Legislative Update: End of 30-day Session

Legislative Update February 15, 2018
Legislature Passes $6.3 Million Budget, Crime Bills, Capital Projects

From Connie Hettinga, 2018 RANM President and Tim MacEachen, 2018 RANM Legislative Committee Chair

With the approval of a bi-partisan budget, several crime bills and a long list of capital projects, the 2018 New Mexico Legislature ended its 30-day session at noon today (Thursday, February 15).

The $6.3 million budget passed after a conference committee worked out an agreement. HB2 now goes to the Governor who reportedly is pleased with the overall money bill.

The budget includes:
•    pay raises for state employees, public school employees, and faculty and staff at universities;
•    an increase to the Albuquerque district attorney's office to help fight crime;
•    $44 million for road maintenance and improving highway rest stops;
•    $5 million to the state's Economic Development Department;
•    $150,000 for development and implementation of a targeted marketing campaign aimed at attracting retirees to move to New Mexico (supported by RANM); and
•    restoration of the state's reserves to about 10 percent.

Combating crime in New Mexico also was front and center at the New Mexico Legislature and lawmakers approved an omnibus crime bill. HB19, which goes to the Governor, increases penalties for convicted felons who possess a firearm; provides bonuses for experienced police officers to help retain them; would make it more difficult for persons with drunken-driving offenses to remove the ignition interlock device or qualify for a driver's license; and would reduce penalties for various nonviolent crimes, designed to ease jail/prison overcrowding.

Lawmakers also approved a bill, HB306, that will pay for over 700 capital projects around the state. The $179.8 million bill, which includes $142.4 million from severance tax bonds, includes:
•    $5.1 million for a new Vital Records and State Facility in Santa Fe;
•    $1.5 million for Santa Fe Airport parking facility expansion;
•    $8 million for school bus replacement statewide;
•    $1.5 million for improvements to the State Fairgrounds in Albuquerque;
•    $680,000 for police response vehicles in Albuquerque;
•    $1.4 million for improvements to Roswell International Air Center; 
•    $2.5 million for a firefighter training burn building in Socorro;
•    $5 million to design, construct, and equip a fuel farm at Spaceport America in Sierra County; 
•    $1.1 million for Soledad Canyon Road improvements in Las Cruces;
•    $700,000 for improvements at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo; 
•    $2.4 million for a bridge replacement in San Juan County and
•    $326,350 to design and construct a city hall in Ruidoso Downs (Lincoln County).

Here is what happened to other bills of interest to the real estate industry:

RANM was in support of several bills that would remedy the brine well problem in Carlsbad. RANM supported SB226, a bill that earmarks part of the motor vehicle excise tax to the State Road Fund. Dollars generated in this bill will help pay for filling in the cavity, created by an old brine well, that threatens a major part of Carlsbad. If unchecked, this could cause a major sinkhole and threaten significant property, including the main road from Carlsbad to Carlsbad Caverns. The Governor has signed this bill.

Two other bills supported by RANM, HB180, an education bill, and HB110, a bill that dealt which would have prohibited reentry by renter if a judgment is rendered against the renter, did not get out of their respective committees.

A property tax bill opposed by RANM, HB163, also did not get a committee vote. This bill was opposed by the Farm Bureau and Cattlegrower's Association as well as the Assessors. RANM was opposed to the bill because of the disclosure requirements.

RANM supported several bills that provide funding for water and wastewater projects. The following water bills passed in both chambers without a dissenting vote:
•    HB65 - Appropriates $1.1 million (non-reverting fund) from the Public Project Revolving Fund to the Wastewater Facility Construction Loan Fund for use in 2019 and subsequent years to provide matching funds for federal Clean Water Act of 1977 projects and to carry out the purposes of the Wastewater Facility Construction Loan Act.
•    HB66 - Amends the Wastewater Facility Construction Loan Act to expand the availability of funding for "eligible projects" beyond wastewater facility projects and authorize funding assistance for "interstate agencies" and other "qualified borrowers." The bill also makes reconciling changes to other sections of the act while leaving the substance intact. 
•    HB93 - Appropriates $1.8 million from the Public Project Revolving Fund to the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund for use in FY 2019 and subsequent fiscal years (non-reverting appropriation) to provide matching funds for federal Safe Drinking Water Act projects and to carry out purposes of the revolving fund act.

The Governor can sign or veto bills. The Governor also can choose to ignore action which is known as a "pocket veto", defined as an indirect veto of a legislative bill by the governor by retaining the bill unsigned until it is too late for it to be dealt with during the legislative session. Such bills not acted upon by March 7 are pocket vetoed.

To review any of the bills mentioned in this update or any bill introduced, go to the New Mexico Legislature's website at https://www.nmlegis.gov/.