NM expected to pay an estimated $15 million in tax refunds to medical cannabis companies

New Mexico cannabis businesses are expected to pay cannabis excise and gross receipts taxes by the end of this month. But the state’s Taxation and Revenue Department is also expected to issue about $15 million dollars worth of gross receipts refunds to medical cannabis companies that paid those taxes prior to the enactment of the Cannabis Regulation Act, which legalized recreational-use cannabis. State Taxation and Revenue Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke told NM Political Report that while the estimated refund amount may sound like a lot of money, it is a fraction of the estimated $31.5 million the state is expected to collect from non-medical cannabis sales. Further, she said, the estimated $15 million in gross receipts refunds is an even smaller fraction of what the state sets aside for reserves.  

In the grand scheme of things, we have something like an $8 billion general fund budget, give or take,” Schardin Clarke said. “So there are other things that happen all the time that are just ups and downs in that revenue base.”

The tax refunds are the culmination of a years-long legal dispute between the Taxation and Revenue Department and Sacred Garden, a long-time medical cannabis producer.

Advocates, elected officials and the public respond with rallies and outrage over Supreme Court draft decision on abortion rights

The leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the case that appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade woke up many on Tuesday to a “shocking” reality which may be imminent. Politico released on Monday a leaked draft document, dated February from the Supreme Court. The document is a majority opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case the court heard in early December. Because the document is still a draft, there is still opportunity for the court to rule differently in late June or early July, though it appears unlikely with the current makeup of the court. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito authored the draft, which overturns Roe v. Wade and rules in favor of the state of Mississippi in the Dobbs case.

Lawsuit: State, managed care organizations not providing care to ‘most vulnerable’ children

Disability Rights New Mexico and three families filed a suit against the state and three managed care organizations for allegedly not providing necessary care to medically fragile children. The managed care organizations are New Mexico Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Presbyterian Health Plan and Western Sky Community Care. 

Medicaid is required to provide at-home care to severely disabled children whose ability to live at home is dependent upon trained nursing, the complaint states. Jesse Clifton, a lawyer with Disability Rights New Mexico, said the state has about 400 medically-fragile children, some of whom are not receiving any at-home nursing despite qualifying for it. He said he anticipates more families will join the lawsuit. The state is providing federal funds for that coverage, Clifton and Holly Mell, also a lawyer for Disability Rights New Mexico, told NM Political Report.

Weather station network intended to provide some security for farmers, ranchers

Government programs provide insurance for ranchers if they lose their forage crops due to lack of rain, but the scarcity of rain gauges in New Mexico has limited the usefulness of this insurance, according to legislators who secured funding to build a network of weather stations throughout the state. State Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, told NM Political Report about a rancher in Santa Rosa who bought this insurance. When the rain didn’t come, this rancher filed a claim. But the closest weather station was in Ruidoso, where the gauge showed that there had been precipitation. This insurance isn’t cheap.

Comments sought on SunZia transmission project

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is accepting comments on proposed amendments to the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project that will move electricity from New Mexico across Arizona and into California. The BLM released a 525-page draft Environmental Impact Statement and draft Resource Management Plan amendment on Friday. This came after SunZia requested an amendment to their existing right of ways last year. The new right of ways could incorporate parts of Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge and Cibola National Forest and National Grasslands. A 90-day public comment period opened this week and will include three public comment sessions hosted using the Zoom web platform.

At the border of the American dream

Fidel Pérez made his way from Durango, Mexico, to Juárez and then to Chaparral, New Mexico, in 1970. He was cleaning yards and working in the agricultural fields of nearby Anthony when border patrol officials arrested him. When they asked why he had come to the United States, he replied, “Because I’m hungry! And it’s easier here to make money for tortillas than it is back in Mexico.”

Later, after he’d married an American, he returned to Chaparral. It was one of many informal communities known as colonias, a word that, in the Southwest borderlands, connotes just the kind of place where he’d landed: a rural unincorporated settlement populated almost entirely by Mexican immigrants and lacking such amenities as paved roads, electricity, water systems, wastewater treatment and decent housing. 

This story is the work of Searchlight New Mexico and is republished with permission.

PRC rejects argument that state law requires approval of full decoupling

Asan increasing number of people install solar panels on their houses or make energy efficiency upgrades, the amount of electricity utilities sell may go down. This can impact the utility’s revenue streams, even as costs of maintaining and upgrading infrastructure remain. One way to address this is known as decoupling and the state’s largest utility, Public Service Company of New Mexico, argued that a 2019 amendment to the state’s Efficient Use of Energy Act requires the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission to approve applications for full decoupling. Decoupling is essentially a mechanism that removes the incentive for a utility to sell as much electricity as possible by reducing or eliminating the need to sell a certain amount of power to cover the fixed costs like maintenance and upgrades. During its Wednesday meeting, the commission unanimously rejected PNM’s argument, instead adopting a decision recommended by Hearing Examiner Anthony Medeiros.

A NM facility that grows seedlings for reforestation had to evacuate due to wildfire

As fires char tens of thousands of acres of land in New Mexico, the very place tasked with growing seedlings to reforest is now facing the threat of wildfire. New Mexico State University’s John T. Harrington Forest Research Center, located in Mora, was evacuated this week. Owen Burney, the center’s director, said the staff was able to save the seed library, but thousands of seedlings currently growing in greenhouses are at risk. By grabbing the seeds, the staff ensured that a new nursery could be started somewhere else if needed. Burney said this means that even if the facility is destroyed, there will be seeds to plant at a planned reforestation center that could be developed in the future.

Computer modeling can help prescribed burn decisions

Prescribed burns can be a key weapon in preventing catastrophic wildfire, but finding the right window to burn can be challenging and, with dry conditions, prescribed burning in New Mexico has come to a halt. A modeling effort by Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists aims to provide agencies with a tool to determine when the conditions are best for burning. Rod Linn, a scientist with Los Alamos who leads the wildfire modeling team, told NM Political Report that various factors are used to determine when it is safe to burn, but conditions can change rapidly. On Saturday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a briefing that the state is banning fires campfires on stand lands and is asking every local government to think about ways to ban the sales of fireworks. This comes as 20 wildfires were actively burning, as of Saturday afternoon, in 16 counties in New Mexico. “Half the state has a fire issue,” she said.

Take uranium contamination off our land, Navajos urge federal nuclear officials

The gale-force winds that swept across New Mexico on Friday, driving fires and evacuations, gave Diné residents in a small western New Mexico community an opportunity to demonstrate first hand the danger they live with every day.Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) members were in the Red Water Pond Road community, about 20 minutes northeast of Gallup, to hear local input on a controversial plan to clean up a nearby abandoned uranium mine. It was the first visit anyone could recall by NRC commissioners to the Navajo Nation, where the agency regulates four uranium mills. Chairman Christopher Hanson called the visit historic, and the significance was visible with Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and other Navajo officials in attendance. This story originally appeared at New Mexico In Depth and is republished with permission through a Creative Commons license. As commissioners listened to 20 or so people give testimony over several hours Friday afternoon, high winds battered the plastic sheeting hung on the sides of the Cha’a’oh, or shade house, making it hard for some in the audience of many dozens to hear all that was said.  “This is like this everyday,” community member Annie Benally told commissioners, mentioning the dust being whipped around outside by the wind.