Solar tax credit heads to Guv’s desk

A bill to reinstate a solar tax credit is headed to the governor’s desk. The bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, passed the House floor Wednesday by a vote of 51-19. SB 29 would create a personal income tax credit to cover 10 percent of the costs of a solar thermal or solar photovoltaic system for residential, business or agriculture applications. Democratic Rep. Matthew McQueen of Galisteo is the House sponsor of the bill. 

New Mexico initiated a similar tax credit in the last decade, which expired in 2016. The Legislature passed a bill to reinstate the credit that same year, but it was pocket-vetoed by then-Gov. Susana Martinez.

Bill that protects victims of sexual harassment gets bipartisan support on the House floor

A bill that protects victims of sexual harassment, retaliation and discrimination passed the House floor unanimously late Thursday night. The House voted 67-0 in support of HB 21, which prevents an employer from forcing a nondisclosure agreement on an employee who is settling over sexual harassment, discrimination or retaliation. Most cases never reach the courts, said Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil, D-Albuquerque, during the House floor discussion. Hochman-Vigil also said that more often than not the victim is no longer employed and cannot get a new job and needs to reach the settlement for financial survival. Proponents of the bill said during committee hearings that the bill really protects future potential victims and that enabling victims to speak about what happened to them can prevent serial abusers.

Bill to raise penalty for school threats blocked

The divide over how best to punish those who threaten to commit violence in schools widened Thursday, as a panel of Democrats blocked a bill to make the crime a fourth-degree felony. Rep. Randal Crowder, R-Clovis, said he introduced House Bill 115 to create a specific crime for leveling terrorist threats at a school or other public building. He said it would be a means of deterring juveniles and adults alike from feeling emboldened in targeting schools. Democrats countered that his bill was so broad it could turn teens who do something stupid into felons for life. More important, a legislative staff analysis of Crowder’s proposal found that the state already has other laws that can be used to prosecute people who make threats.

House passes bill to expand contraception access

The state House of Representatives approved a bill to preserve contraception coverage put in place as part of the federal Affordable Care Act and expand some access on a mostly party-line vote Monday evening. Three Republicans—state Reps. Sarah Maestas Barnes and Nate Gentry of Albuquerque and Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences—joined ranks with Democrats to approve the bill. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, would expand access to contraceptives by requiring health insurance plans to allow women to obtain up to 12 months of their birth control prescription at one time. The bill would expand the types of contraceptives available over the counter and include condoms and vasectomies in health insurance plans.

House says no to worker’s comp for medical pot

The House passed a bill Tuesday that would bar insurance companies and employers from having to reimburse costs of workers’ medical marijuana through Worker’s Compensation. House Majority Floor Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, said in House Judiciary Committee he had a hard time voting for the bill, but did anyway. On the House floor, Gentry successfully offered an amendment that would make the bill conditional on federal law. He went on to say that he fully supports medical marijuana and what said were its benefits. “I think that medical cannabis does a great number of people a great deal of good,” Gentry said.

Committee votes to stop workers comp for medical marijuana

The House Judiciary voted along party lines on Wednesday to pass a bill that would stop the state requirement that employers reimburse costs for medical marijuana through worker’s compensation. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Randal Crowder, R-Clovis, told the committee he was concerned that insurance companies may leave the state out of fear of being charged with breaking federal law. “That’s my greatest fear,” Crowder said. Medical cannabis is legal under state law in 23 states, including New Mexico, and the District of Columbia. Gregory Vialpando, who was at the center of a court of appeals case regarding workers compensation and medical marijuana, spoke out in opposition to the bill.

A look at crime bills coming this year

Next week marks the beginning of this year’s legislative session. This is a short session which means the main focus will be on budgetary issues—along with what Gov. Susana Martinez deems important enough to be discussed. If the legislation that has been prefiled is any indication, this session will also see a number of crime bills, both in reform and increased penalty efforts. House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, told NM Political Report that lawmakers need to to take a look at laws that can put an end to repeat offenders. “What concerns me are those individuals who show a propensity to violence again and again,” Gentry said.

Three strikes, ethics and pot: A look at pre-filed legislation

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.