Chris Edwards shows some of the art for sale in Roadrunner Emporium during an Art Walk on April 13, 2023.

New division seeks to promote New Mexico’s creative sector

A newly established state division could help small businesses across the state promote local artists and creative industries. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham recently signed a bill into law to add the Creative Industries Division to the Economic Development Department. “As we strive to diversify our economy, we must lift up the heart and soul of New Mexico: our creativity,” House Majority Whip Reena Szczepanski  told NM Political Report via email. “From flamenco studios; to potters and furniture makers; to tech, design, and architecture, this division will unlock the incredible economic potential of our creative and cultural industries. Boosting our creative industries will generate good jobs and a larger global footprint for rural, tribal, and urban communities throughout the state…In this first year, we’re looking for a dynamic and dedicated division to come together and begin this important work, and we will be working with the enormous team of creatives from every corner of the state that have been integral to passing this bill to make sure we succeed.”

Szczepanski, a Santa Fe Democrat, along with Las Cruces Democrat Sen. Jeff Steinborn, were two of the five sponsors of HB 8 which established the Creative Industries Division.

STI prevention bill heads to Senate floor

A bill to help prevent sexually transmitted infections passed the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee Tuesday after a party-line vote. SB 132, STI Prevention and Treatment, is a bill that will eliminate co-pays and cost sharing to remove financial barriers to seeking screening and treatment as a way of increasing prevention. Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, sponsors the bill. The bill passed 6-4, along party lines. State Sens.

Paid Family and Medical Leave bill heads to Senate Finance Committee next

The Paid Family and Medical Leave bill cleared its first committee hearing by a 6-2 party line vote. The bill, SB 11, would allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave for a serious medical condition, to care for a family member with a serious medical condition or to welcome a new child. The bill passed with several amendments that bill sponsor, state Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart. D-Albuquerque, brought to the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee at the start of the hearing. One amendment clarifies that an employer can’t pass a portion of their premium onto their employees, another makes sure an employee’s medical privacy is protected while providing the employer with necessary information about their leave and another amendment adds two representatives from labor organizations to a Department of Workforce Solutions’ advisory board during rulemaking and implementation of the act, Stewart said.

Bill prohibiting prescribed burns during red flag conditions heads to Senate floor

A bill that would prohibit prescribed burning during high wind, or red flag conditions, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. The committee chairman, Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, was the sole opposition. 

The legislation now heads to the Senate Floor. Prior to passage, Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, suggested an amendment that would allow the state forester or a county or municipality to issue a notice stopping prescribed burns based on wind conditions. This was ultimately adopted. He then recommended that the sponsor, Sen. Ron Griggs, R-Alamogordo, bring a floor substitute to the Senate that would change the bill to eliminate section C. Section C is the portion of the bill that would ban prescribed burns on red flag days.

Decades of limited liquor licenses makes them high commodities

Since the early part of the 20th century, the number of liquor licences in New Mexico have largely been finite. As a result, those licenses are now worth roughly half a million dollars. In recent years, state lawmakers have tried various ways to reconfigure the state’s liquor laws that would both make it less costly for potential new liquor license holders while also not devaluing current licenses. 

This year, there are a handful of bills aimed at creating a new type of liquor license for restaurants to add spirits to their menus, instead of adding more liquor licenses to the mix. The general idea is that restaurants would be able to obtain a license to sell mixed drinks as long as a certain percentage of sales is for food, much like a beer and wine license. But even the idea of increasing the number of restaurants that can serve alcohol beyond beer and wine has some current liquor license holders concerned.

Senate approves ban on coyote-killing contests

In a clash between urban and rural lawmakers, the New Mexico Senate voted 22-17 on Wednesday to outlaw coyote-killing contests that are staged for prizes or entertainment. The proposal, Senate Bill 76, now advances to the House of Representatives. Similar bills have twice cleared the Senate in the last four years but died in the House. Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, said he had a simple reason for co-sponsoring the latest attempt to end the contests targeting coyotes. “I don’t want to live in a culture of wanton killing,” Moores said.

Navajo Code Talkers project draws bipartisan support

A 94-year-old state senator’s dream to open a Navajo Code Talkers Museum and Veterans Center on Navajo land in McKinley County may finally become a reality with the help of a few of his friends. Senators from both political parties have agreed to provide some of their own allotment of capital outlay money for the project, Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said Friday. “He’s the longest-serving member in the Senate, and this is a project he’s been working on for a long time,” Wirth said. Pinto has been a senator since 1977. “It’s such an amazing honor to serve with a World War II veteran and a Navajo Code Talker on top of that,” Wirth said.

Coyote-killing contest ban splits rural, urban senators

In a decision that pitted rural and urban lawmakers against one another, the state Senate voted Thursday to prohibit coyote-killing contests in New Mexico. Senate Bill 268 carried 26-15 and now moves to the House of Representatives with a little more than a week remaining in the session. The Senate approved a similar measure two years ago, but it died in the House. Coyotes in New Mexico are an unprotected animal, meaning they can be killed at any time and in any number without a hunting license. But Sens.

Senate OKs minimum wage hike

The state Senate voted Wednesday to raise the statewide minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $9 an hour over the next 13 months. The legislation may represent the best chance in several years to raise the minimum wage. The Senate approved the bill in a 24-6 bipartisan vote. The measure also has the support of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, which in the past has fought minimum wage hikes, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Senate Bill 386, sponsored by Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, would increase the hourly minimum wage to $8.25 in October, then to $9 in April 2018.

Gila spending bill clears committee

A bill to increase spending oversight on a proposed diversion on the Gila River passed the Senate Conservation Committee this morning—and will head next to the Senate floor. Sens. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, and Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, introduced Senate Bill 340, which would require the Interstate Stream Commission’s spending on the Gila River diversion to go through the normal legislative budget process. Before putting more money toward the project, officials would need to show the project is technically feasible, explain how much water is available from the river and who would use it, estimate the project’s price tag and determine how New Mexico will cover the difference between the federal subsidy and the project’s actual cost. The bill passed the committee, though four objected to the pass including Republican Sens.