Gov’s office says new law doesn’t mean inmates can get medical cannabis

Gov. Lujan Grisham signed into law a medical cannabis expansion about two weeks ago which, among other things, will protect some medical cannabis patients. While it’s still unclear if those protections extend to all incarcerated medical cannabis patients, the governor’s office believes it does not. The new law, which goes into effect on June 14, states that medical cannabis patients who are on probation, parole or are in the custody of state or local law enforcement, pending a trial, will not be denied their medication. Further, the soon-to-be law states that medical cannabis should be viewed no differently than traditional prescription medication. Some say the law would apply to inmates, but the bill’s sponsor and now the governor’s office say it only applies to those awaiting trial or serving out probation or parole.

SOS rejects petition for referendum to reverse background check law

For the second time, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver rejected a petition to take a gun background check law to the voters. House Republican leaders hoped to use a voter referendum to overturn a law passed this year, requiring background checks for most gun sales in the state of New Mexico. New Mexico generally does not allow for voter referendums. But the state constitution allows, under limited circumstances, for voters to attempt to overturn a newly passed law. Toulouse Oliver said the current proposal does not meet those limited circumstances. She cites the state constitution in saying to determine if the referendum qualifies, it must “[bear] a valid, reasonable relationship to the preservation of public peace, health or safety.”

Toulouose Oliver said she “underwent the process of carefully examining the legislative history, the contemporaneous declarations of the legislature and the conditions sought to be remedied by [the law].”

In March, Toulouse Oliver also listed a number of technical objections to the Republican call for a referendum.

Gov. Lujan Grisham signs medical cannabis omnibus bill

New Mexico is set to see some sweeping changes to its medical cannabis law. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 406 into law which is the first major statutorial change to the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act since it was enacted in 2007. The Senate bill made broad changes to the program that range from allowing medical cannabis in schools to allowing licensed manufacturers to process home-grown medical cannabis. While some changes are straightforward, others will require the state Department of Health, which oversees the Medical Cannabis Program, to promulgate new rules. Here’s a breakdown of everything SB 406 does:

Medical cannabis in schools

By June 14, medical cannabis will be allowed on some public school campuses under certain circumstances.

Oil and gas had little to fear during legislative session

Stepping to the microphone at a press conference wrapping up this year’s legislative session, House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, hammered the podium to the drum beat for Queen’s “We Will Rock You” before declaring it the “best, most productive” legislative session in state history. He proclaimed major achievements in education funding, criminal justice reform, a path for carbon-free electricity — and a bill that would save 100,000 acre feet of water each year from use in oil fields. “The produced water bill, I think, is going to go down as one of the greatest environmental accomplishments to come out of the state legislature of New Mexico,” Egolf said. “Just the quantity of fresh, potable water that’s going to be saved for agricultural and municipal use is breathtaking.”

The bill Egolf held up in victory paves the way for recycling wastewater from oil and gas production for reuse by the industry, reducing the need for freshwater in the production process. 

It had the support of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association but was controversial among environmental groups because it sets the stage for such water to see other, non-industrial uses in the future. In the final days of the session it was amended to allow the Oil Conservation Division to issue fines and penalties for permit violations, a measure championed by environmentalists.

NM’s minimum wage will be $12 per hour (eventually)

With a stroke of her pen, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham set into motion New Mexico’s first minimum wage increase in a decade. Lujan Grisham signed SB 437 into law Monday afternoon, bumping the state’s minimum wage from $7.50 per hour to $9.00 per hour by the beginning of 2020. Then by 2023 the rate will increase to $12 per hour. “This session, the Legislature sent a clear signal: We will not tolerate poverty wages in New Mexico. And this administration is putting working families first,” Lujan Grisham said.

Lujan Grisham signs bill invalidating counties’ right-to-work laws

Supporters of right-to-work legislation in New Mexico were dealt a big blow Wednesday when Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law a bill to prohibit counties from passing their own right-to-work laws. Compulsory union fees in the public sector was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2018, but private sector unions can still require workers to pay union fees. It’s against the law for all unions to require workers to pay dues, but they can collect fees to pay for the wage and benefit bargaining. With the governor’s signature, House Bill 85—sponsored by Democratic Reps. Daymon Ely of Albuquerque and Andrea Romero of Santa Fe—invalidates resolutions passed, over a span of about 14 months in 10 New Mexico counties and one village, that barred union membership as a condition of employment.

