SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Following a quick 30-day legislative session, where record state revenues, crime reform, and pay raises for teachers and police took much of the focus, the deadline has passed for bills to be signed into law. What legislation did New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham sign? And what bills have died by way of the Governor’s veto or pocket veto? Here’s a closer look at the outcomes for the 2022 legislative session.
The difference between bill signing, veto & pocket veto
After a bill makes it through both the New Mexico House and Senate, it goes to the Governor’s desk for final approval. She can sign the bill into law, veto the bill, or simply do nothing.
If the governor vetoes the bill, it’s up to the legislators to decide if it should become a law. If two-thirds of both the House and Senate vote to override the governor, the bill becomes law, despite the governor’s veto.
If the governor simply takes no action, it’s called a “pocket veto.” For bills passed in the last three days of the legislative session, the governor has 20 days to take action. If there is no action from the governor, the bill will not become law. In this scenario, the legislators cannot vote to override the governor.
Last year, Sen. Jacob Candelaria (DTS-Abq.) introduced a resolution that would limit the governor’s ability to use a “pocket veto” to kill bills. That resolution did not make it through the legislative process. So, this year, the governor still has the ability to kill legislation by taking no action.
What’s been signed into law
Of the 64 bills passed in the 2022 legislative session, the governor has signed 55 into law. Key bills she’s signed include bills designed to boost salaries for New Mexico’s teachers, protect people who take out loans, and clean up abandoned uranium mines. Here are some of the highlights:
Consumer and Public Protection Highlights
- House Bill 132, among other things, addresses predatory lending by capping loan interest rates. KRQE News 13 investigative reporter Larry Barker previously revealed that New Mexicans could be charged up to 175% in interest on loans. This new law effectively caps interest at 36% in most circumstances.
- House Bill 46 creates the Office of Family Representation and Advocacy. This agency will help provide legal counsel to people going through child welfare cases.
- House Bill 95 aims to get more New Mexicans enrolled in Medicaid. It streamlines the process for enrolling individuals.
- Senate Bill 140 expands the state’s Opportunity Scholarship. The bill clears the way for New Mexicans, regardless of age, to attend college for free by providing scholarship funds.
- House Bill 43 aims to help charter schools access funds to pay for improvements to their buildings.
Worker Aid Highlights
- Senate Bill 1 boosts pay for New Mexico’s licensed teachers. Level 1 teachers (generally early career teachers) will now get a minimum of $50,000 per year. That’s up from $40,000. Other levels of licensed teachers get similar boosts.
- House Bill 13 aims to diversify New Mexico’s pool of teachers by creating residency programs. Residents in the program will get an apprenticeship in a classroom and additional mentorship to become teachers.
- House Bill 60 boosts pay to Native American language and culture teachers. Under the new law, they will now get the same salary as level 1 teachers in New Mexico, provided they work full-time in student instruction.
Business Boosts and Tax Credit Highlights
- House Bill 104 creates the venture capital investment fund. The money in the fund will be used to invest in new and expanding businesses in New Mexico. Job-providing businesses are a key focus of the bill.
- House Bill 148 extends the deadline for applications to the Small Business Recovery Loan Fund, born out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The deadline was May 31, 2022 but is now extended to the end of December.
- Among other things, House Bill 163 extends tax credits for solar projects, creates an income tax credit for nurses, and exempts social security income from income tax for some individuals.
- House Bill 164 directs the New Mexico Environment Department to coordinate uranium mine cleanup across the state.
When do these bills go into effect?
If the governor signs the bill, it will become law. But it may not take effect immediately. Many pieces of legislation go into effect on May 18, 2022, 90 days after the legislative session ends. Some, however, have emergency clauses that go into effect immediately. These emergency clauses are often attached to public safety bills. In the database at the end of the story, bill titles with an asterisk have an emergency clause.
What bills did the Governor veto?
While the Governor signed the vast majority of passed bills into law this session, she did use her veto power on a few. Lujan Grisham outright vetoed House Bill 134, which would have re-instituted the state’s Sports Authority Division (the government division responsible with promoting sports in New Mexico, not the former retail company).
