last year but got stuck in a Senate Committee. One of the issues within the Senate caucus is that members don’t want to approve legal cannabis just as a means to raise revenues.

Of course, another issue this session is crafting a state budget, a task made much easier by New Mexico’s surplus funds this year thanks to the booming oil and gas industries.

The governor’s agenda already includes proposals to create a state trust fund to underwrite early childhood education programs, criminalize U.S.-based terrorist threats and conduct, expand the state’s health insurance exchange and provide tax breaks for electric vehicle purchases and small-scale solar energy systems.

The Legislature also can place proposed constitutional amendments on the fall statewide ballot. Likely proposals include a so-called taxpayer bill of rights from Republican legislators that would restrict annual state spending and tax increases and provide for tax rebates in surplus years.

Political battle lines are drawn on a proposal for red-flag gun legislation that most local sheriffs oppose, and the governor supports. The Democrat-sponsored bill would allow police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms. Similar legislation stalled last year.

Salary increases are slated for state and public-school employees at the same time that the governor pushes to shore up a pension plan for state and local government workers where unfunded liabilities exceed $6 billion.

The governor is recommending an 8% increase in general fund spending to $7.7 billion, while a lead budget-writing committee suggests a 6.5% hike with smaller increases for child care subsidies. Both proposals set aside about $320 million a trust fund to provide investment income for early schooling and child well-being programs.

The budget proposals include $35 million to fully offset college tuition and some fees for as many as 55,000 New Mexico residents.