ByRobert Nott and Daniel J. Chacón, Santa Fe New Mexican |
It has become a cycle of despair for low-income residents with poor credit scores: They take out a high-interest installment loan to tide them over in tough times and soon accumulate an unmanageable load. They pay off old debt with new loans at rates of up 175 percent. For years, state lawmakers have unsuccessfully tried to introduce legislation capping the interest rate for such loans at 36 percent. Their efforts have failed repeatedly.
In addition to high-profile efforts to improve public safety and education, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has called on lawmakers to address cannabis during the 30-day legislative session.
Lujan Grisham issued a message on Thursday afternoon, authorizing lawmakers to add changes to the Cannabis Regulation Act to the legislative agenda.
The governor’s message pertains to SB 100, which is sponsored by state Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque. The bill, if passed, would increase production limits for cannabis microbusinesses, allow state regulators to require education requirements for cannabis servers, allow liquor license holders to also obtain a cannabis business license and allow some cannabis businesses to employ workers who are under 21, but over 18 years of age, as well as other changes to the law.
The state’s Cannabis Control Division announced earlier this week that it planned to work with the governor and lawmakers to increase plant limits for cannabis microbusinesses as a way to combat expected shortages in April when sales are expected to begin. The division also announced an emergency rule change for non-microbusinesses, but production limits for smaller operations are written into statute. SB 100 proposes to increase plant limits for microbusinesses from 200 to 1,000 mature plants. The bill would also allow cannabis businesses that previously only sold medical cannabis to employ workers who are 18 years of age.
The advocacy group New Mexico Voices for Children released the 2021 Kids Count Data Book on Wednesday and said that, according to the data, New Mexico saw 20,000 additional children enrolled in Medicaid in 2021. Emily Wildau, the New Mexico Kids Count Data Book coordinator, said that data was one of the biggest surprises for her to come out of the annual assessment of how New Mexico is doing in terms of how children are doing. “That was one of the biggest things that really stuck out,” Wildau said. Every year NMVC releases the Kids Count Data Book that assesses how New Mexico children are faring. Wildau said that this year, because of some data collection challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the data is based on earlier surveys and resources.
Lawmakers looking to push through an array of “tough on crime” bills got some legislative ammunition to support their cause this week. The Legislative Finance Committee released a memo to Rep. Patti Lundstrom, chair of the committee, saying violent crime rates are going up, and not just in Albuquerque.
The memo says at least 20 New Mexico communities — including Gallup and Albuquerque — have experienced increases in violent crimes.
Santa Fe was not among those cities. The LFC document says Albuquerque’s 2021 homicide rate of 117 killings represented an “acute rise” from 2020 — a 48 percent jump. And New Mexico State Police investigated 17 homicides in 2021, up from 10 in 2020.
The memo’s sobering details include that the reasons behind Albuquerque’s homicide rates have drastically changed over the past year. In 2019 just 15 percent of those killings happened through robberies or because of “personal disrespect.”
Saying the state has “unimaginable financial resources” at its disposal, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham challenged lawmakers Tuesday to think big and be aggressive on New Mexicans’ behalf during the 30-day legislative session. “Dating back decades, a timid mindset has afflicted people in this Capitol building, a pessimism that can be self-fulfilling,” the governor said during a live-streamed State of the State address she delivered from her office amid the ongoing threat of COVID-19. “Thinking small is a curse. Big and meaningful changes are possible, but the biggest change may be our attitude, our perspective,” she said. “At a moment in time when we have the money to do it all, let’s not limit ourselves; let’s not be unnecessarily incremental.
ByRobert Nott and Daniel Chacon, Santa Fe New Mexican |
There were sure signs a sense of normalcy had returned to the state Capitol: Protests and demonstrations. As the 2022 legislative session got underway Tuesday in a Roundhouse open to visitors who provided proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 — including a booster — activists gathered both inside and outside the downtown building, carrying signs and rallying for their causes. The New Mexico Freedom Alliance staged a morning protest of the vaccination mandate. A woman held a sign that said, “Proof of Vaccination is Anti-American.” The government should not require anyone to get the shots, she said.