“Disappointingly, the Legislature failed to provide funding to administer the division,” the Governor wrote in her veto message to the House. “On top of this, HB 134 would usurp the Governor’s authority to appoint and remove members of the Sports Advisory Committee.”
Rep. Antonio Maestas (D-Abq.) sent a reply letter to the Governor regarding the veto. “I am perplexed by the reasoning for vetoing,” Maestas wrote. One issue Maestas argues, is that the Legislature did provide funding to run the Sports Authority — $100,000 in a separate bill, Senate Bill 48, in fact. But, the Governor completely vetoed Senate Bill 48.
Senate Bill 48, the so-called “Junior Bill,” would have sent a little over $50 million to state agencies, a variety of local governments projects and various other community entities. The version of the bill that passed both the House and Senate, for example, would have provided $140,000 to contract with non-profits in Albuquerque to provide mental health services, $50,000 for educational programs at the Albuquerque zoo, and $130,000 for food bank services in the East Mountains. Of course, there are dozens of other expenditures that were also canceled with the veto.
“Despite its nickname, SB 48 [the Junior Bill] is anything but ‘junior’,” Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham wrote in her veto message to the Senate. “It is littered with tens of millions of appropriations. Yet SB 48 circumvents the important budget and capital outlay process that forms the basis for other large appropriation bills.”
“Fiscal responsibility must be a cornerstone principle,” she wrote, “both in boom times and in times of economic uncertainty.”
Last year, during the 2021 regular legislative session, a junior bill made it through the legislature and was signed with only a partial veto. Lawmakers’ version of Senate Bill 377 included $9.4 million in general fund appropriations plus an additional $35.95 million in non-general fund spending. The governor vetoed only about half a million dollars out of that bill.
Even though the Governor vetoed several bills, they could still become law. The Legislature can override the Governor’s veto if two-thirds of the lawmakers vote in favor.
The Governor also vetoed portions of the bills to fund the statewide budget and capital outlay projects. Regarding the state budget, she vetoed about $17 million worth of spending, according to a summary by the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC). That includes cutting $5.3 million for improvements to Red Rock Park in Gallup, cutting $3.5 million for wastewater treatment at the Santa Fe Opera, and cutting $4 million-worth of improvements to the state capitol, according to the LFC. Still, those cuts are relatively small given that the entire recurring and non-recurring budget for fiscal year 2022 is around $10 billion.
By not taking any action on a few bills, the Governor was able to pocket veto those. She did this with five bills this year. They include a bill to require tractor trailer trucks to drive in the right lane on highways, a bill that changes compensation and retirement plans for some New Mexico judges, and a bill to cap salaries of elected county officials.
“We are deeply appreciative of the work that local elected officials do on behalf of New Mexicans across the state,” the Governor’s office told KRQE News 13 in an email. “We believe that the legislation [capping elected officials’ salaries] merits additional discussion and consideration during a longer legislative session.”
If legislators want to try to come together and re-work legislation, they can do so under the New Mexico Constitution. If three-fifths of both the House and Senate agree to do so, they can ask the Governor for a special session. If the Governor refuses to let them gather, the legislators can convene in a so-called “extraordinary session.”
In New Mexico’s history, there’s only been one extraordinary session. That was in 2002. At the time, the legislature and Governor disagreed on the budget, so legislators called an extraordinary session to rapidly push a budget through.
It’s possible that something similar could happen now. Wednesday, March 9, Sen. Jacob Candelaria tweeted that members of the legislature are discussing the possibility of calling an extraordinary session to override the Governor’s vetoes, particularly of the Junior Bill. Candelaria estimates that there’s a greater than 50% chance that the Legislature comes together to do so.
“I think by vetoing the Junior Bill and the judicial compensation bill, the Governor has done something, that is, she’s crossed a line,” Candelaria said. “And I certainly hear significant support for this among both House Democrats and Senate Democrats.”