SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico’s 112 legislators are just one day away from kicking off the 2022 legislative session at the Roundhouse. While the 30-day session will focus principally on the state budget, lawmakers are also expected to consider a host of proposals target crime, education, cannabis, public health policy and more.
KRQE News 13 is highlighting some of the most notable bills, resolutions, and memorials that have been pre-filed, so far, ahead of lawmakers’ opening day. The list doesn’t include everything New Mexico’s legislators will tackle, but some of the proposals that could have large impacts on the state.
◎ Making threats of shooting illegal – This bill pre-filed by Sen. Craig W. Brandt (R-Rio Rancho) would expand on the current law that makes bomb threats a crime. The bill would make it a crime to make a threat to shoot someone or use a gun to interrupt the daily-activities in public buildings.
◎ Limiting juvenile sentencing– This bill pre-filed by Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (D-Abq.) would prevent courts from sentencing juveniles to life without parole.
◎ Changing pretrial release standards for suspects accused in certain crimes – This bill pre-filed by Rep. William “Bill” R. Rehm (R-Abq.) would shift the burden of proof from the prosecutor to the criminal defendant in certain pretrial detention hearings. Currently, the state constitution allows most accused criminals to be released on bail before trial. To keep them detained, a prosecutor must prove that if released, the accused criminal would be a safety risk to the community. This bill would change that, so that courts would assume that criminal charged with certain serious crimes are a safety risk, and only accused criminals that could prove they are not a risk could be released on bail.
These changes would not apply to all criminals, but would apply to those that shot a gun while committing a serious crime, those that committed a serious violent offense, and more.
◎ Setting a statute of limitations for prosecuting drug traffickers – This bill pre-filed by Rep. William “Bill” R. Rehm (R-Abq.) would require courts to prosecute first-degree felony drug trafficking charges within six years. It would also remove the statute of limitations on second-degree murder charges — so those could be prosecuted at any time.
◎ Enhanced penalties for carrying a gun while drug trafficking – This bill pre-filed by Rep. William “Bill” R. Rehm (R-Abq.) would make it a third-degree felony to carry a firearm while trafficking drugs.
◎ Setting a five-year penalty for felony possession of firearm – This bill pre-filed by Rep. William “Bill” R. Rehm (R-Abq.) would set a five-year prison sentence for third-degree felony possession of a firearm.
◎ Creating penalties for organized retail crimes – This bill pre-filed by Rep. William “Bill” R. Rehm (R-Abq.) would set penalties for people who conspire and organize to rob retail stores. Depending on the value of the stolen goods, penalties range from petty misdemeanors to felonies.
◎ Making life in prison mandatory for three-time violent felony offenders – This bill pre-filed by Rep. William “Bill” R. Rehm (R-Abq.) would make life in prison without parole the default sentence for people who commit three violent felonies. The change would still allow for medical or geriatric parole.
◎ Purchase and public distribution of KN95 masks – This bill pre-filed by Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-Doña Ana) would give the NM Department of Health $10 million to purchase and distribute KN95 masks. The funds would also support education campaigns about masks.
◎ Purchase and public distribution of at-home COVID-19 tests – This bill pre-filed by Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-Doña Ana) would give the NM Department of Health $50 million to purchase and distribute at-home COVID-19 tests.
◎ Funding for homeless shelters – This bill pre-filed by Elizabeth “Liz” Stefanics (D-Torrance) would give the Human Services Department $2 million for homeless shelter support services.
◎ Extending time for renters to pay overdue rent – This bill pre-filed by Rep. Andrea Romero (D-Northern Santa Fe, Tesuque & Pojoaque) would give renters 11 days, instead of three, to pay overdue rent before they are evicted. Those days are counted after written notice from the owner. The bill also gives renters some additional protection from eviction and retaliation when renters complain to utility companies or request accommodations for disabilities.
◎ Using cannabis tax funds for substance abuse treatment – This bill pre-filed by Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-Doña Ana) would take 10% of the state’s income from cannabis excise taxes. The money would be used to funds substance use disorder treatment across the state.
◎ Legal limits for cannabis in blood while driving – This bill pre-filed by Rep. William “Bill” R. Rehm (R-Abq.) would set the legal limit for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the psychoactive in cannabis — to less than five nanograms per milliliter of blood. It’s worth noting, however, that some research shows that blood concentrations may not be an accurate way to measure THC intoxication, due to the way the compound passes between the bloodstream and fatty body tissues.
◎ School curriculum minimums – This bill pre-filed by Steven P. Neville (R-San Juan) would set curriculum standards for New Mexico schools and includes the requirement that all kindergarten through third-grade students get at least 30 minutes of recess that doesn’t count as instruction time.
◎ Increasing teacher salaries – This bill pre-filed by Sen. Mimi Stewart (D-Abq.) and Sen. Debra M. Sariñana (D-Abq.) would increase the minimum salary for level 1, level 2, and level 3 teachers to $50,000, $60,000 and $70,000 respectively. This is similar to increases proposed by the governor and the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee.
