House committee rejects corporate tax cut delay

A House committee voted Saturday night to reject a bill that would delay a corporate tax cut for two years. The corporate tax delay, which narrowly passed the Senate the night before as part of a wider budget package, would have saved nearly $13 million in the current fiscal year and more in the next fiscal year according to analysis by the Legislative Finance Committee. The Taxation and Revenue Department, part of Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration, estimated it would save much less, saying it would be $5 million in the current fiscal year and again less than the LFC predicted in the next. “We are not asking for a tax increase,” Rep. Bill McCamley, the Las Cruces Democrat who carried the bill on the House side, said. “We are merely asking that we delay this tax.

Controversial ranch owner running for state rep

The owner of a controversial ranch for troubled youth filed this week to run for state representative in southern New Mexico. Scott Chandler, who runs Tierra Blanca Ranch in Hillsboro, is running as a Republican to replace retiring state Rep. Dona Irwin, D-Deming. Chandler’s name has come in the news often for the past few years, starting with an Amber alert New Mexico State Police made after raiding his ranch in 2013 after allegations of abuse and found nine missing teenagers. “You can look at that and see what came out of that,” Chandler told NM Political Report. “We had tons of scrutiny and were thrust under the spotlight and nothing came out of it.”

At the time, Chandler said the nine children were on a hike and soon delivered back to their parents.

Here are the key legislative races to watch

Today is the day that candidates for state House and Senate file to say that they are, indeed, running. As candidates file their intention to run for public office, we decided to take a look forward a few months to what districts the two parties will be focusing on come November and the general elections. The top of the ticket matters. Two years ago, Republicans took the state House of Representatives for the first time in a half-century. That same election saw Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, trounce Democratic opponent Gary King by more than 14 points statewide.

Here are the legislators who are NOT running for reelection

Now that the legislative session is over and the dust is—mostly—settled, legislators now are turn their focus to the upcoming elections. While some candidates have announced their intention to take over the veterans that called it quits this year, the official count won’t be until after the deadline to file on March 8. Here’s who we know for sure is leaving this year, and a couple no one is sure about. House of Representatives
District 24 – Rep. Conrad James, R-Albuquerque confirmed last year on social media that he would not run for reelection. He later endorsed Dr. Christina Hall, an Albuquerque chiropractor, as his replacement.

House passes $6.3 billion budget, depends on transfers

The House of Representatives passed the state’s $6.32 billion budget Saturday morning amid falling oil prices. The bill passed on a 38-31 vote, with two Democrats joining the Republican bloc in voting on the bill. “We did the best we could with the revenues that are there,” House Appropriations and Finance Committee Chair Larry Larrañaga, R-Albuquerque, said when presenting the bill. Larrañaga said Medicaid, education, public safety, corrections and early childhood funding marked the top priorities. “Almost all of the increases are in five particular areas in this budget,” he said.

House passes mandatory third grade retention bill

The recurring and controversial bill to mandate holding back third graders who can’t read at grade level passed the House of Representatives for a sixth year in a row Friday night. All Republican members voted for the bill, with just one Democrat, Rep. Dona Irwin of Deming, supporting it. The final vote was 36-27. As it has for the previous five years it’s been introduced, passed in the House, the bill sparked a long and sometimes contentious debate. In the previous instances, it was killed in the Senate.

Senate industrial hemp bill heads to House floor

A bill that would allow New Mexico to grow industrial-use hemp for research purposes passed a House committee and heads to the floor for possible consideration. The House Judiciary Committee voted 10-1 to approve SB 94 sponsored by Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque. McSorley told the committee that the bill aims to bring New Mexico into compliance with the federal Farm Act of 2014. He explained that hemp is a cousin of the marijuana plant, but does not contain the psychoactive substance THC. McSorley said it was important to pass his bill this year, so that New Mexico does not fall behind 19 other states already studying the commercial viability of hemp.

Right-to-work passes House, heads to Senate

After a lengthy floor debate, the House passed right-to-work legislation on a near party-line vote, with one Democrat voting in favor of the legislation. The Employee Preference Act, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan, was debated for almost four hours before the members voted 37-30 on an amended version of HB 75. The legislation was amended on the floor to more closely tie a minimum wage increase to the right-to-work portion of the bill. The legislation had also been previously amended in committee. Roch told the body that his proposed amendment added a contingent repeal that would strip the bill of the minimum wage portion in the event that a New Mexico judge rules fair share payments unconstitutional and vice versa.

Hemp bill gets positive response but no vote in committee

An bill to allow a pilot program of growing industrial hemp was heard in a House committee on Wednesday, though no vote was taken. Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, presented his HB 357 to the House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife committee without any official debate, public comment or committee votes. The bill would allow New Mexico State University and the Department of Agriculture to start a pilot program for industrial-use hemp. Maestas told the committee that he and committee chair Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, agreed to limit the meeting to discussion among committee members. Maestas said he made an amendment to the bill recently and wanted to give the committee time to review it.

House nixes Dem ‘compromise,’ passes repeal of driver’s license law

A last-minute effort to find common ground on a longstanding and emotionally charged issue was shuffled aside Thursday evening by House Republicans and two Democrats before the chamber approved a measure to undo state law that allows undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses. A 39 to 29 vote almost wholly weighted in favor of Republicans ended three hours of debate surrounding a bill sponsored by Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque. The legislation would allow the state to issue driver’s licenses to foreign nationals, if they can prove their legal immigration status with a visa, passport or federal employment authorization. Much of the discord revolved around a failed substitute measure from Minority Leader Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, meant to revive a previous plan for instituting two new forms of driver’s licenses. Pacheco’s proposal was transformed substantially through the committee process.