The Senate Finance Committee approved an amended version of a bill to allocate some of the American Rescue Plan Act immediately to various agencies.
The amendment to HB 2, which passed unanimously, removed $26 million appropriated for broadband and reduced the overall funding package to about $478 million.
The vote of approval for the amended bill was unanimous and bipartisan. State Sens. Jacob Candelaria, I-Albuquerque, and Bobby Gonzales, D-Ranchos de Taos, were absent. Candelaria has been excused from the rest of the special session, by his request. Gonzales tested positive for COVID-19 and was also excused.
An additional $123 million is still planned for the Department of Information and Technology to pay for the expansion of broadband across the state.
State Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, also successfully amended the bill, moving $2 million previously intended to help pay for teacher certification scholarships to, instead, be used for teacher loan repayments. Muñoz said the Public Education Department requested the change.
The amendment also cleaned up some language around the orphan well program, but did not change the appropriation of $3.5 million to the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department for that.
State Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, tried to introduce three amendments, though he withdrew one that would have allocated $20 million to a hospital in San Juan County.
“Hopefully, we have something else working,” he said.
He also tried to amend the bill with an appropriation of $46 million to Highway 380. He called it the “deadliest road in New Mexico.”
State Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, moved to table that amendment and the committee agreed by a 5-4 vote along party lines.
Sharer also tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill to add an allocation of $26 million to school districts to increase school bus driver salaries. Campos also moved to table that amendment and it passed by a vote of 7-2 with Sharer and state Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, voting against tabling the amendment. The committee members present passed Muñoz’s amendment unanimously.
If the legislation passes the full Senate as amended by the Senate, it would need to go back to the House for approval.