The sun rose Wednesday on the last full day of New Mexico 30 day legislative session by 2022with lawmakers getting closer to agreeing on a budget for fiscal year 2023 and the fate of many bills, including an overall voting rights and election security package, hanging in the balance.
The nearly $8.5 billion proposed budget heads to a conference committee after the House of Representatives on Tuesday rejected an amended Senate bill. If the chambers can’t agree on a budget before the close of business, the governor could call a special session to set next year’s budget.
Lawmakers worked late into the night Tuesday seeking to finish the job and pass a comprehensive crime bill, a proposal to cap interest rates on payday loans and the election package and voting, among others.
SB 144, originally a proposal that made it a crime to threaten or intimidate poll workers, became a blanket package Tuesday when parts of two other bills, one on election changes and one on voting rights, were added in a 165-page document. amendment.
The 2022 regular session of the part-time, non-salaried New Mexico Legislature ends Thursday at noon.
Clean Fuel Standard Debate Continues
State Representative Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, proposed an amendment to the clean fuel standard bill, SB 14, which would allow the San Juan Generating Plant to operate for a year beyond its abandonment date in June. The amendment was adopted without opposition by the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee.
Before the Ely amendment, it had passed the Senate on a 25-16 vote.
A preliminary measure to extend the service of the coal-fired power plant for two more years was rejected by the House on Monday.
Senate Bill 14 would provide tax incentives to fuel producers to encourage the production of lower-carbon fuel and is sponsored by Senate Democrat Pro Tempore Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque. At Wednesday’s hearing, she rejected claims by Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, that it would lead to significant increases in fuel prices, saying there is a global market for producing cleaner fuels.
State Representative Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces, who was carrying the House bill, answered questions as noon approached, opening the last 24 hours of the session. He passed out of committee in a 5-3 vote.
A conference committee chaired by state Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, took less than 10 minutes to come up with a reconciled proposal that passed the House and then the Senate on Wednesday afternoon.
The six-person committee included three members from each chamber. From the House were Lundstrom and Representatives Gail Armstrong, R-Magdalena and Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces. From the Senate: George Muñoz, D-Gallup, Siah Correa Hemphill, D-Silver City and Crystal Diamond, R-Elephant Butte.
The committee quickly approved five changes to the budget bill, including redistributing $125 million that had been earmarked for a hydrogen energy center, with $50 million earmarked for a public-private partnership program and $75 million earmarked for the state cash.
Two changes were rejected after Senate conference committee members opposed them. One would have allocated $30 million for improvements to the rural health care delivery system and grants for hospitals serving the indigent, and the other was an additional $5 million allocated for soil and water conservation districts.
Interest rates on installment loans
After the House concurrence passed, supporters began clapping and cheering, but were quickly silenced by House Speaker Brian Egolf, a Democrat from Santa Fe.
While the bill caps interest rates on “payday” loans, it also increases the maximum amount of payday loans from $5,000 to $10,000 for up to two years. It also limits interest accrual and prohibits wage garnishment for payment.
Supporters welcomed the bill’s provisions targeting predatory lending and collection practices by the industry, while critics warned it would raise barriers to credit for people who may not be eligible for loans from banks or credit unions. of credit.
Help people who don’t speak English
New Mexico is a culturally and linguistically diverse state, and a measure on the way to the Governor aims to ensure that non-English speakers get assistance from agencies that deliver medical and social services.
HB 22 would require state departments to develop and implement language access programs to assist people with access to state programs. A $50,000 appropriation included in the original bill was cut before it passed the House and passed the Senate on Wednesday without opposition.
Capital investment projects
A capital spending bill the $827.7 million appropriation passed the House on Wednesday afternoon with a 64-0 vote. Lawmakers approved the Senate version of the bill that passed in that chamber on Tuesday.
The package includes $390.4 million allocated to the governor and legislators for local projects, and a transfer of $85.5 million from the public schools capital outlay fund to the Public School Facilities Authority to distribute to school districts for its maintenance.
Read a list of projects by county here. The story continues below:
The House also approved a separate bill reauthorizing 147 capital projects funded between 2016 and 2021 and did not include new spending.
The House went about its business while the Senate Judiciary Committee met elsewhere in the Round House. This story may not be updated again on Wednesday.