Mixed bag for cannabis legislation in 2019

After Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham was elected and New Mexico’s House of Representatives saw a major increase of Democrats last fall, many New Mexicans speculated whether the state would also see cannabis legalization in 2019. The short answer was ultimately, no. But, the legislature enacted some major changes to the existing medical cannabis law and took at least one step towards decreasing jail time  for the use or possession of cannabis. Medical cannabis in schools (SB 204)

Senate Bill 204, sponsored by Albuquerque Sens. Candace Gould, a Republican, and Jacob Candelaria, a Democrat, and Rep. Gail Armstrong, R-Magdalena, would allow some students to use medical cannabis while at school.

Public records bills include secrecy on lottery winners

State Sen. Pat Woods says big lottery winners can turn into losers, so he wants to conceal their identity from the public. His push for secrecy initially failed Tuesday when the Senate Public Affairs Committee deadlocked 3-3 on the proposal, Senate Bill 397. But then committee members reconsidered and advanced Woods’ bill in a 5-2 decision. “I hate hearing stories of people who win lottery prizes and are broke shortly thereafter,” said Woods, R-Broadview, in arguing for the state-sanctioned gambling operation to keep winners’ names private. He said those who claim jackpots often don’t know how to manage their money and are easy prey for con men and unscrupulous family members.

Auto franchise bill passes first committee

A bill that would allow some car manufacturers to bypass local auto dealers and sell directly to consumers in New Mexico, passed its first committee Thursday afternoon. The Senate Public Affairs Committee approved Senate Bill 243 along party lines, with only Democratic members voting to advance the proposal. The bill would allow companies like electric car manufacturer Tesla to open service centers and sales showrooms in the state. Current law mandates that vehicle manufacturers must sell through local, franchised dealers. The bill narrowly changes the state franchise law, and would only allow companies that do not have a franchise business model to sell in the state.

Tesla owners charged up for car sales legislation

Update: added statement from Tesla

New Mexico has a rich car club culture, ranging from lowrider and vintage cars to modern models too fast and too furious for many people. But on a cool Sunday in Santa Fe, about 30 minutes from the state capitol, another group of car enthusiasts gathered to discuss their automotive passion: Teslas. The Tesla Owners Club of New Mexico met in the parking lot of a rustic New Mexican restaurant, just a few days before a legislative committee was expected to vote on whether to allow the automotive upstart a chance to set up shop in New Mexico. The group of about two dozen sleek cars were a far, yet quiet, cry from the loud engines, custom, aftermarket paint jobs and flashy chrome one might expect from a traditional New Mexico car club. Another difference  that unites New Mexico Tesla owners is that none of these cars were purchased or can be serviced at a traditional auto dealer in the state.

Odds and Ends: Cutting services, senior citizens dancing

Just a few things that we noticed at the session that didn’t quite make it into a full story. —At the end of the Senate floor session on, Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, spoke about priorities for this year’s legislative session. He says that if they did all of them “there would be no new money available for anything else” for several years if they were all passed. “I know that tapping the permanent fund in some way lessens the amount available in the future,” he says. He says Richardson cut the income tax “drastically” “and lost hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue” and that they cut corporate taxes under Martinez.

Martinez vetoes beer and wine delivery bill

Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed a Senate bill that would have allowed for home deliveries of beer and wine. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, would have allowed deliveries of two six packs of beer and two bottles of wine with certain food orders. In an executive message announcing the veto, Martinez raised concerns that the bill would facilitate dangerous drinking by minors by allowing large quantities of beer and wine to be delivered with food orders. This could facilitate underage and binge drinking at social gatherings. Additionally, there is no existing law enforcement oversight to ensure that deliveries are not made to intoxicated persons and minors at their residences.

Senate committee hears from public on right-to-work bills

A Senate committee heard public comment on a handful of bills related to labor unions on Sunday afternoon. The Senate Public Affairs Committee heard two hours of public testimony on three different right-to-work bills and another aimed at changing how unions with limited members operate. Three other bills that were presented in the committee have ‘Employee Preference’ in the title and propose to allow employees the choice to pay for union negotiations or not. While it is already illegal for employers to require union membership as a term of employment, some employees have to pay what is known as ‘fair share’. Those in favor of right-to-work legislation have argued that employees should be able to choose whether they pay the union for representation.

Marijuana legislation coming despite long odds

There are a several topics that seem to come up repeatedly during New Mexico’s legislative session. For the past few years, one of those topics is legislation related to marijuana. In 2007, then-governor Bill Richardson signed the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act which made medical marijuana legal in New Mexico. In 2012, voters in Washington and Colorado voted to legalize recreational marijuana. Since then, some New Mexico lawmakers have been watching New Mexico’s neighbor to the north to see what lessons, if any, can be learned.