Bill to fund conservation programs passes committee

State Sen. Steve Neville, R-Farmington, spoke on Tuesday about the impacts of wildfire and how the runoff can remain a problem even decades after a burn occurs. He said that it is important to create a fund to help with conservation efforts, including measures to improve forest health. Neville and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, are sponsoring Senate Bill 9, which would create an investment fund as well as a distribution fund to support conservation efforts in New Mexico. On the House side, the bill is sponsored by Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham supports the legislation.

Sen. Craig Brandt talks about Glory's Law during a press conference. Other speakers included, from left to right, Glory's mother Christy Sellers, UNM Head Football Coach Danny Gonzales and Lt. Gov. Howie Morales.

School supplies tax rebate bill discussed

A bill that would help offset the costs teachers pay to equip their students was discussed in its first committee Tuesday. SB 28, which will provide a tax deduction for teachers who buy school supplies for their classrooms was held pending further discussion in the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee Tuesday afternoon. Senate Minority Whip Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, sponsored the bill. 

The bill provides teachers up to $500 in tax deductions for school supply purchases in Fiscal Year 2024 and it doubles to $1,000 for Fiscal Year 2025 and onward. The standard school supplies— such as paper, pencils and protractors— are covered but the higher cost items such as electronics are not covered for the deduction. Funding for the tax deduction would come from the general fund and would cost $320,000 in FY 24 and $640,000 for FY25 onward.

Lawmakers raise concerns over recent departures from governor’s Cabinet

By Daniel J. Chacón, The Santa Fe New Mexican

Outgoing General Services Department Secretary John A. Garcia said Monday he and his boss, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, are both stubborn. And short. “We saw eye to eye, but not always on issues,” quipped Garcia, who at 5-foot-3 is just a few inches taller than Lujan Grisham, who calls herself the shortest governor in the country. Garcia’s attempt at humor aside, these have been hard days for Lujan Grisham, who has lost three high-profile Cabinet secretaries in the past week alone. After the Governor’s Office announced Garcia’s last day would be Friday, two additional departures followed: Dr. David Scrase as Department of Human Services secretary and Kurt Steinhaus as secretary of the Public Education Department.

Activists, political scientists say protest still a powerful tool

By Robert Nott, The Santa Fe New Mexican

Some in the crowd were fighting back tears as Darlene Peshlakai spoke. Peshlakai lost her two teen daughters, Deshauna and Del Lynn, in a vehicular crash in Santa Fe on March 5, 2010. The driver of the truck who crashed into their car was drunk. Why, Peshlakai asked the assembly gathered for a MADD New Mexico event at the Roundhouse, was the man previously arrested on multiple drunk driving charges allowed to get behind the wheel of his truck and kill? The Friday event, held in the Rotunda of the state Capitol, served as a demonstration of resolve for the roughly 100 people who came together to pressure the state to do more to curb drunk driving.

Stansbury cosponsors legislation to improve wildland fire communication

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, a New Mexico Democrat, said that a bill she is co-sponsoring builds upon her efforts in the state Legislature to modernize and standardize wildfire communication. Stansbury told NM Political Report that there is currently a patchwork of different agencies that use different tools when responding to wildfires. She said having standardized equipment is crucial to ensuring a fast response and saving lives and property. She is co-sponsoring the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Wildland Fire Communications and Information Dissemination Act with Rep. Young Kim, a Republican from California, who she has previously worked with on legislation. U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, a Colorado Democrat, has also signed on as an original co-sponsor of the bill.