Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Woah, we’re halfway there – Source New Mexico

The halfway-mark of the New Mexico 30-day Legislative Session just slipped by with the high-profile senate confirmation of a new Children, Youth and Families secretary, and the passage of a nearly $10.2 billion-dollar budget on the House floor.

The deadline for new bill introduction came and went Wednesday at  5 p.m. in both chambers, which, for the most part, limits what will be addressed by lawmakers before the final day of the session on Feb. 15.

Hours before the budget passed, Rep. Nathan Small (D-Las Cruces), told reporters that the next step for the budget is Senate passage, and any differences will be addressed in a conference committee with bipartisan House leadership.

Here’s where things stand in each chamber and a little bit of a look forward as the session looks to extend hours to get legislation across the finish line.

Chaptered

Bills that have been signed into law by the governor only include House Bill 1, the so-called “Feed Bill,” which funds the Roundhouse operations during the session.

Other items sent to the governor’s desk are all memorials, which do not have the force of law and are closer to a declaration of intent.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed “Smokey Bear Day,” and some others in the queue are “UNM Day,” celebrating the University of New Mexico, and “Deming Luna County Silver Spikes Day.”

Latest in the chambers

As of  Feb. 1 at noon, the House passed the House Bill 2, containing the budget and also House Bill 8, which amends portions of the Governmental Conduct Act.

HB 8 adds a new definition of “political activity” and bars public officers and employees from engaging in political activities while in office, on duty, in uniform, or using a government vehicle. The Fiscal Impact Report suggested the phrase “political purpose,” should be defined. It passed the House unanimously 66-0.

Both the budget and HB 8 head to the Senate.

Senate legislation currently in the House includes Senate Bill 5 which bans most firearm possession around polling locations and Senate Joint Resolution 9 which would amend the Constitution of New Mexico to have a state school board to set policy and manage funds for all public schools.

Bills out of committee and now on the Senate Floor calendar include:

–       Senate Bill 137 for which addresses mandatory training, campaign finance and webcasting for school boards

–       Senate Bill 153, which adjusts the maximum distributed from the Early Childhood Education and Care Fund to $250 million, and allows any leftover funds to transfer back into that fund, instead of the General Fund.

–       An amended version of Senate Joint Resolution 1 allowing the Dean at the University of New Mexico School of Law to appoint a designee to the Judicial Nominating Commission

A peek at what’s coming down the pike

There’s an expectation that the days and weeks in session will grow longer, as house committee chairs scheduled more Saturday hearings, and bills related to firearms that sparked hours of debate in committees head to the floor.

Another large item on the checklist is capital outlay, which earmarks funds for various government-owned projects within lawmakers’ districts.

Typically, lawmakers introduce a bill that will eventually be substituted for one of the chambers’ financial committees. After statewide projects are decided, any remaining money is divided between the House and Senate in equal amounts for each member of the chamber.

The capital outlay for lawmaker’s districts are “generally developed in the last two weeks of the session,” according to a 2022 Legislative Finance Committee memo.

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