Bill to protect children’s online privacy passes first committee

The Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee unanimously passed a bill that seeks to protect children’s privacy online. SB 319 endeavors to place safeguards into the online world that children venture through everyday. “The New Mexico Age Appropriate Design Code is a critical step in safeguarding our children’s online privacy that ensures they can navigate the digital world safely and appropriately,” bill sponsor Sen. George Muñoz said. “As a parent and a father I know firsthand knowledge of countless hours spent online by children whether school or entertainment. It’s a scary reality that our children are particularly vulnerable to privately see violations and other dangers when using online services. 

“That’s why the age appropriate design code is vital.

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 to give tax rebates to New Mexicans clears Senate committee

A bill that would provide rebates to tax filers in 2023 passed its first Senate committee on a 10-0 vote on Thursday. SB 10, Additional 2021 Tax Rebates, faced no opposition in the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee from the public or in committee vote. State Sen. Benny Shendo Jr., D-Jemez Pueblo, is the primary sponsor of the bill. The bill, if enacted, would provide $750 in tax rebate to single filers and $1,500 in tax rebate to joint filers, head of household and surviving spouse filers who filed tax returns for tax year 2021. The estimated cost for the state is $1 billion for Fiscal Year 2023 and $10 million in Fiscal Year 2024. The funds are nonrecurring and would take advantage of the state’s oil and gas revenue surplus.

Senate committee approves cannabis law fix

The New Mexico Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee on Thursday approved a proposal that would make some minor changes to the state’s Cannabis Regulation Act, the law which legalized adult-use cannabis. 

SB 100, which the committee approved by a 7-3 vote, would most significantly increase production limits for cannabis microbusinesses from 200 plants to 1,000 plants. The proposal would also make technical changes to the law which would allow a cannabis business license holder to also have a liquor license, as long as the two establishments are separate. SB 100 would also allow the Regulation and Licensing Department, which oversees the Cannabis Control Division, to work in conjunction with the state’s Environment Department, which oversees food production safety, to better regulate the production of edible cannabis products. The bill would also make tax-related changes like specifying tax rates for cannabis that is delivered across city or county lines and creating a path for existing non-profit medical cannabis businesses to become for-profit businesses. Prior to the Cannabis Regulation Act, which went into effect in June 2021, the state’s Department of Health required medical cannabis producers to be non-profit businesses. 

Regulation and Licensing Deputy Superintendent Victor Reyes, who helped present the bill, told the committee that the department helped the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, craft a bill that was restricted “to the most immediate needs.”

The significant production limit change for cannabis microbusinesses comes weeks after the Cannabis Control Division issued an emergency rule change that allows most other cannabis producers to increase production in order to avoid medical cannabis shortages when recreational-use sales begin in about two months.

Senate committee signals House cannabis legalization effort as the likely preferred option

Even after a nearly four hour Senate committee meeting on Saturday, none of the four cannabis legalization bills the panel discussed advanced. But with encouragement from the Senate majority leader and the committee’s chair, the sponsors said they work to come up with a unified approach before another meeting next week. 

It seems likely, based on comments from some committee members, that none of the Senate proposals will advance out of committee, but that portions of them will be incorporated into a House bill that has already advanced to the Senate. 

Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee Chair Benny Shendo, D-Jemez Pueblo announced at the beginning of the meeting that the committee would not take action on any of the bills. Instead, the committee heard public testimony and examined the differences between the bills. And in a somewhat unorthodox procedure, the committee discussed HB 12, which has not yet been assigned to any Senate committees. HB 12, sponsored by Democratic Reps.

New Mexico Senate committee backs rent, mortgage relief for businesses

The state Senate’s Tax, Business and Transportation Committee unanimously endorsed a two-pronged proposal Tuesday designed to provide businesses with economic relief and also stimulate job growth, part of an ongoing effort to help New Mexicans struggling with the fallout of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Senate Bill 5, sponsored by Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, expands the Local Economic Development Act in two ways. “The first one provides [$200 million in] immediate economic assistance in the way of grants for thousands of small and midsize businesses to use for mortgage, rent or lease abatement so that they can rehire workers or new employees,” Alicia J. Keyes, Cabinet secretary of the Economic Development Department, told lawmakers. In recent discussions with business owners, Keyes said their No. 1 concern is the debt they’ve incurred on their rents.