Republicans and Democrats on Monday threw their support behind a proposal to collect gross receipts tax from major internet retailers such as Amazon and eBay. Legislators have considered several similar proposals in recent years, but backers of House Bill 202 hope that the state’s budget crisis, a changing legal landscape and bipartisan support will send this measure to Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. She has steadfastly opposed all proposals to raise taxes. But other Republicans who have been similarly wary of anything that sounds like a tax increase said during a meeting of the House Business and Industry Committee that they see the bill as ensuring fairness for small businesses competing with internet companies that do not have to pay the state’s 5 percent gross receipts or local taxes. “It’s really just closing a loophole,” said Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque.
A growing number of voters don’t want to register as either Republicans or Democrats, so a bipartisan group of lawmakers is proposing legislation that would allow independents to vote in New Mexico primary elections. Independent and third-party voters can’t participate in New Mexico’s June primaries, often a point of contention because 23 percent of the state’s voters are not affiliated with the major political parties and state funds pay for the primaries. “New Mexico has the highest percentage of non-competitive elections in the nation,” said Bob Perls, a former Democratic lawmaker, who heads a group called New Mexico Open Primaries. It is pushing two measure that would change how primary elections are run. One proposal, House Bill 206, would allow unaffiliated voters to choose either a Democratic or Republican ballot in primary elections.
A House panel wants the state government to be in charge of most labor decisions. The House Business and Employment Committee advanced a controversial bill that would take power away from local governments when it comes to scheduling employees and on requiring certain levels of benefits. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, advanced on an 11-2 vote, with only two Democrats voting against the legislation. Harper introduced a relatively major change since the last committee hearing; the new version of the legislation no longer included the portion of the bill that would have barred counties and municipalities from raising the minimum wage. Instead, the bill focused on other employment issues, including not allowing local governments to require private employers to provide paid sick leave or a minimum notice for setting employees’ schedules.
A stripped down proposal that seeks to take partisanship and politics out of the redistricting process, as much as possible, passed its first test. The proposed constitutional amendment by Rep. Carl Trujillo cleared the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on a unanimous vote on Wednesday. The committee heard the bill for a second time, but in a very different form. Last week, members of the committee felt that the language was too detailed for the constitution. They instead preferred that specifics be left for “enabling legislation” that is in statute and not in the constitution.
A proposed constitutional amendment on creating an independent redistricting commission had support but consensus that more work is needed in the House, Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee on Monday. The committee is the first stop on the way for constitutional amendments that originate in the House. Constitutional amendments go to the voters for approval if they clear both the House and Senate; the governor does not get a say in them. Most of the discussion in the committee came on a proposed constitutional amendment by Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, that would create an independent redistricting commission and take the process out of the hands of the Legislature. Trujillo echoed something that President Barack Obama said during the State of the State, “Politicians shouldn’t choose their voters, that voters should choose their politicians.”
A bill to allow local governments to impose curfews on minors jumped through its second House committee, this time with some Democratic support. House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, joined with seven Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee to vote yes on the bill. Maestas had been previously public about his support. “I’m stuck on this one,” Maestas said at committee. “I lean towards local control.”
The bill allows cities and counties to set up their own curfews for minors under 16 years of age.
An old adage goes “nothing good happens after midnight.” Some New Mexico lawmakers are attempting to make that adage into a law that would allow local governments to implement a curfew for anyone under 18. House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, filed HB 29 last month partly as an answer to two violent crimes that took place in Albuquerque last year. One instance involved a group of teenagers who were charged with the murder of an Albuquerque homeless man and the other involved a teenager who was shot and killed at an Albuquerque park late at night. Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, who is a cosponsor of the curfew bill said he wanted to give local governments “the local authority to bring the curfew forward.”
The idea of the state giving authority to cities and counties is not new and also stems from a New Mexico Supreme Court decision from 1999. In 1995, the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico successfully challenged a curfew implemented by the City of Albuquerque.
When the legislative session begins on Tuesday, Jan. 19, NM Political Report will be on hand for wall-to-wall coverage through adjournment at noon on Feb. 18. And, actually, legislation is already starting to be introduced. Pre-filing of legislation began on Dec.
A bill that would allow research into the growth of industrial hemp passed the House and is now headed to the governor’s desk. The House passed the bill on wide bipartisan vote, 54-12. There was very little debate on the bill that would allow New Mexico State University and the state Department of Agriculture to grow hemp for research purposes. Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, carried the bill on the floor. He had carried a similar bill on the House side.