Gov. signs same-day voter registration bill

New Mexico voters will be able to register to vote or change their information on Election Day now thatGov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a same-day registration bill into law Wednesday. In a statement after signing SB 672, the governor called the law “a victory for democracy.”

New Mexico is the 18th state (plus the District of Columbia) to allow same-day voter registration. The law will not go into effect until 2021, so it will not be in place for next year’s presidential election. And the law will not allow voters to change their party affiliation during a primary election. To change their registration at the polls, voters will be required to show identification.

Lujan Grisham signs bill to transition NM to renewable energy

Friday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law a sweeping bill that bumps the state’s use of renewable energy. The new law sets a standard to produce 50 percent of the state’s energy through renewable sources in the next ten years and 80 percent within the next 20 years. Beyond the push for more renewable energy, the law also allows the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) to issue bonds at lower interest rates to pay off debts associated with a coal powered plant in the northwest corner of the state. It also establishes a $20 million fund to help workers and communities that will be affected by the shutdown of the San Juan Generating Station. In the Roundhouse rotunda, where Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 489, lawmakers and advocates said the governor was relentless in getting the bill passed through the Legislature with as few changes as possible.

SOS rules against Republican petition aiming to overturn gun background check law

The New Mexico Secretary of State rejected the effort by House Republicans to overturn a new law requiring background checks for nearly all gun purchases in New Mexico. The Republican House leader said they are prepared to take legal action over the decision. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver announced today that the petition submitted by Republicans doesn’t meet the state’s constitutional requirements to overturn a law. In a letter to House Minority Jim Townsend, who submitted the petition along with House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, Toulouse Oliver wrote that because Senate Bill 8, which was signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham earlier this month, relates to the public peace, health and safety, “it is not a law subject to referendum.”

While the state constitution allows for petitions to vote on overturning recently passed laws, it does not allow for the petitions to target laws related to the preservation of public peace, health or safety. In her letter, Toulouse Oliver quoted a press release from Lujan Grisham that says the law “improves public safety by expanding required background checks on firearm purchases to include private gun sales, closing loopholes for certain sales like those made online or at gun shows.”

Toulouse Oliver also outlined technical problems with the petition, from failing to suggest a popular name for the law they wish to overturn and failing to submit a petition in the form outlined by state law.

Lawmakers point state to new educational future

It was a good year for education. Whether it was great depended on who you asked. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and legislative leaders, both Democratic and Republican, extoled investments New Mexico made in education Saturday as the 60-day session came to a close. 

“This is a Legislature that delivered a moonshot,” the governor nearly shouted during a post-session press conference in her Cabinet Room on the fourth floor of the Roundhouse. 

State lawmakers pumped an additional $500 million into the public schools budget and created a new early education department. Teachers and school administrators received a salary increase. And money for early childhood programs got a boost. 

But bills that emphasized multicultural, bilingual education and strengthened the community school model – ideas that some lawmakers and education advocates consider transformational – seemed destined to die, stuck in legislative committees. 

Then in the final hours of the 2019 legislative session, two of them were pulled from certain death and placed on the Senate floor Saturday morning. 

The Multicultural Education Framework, a centerpiece of the Transform Education NM coalition of Yazzie Martinez education lawsuit plaintiffs and community advocates, was defeated, going down on  on a 14-22 vote, with seven Democrats voting against the bill. 

In contrast, a bill that strengthens the community school model, cleared the Senate after contentious debate on a bipartisan vote of 24-15 and and is headed to Lujan Grisham’s desk. A priority of the governor, the community school model provides social supports for struggling students and makes schools a community hub. 

Sen. Mimi Stewart, a retired teacher who chairs the Legislative Education Study Committee, put up a spirited defense of the legislation. 

The community schools idea had been long studied by the LESC, she said.