◎ Requiring universities to create sexual assault investigation policies – This bill pre-filed by Rep. Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson (D-Abq.) and Deborah A. Armstrong (D-Abq.) would require colleges to have a detailed plan for investigating allegations of sexual assault, domestic or dating violence, stalking, and harassment. This would apply to any college receiving state funds for student financial aid.
◎ Creating a “reforestation center” with NM universities to address climate change – This bill, pre-filed by Sen. Pat Woods (R-Curry, Quay and Union) would create a collaboration between several universities and the state’s Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources department aimed at addressing the effects of climate change on New Mexico’s forests. The bill would give over $4.5 million to New Mexico Highlands University to get the program up and running.
◎ Tax credits for people who buy electric vehicles – This bill pre-filed by Sen. Bill Tallman (D-Abq.) would give either a $2,500 tax credit or $5,000 tax credit (depending on the person) for people who purchase an electric vehicle. It would also apply to people who lease an electric vehicle for at least three years. To claim the credit, you’d have to apply within one year of purchase. The bill would also impose a $100 to $150 fee for registering electric vehicles.
◎ Tax credits for people who install solar panels – This bill pre-filed by Rep. Joanne J. Ferrary (D-Doña Ana) would give a tax credit to individuals who install solar panels or solar heater systems. The credit would apply to systems installed on or after March 1, 2020.
◎ Resolution to give New Mexicans the right to a clean environment – This joint resolution pre-filed by Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (D-Abq.) and Sen. Joanne J. Ferrary (D-Doña Ana) would amend the state’s constitutional bill of rights to include the right to clean water, air, climate, etc. This would replace the current protection clause of “The legislature shall provide for control of pollution and control of despoilment of the air, water and other natural resources of this state, consistent with the use and development of these resources for the maximum benefit of the people.”
◎ Limiting greenhouse gas emissions – This bill pre-filed by Rep. Nathan Small (D-Doña Ana) is aimed at limiting statewide greenhouse gas emissions. By 2030, statewide emissions are supposed to be at or below 50% of 2005 levels. This is similar to the Executive Order issued in 2019 to get to 45% of 2005 levels. As of 2018, statewide emissions in New Mexico were about 50% above 2005 levels, research from Colorado State University shows.
◎ Creating a radioactive waste task force – This bill pre-filed by Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-Doña Ana) is aimed at limiting the storage and disposal of radioactive waste.
◎ Limiting the governor’s ability to extend emergency declarations – This bill pre-filed by Rep. Greg Nibert (R-Chaves & Lincoln), Rep. Daymon Ely (D-Abq.), and Rep. Randall Pettigrew (R-Lea) would limit the governor’s ability to extend a public health emergency declaration beyond 90 days. The bill would give the Legislature the power to decide whether or not an emergency declaration and related public restrictions should be extended. This would apply to any man-made or natural disaster that threatens widespread physical or economic harm, such as a pandemic or other disaster. For public health emergencies, the Legislature would have the power to cancel or change the governor’s emergency declaration.
◎ Allowing voters without a party to vote in partisan primary elections – This resolution pre-filed by Sen. Bill Tallman (D-Abq.) would allow registered voters who have not selected a party affiliation to vote in any party’s primary election. The voter, of course, could only vote in one party’s primary election. Importantly, this would also allow a political party to limit participation in its nomination process if they party pays for all the costs of the nomination.
◎ Increasing lobbying transparency – This bill pre-filed by Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-Doña Ana) would require lobbyists to file expenditure reports detailing the specific legislation they lobbied for and whether they supported or opposed a specific piece of legislation. Currently, they are only required to report expenditures, but not the specific legislation they are trying to influence. A similar bill would require lobbyists to report on advertising campaigns.
◎ Allowing private businesses to give hiring preference to veterans – This bill pre-filed by Sen. Harold Pope (D-Abq.) would allow private companies to give hiring and promotional preference to veterans and veterans’ spouses.
◎ Making feminine hygiene products tax-deductible – This bill pre-filed by Rep. Christine Trujillo (D-Abq.) would give businesses selling feminine hygiene products a tax deduction. It would not exempt buyers from paying sales tax.
◎ Exempting Social Security from income taxes – This bill pre-filed by Rep. Gail Armstrong (R-Catron, Socorro & Valencia), Cathrynn N. Brown (R-Eddy), Randall Pettigrew (R-Lea), and Candie G. Sweetser (D-Grant, Hidalgo & Luna) would make income from Social Security exempt from income tax. Individuals who take advantage of the exemption would not be allowed to claim existing exemptions for people aged 65 and older.
Where to find more info
A full list of pre-filed bills, resolutions, and memorials can be found on the Legislature’s website. But remember, just because something has been pre-filed doesn’t mean it will be addressed during the 30-day session. The governor can also suggest more or different legislation while the legislature is in session.