SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Another day in the 2022 regular legislative session is starting soon. Already dozens of pieces of legislation have been introduced and referred to committees and funding requests have begun. Today several statewide departments will make presentations to the Legislator highlighting their progress and needs.
Human Services Department
- Today, Thursday January 20 at 9:00 am, the state’s Human Services Department will make a presentation to the Senate Finance Committee. The department takes billions of dollars of state and federal funds and distributes it to more than 800,000 low-income New Mexicans, according to the department’s website.
- Commonly funded programs include behavioral health services, such as substance abuse and compulsive gambling treatment; meals for homeless individuals; and food assistance such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
- Both the Governor and the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) have already submitted budget requests to fund the Human Services Department. But there are some key differences the Legislature will consider. The department will likely talk about these today.
- At stake is not only funding from the state, but federal funds as well. Some of the federal funds that support the Human Services Department come as matches to state funds, so if the state decreases its funding, that loss is compounded.
- While it’s easy to get bogged down in the details of how the Human Services Department functions, the key to remember is that it broadly supports low-income families. A potentially large change in the coming months is that many New Mexicans could potentially lose SNAP benefits without additional funding from the legislature. This is because Federal SNAP extensions during the COVID-19 pandemic are scheduled to end this month in New Mexico.
Department of Corrections
- This afternoon, Thursday January 20, Alicia Tafoya Lucero, the secretary of the state’s Department of Corrections will present to the Legislature.
- The department manages adult prisons and probation and parole services across the state. They oversee thousands of prisoners across 11 prison facilities.
- In recent years, New Mexico prison populations have been on the decline. KRQE News 13 previously examined why there has been a significant drop in the number of inmates.
- The department was budgeted for more than $300 million in fiscal year 2021, making it a relatively large state department.
Department of Public Safety
- Jason Bowie, the secretary of the Department of Public Safety is expected to present in front of the Senate Finance Committee this afternoon. The department is tasked with everything from issuing concealed carry licenses to carrying out law enforcement via the New Mexico State Police.
- As with many other agencies and businesses, the Department of Public Safety has seen increasing staff vacancies. A recent report by the Legislative Finance Committee noted that the number of state police officers has not increased substantially over the last few years, despite the average officer salary increasing.
- Both the Governor and the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) hope to add officers to the ranks with increased funding compared to last year.
Recap: What you missed on Wed. January 19
- On Wednesday January 19, several groups of legislators met to discuss everything from setting rules on how legislators can participate in hearings to funding projects via capital outlay.
- In the Senate, they spent some time introducing bills. Many of those were pre-filed before the session started. These included a bill allowing private businesses to give hiring preference to veterans, a bill creating a radioactive waste task force aimed at limiting the storage and disposal of radioactive waste, and a bill for the purchase and public distribution of at-home COVID-19 tests.
- After introduction, the bills go to committees for examination.
- The Senate Finance Committee met to discuss capital outlay. These are funds for buying new facilities, construction, and supplying machinery or furniture for long-term projects. This often includes things like roadwork, park renovations, and equipping places like senior centers, fire houses, etc. The money cannot be used for operating expenses or salaries.
- In Albuquerque, hundreds of capital outlay requests were made before the legislative session began. Dozens of Albuquerque schools submitted requests for construction projects or technology related to instructions.
- Requests were also made for construction and improvements across the city, including landscaping along Tramway Blvd., $4.5 million for pickleball courts, and $20 million for a renovation of the Sawmill and Old Town district.
- Legislators will consider the requests in the coming days before deciding which projects to fund.