Bipartisan package of public safety bills advances in House

New Mexico lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee on Saturday advanced a bipartisan package of public safety measures that proponents said are aimed at reducing violent crime in communities across the state and aiding law enforcement officers who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Provisions in the omnibus package that would provide funding to train officers in “community-oriented policing” and ease access to treatment for officers with PTSD received broad support from the law enforcement community, advocacy groups and committee members. Suicides nationwide among law enforcement officers were higher last year than the deaths of those killed in the line of duty, several proponents noted, referring to studies by national nonprofits showing a surge in officer suicides in 2019. To address the issue, the omnibus package includes a provision that would make it easier for commissioned officers to get PTSD treatment covered through workers’ compensation. The package, which combines House Bills 6, 35 and 113, was approved by the committee Saturday on a vote of 13-0 and has the support of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Oil and gas lobbyists shell out big money in campaign donations

Oil and gas industry revenues pay a huge share of the money that goes into the state budget. And lobbyists for big oil companies pay a huge amount of campaign contributions to New Mexico politicians. An analysis of lobbyist expense reports filed in recent days with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office shows oil companies dominate the list of the largest donors to campaigns and political committees since last October. By far the biggest contributor among lobbyists in the new batch of reports was the Austin, Texas-based Stephen Perry, Chevron USA’s state government affairs manager for Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Perry listed $183,250 in contributions.

Senate panel advances House tax bill over health providers’ objections

Lawmakers looking for every possible penny of new revenue to balance the state budget moved ahead with an omnibus tax package Wednesday over the objections of hospitals and medical providers that claimed paying more to the state would harm health care in New Mexico. House Bill 202 is part of an effort to bring in revenue from the fastest-growing part of the state’s economy — physicians, hospitals and clinics, most of which now pay little or no gross receipts tax. Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, said his bill equalizes the tax among the entire health care sector at just over 3 percent — and that amount is paid on just 40 percent of patient revenue. “I don’t know how you can be more fair than everyone in this profession paying the same,” he said. The measure would raise $250 million for the general fund and restore cash reserves to about 4 percent, Trujillo said.

Moratorium on charter schools heads to full House

A committee voted along party lines Saturday to temporarily halt the creation of any new charter schools, sending the moratorium to a vote in the full House of Representatives. Backers, including teachers unions, argue House Bill 46 would allow time to develop better oversight of charter schools and prevent new schools from drawing funding at a time when the budget for public education is already tight. But opponents, including the Public Education Department, business groups and parents with children on waiting lists for existing charter schools, argue the measure would limit options for students. “The victims of this legislation will be those families and those students who need those alternatives,” J.D. Bullington, a lobbyist for the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, told the House Education Committee. The committee voted 7-6 to advance the measure.