RGF’s take on issues in the NM Special Session

The Special Session starts June 18 and there is going to be a lot on the agenda for the Legislature to consider in a very short time and with minimal public involvement.

For starters, there is the budget which is the primary reason for the Session in the first place. The executive budget framework includes cuts to state agency budgets, grants to local governments and sovereign nations and a preservation of a portion of the pay raises that had been scheduled for educators while using the state’s unprecedented reserves and federal funding to patch the budget hole created by the shutdown of New Mexico’s economy and the COVID-19 pandemic.

RGF’s take: It is important that the bloated budget passed in 2020 be adjusted, but it appears that the Gov. and the Legislature will wait on the 2021 session to make most of the hard choices about further cuts to New Mexico’s government.

Unfortunately, many of the proposed bills are simply not available online as the session kicks off.  So, we are basing these discussions on descriptions in an article by Dan Boyd of the Albuquerque Journal.

  • Require police to wear cameras, ban chokehold restraints and make officers’ disciplinary history a matter of public record under the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act. She is also asking lawmakers to establish a commission to evaluate ending qualified immunity for police officers, a legal doctrine that helps protect officers from civil lawsuits. (RGF does not take a position on these issues although a commission to study qualified immunity is worth convening).
  • Authorize county clerks, during a public health emergency, to mail ballots to registered voters without requiring the voter to fill out an application first. Ballots would go to voters with a current address, the governor said, and voters and election officials could track the ballots’ progress through the mail. (RGF has serious concerns about all-mail voting).
  • Waive penalties and interest for small businesses and individuals who are unable to pay their property and gross receipts taxes on time. (This is a good move)
  • Grant the administration extra flexibility to help businesses during an emergency by, for example, allowing liquor delivery or electronic notary services. (This has merit, but details are necessary because there are potential pitfalls inherent in empowering ANY governor)
  • Direct the state investment officer to use some of the $5 billion Severance Tax Permanent Fund for loans to help small businesses and municipalities damaged by the pandemic. (It sounds like this is a diversion of money that would already be “invested” by the SIC as opposed to tapping additional revenue. If so, this is a sound idea)

As discussed above, this is what you got if you looked for “all bills” introduced in the 2020 special session.