Rep. Lewis will end reelection run, retire at end of term

State Rep. Tim Lewis announced he will retire at the end of his current term and will not continue his run for reelection. The Republican from Rio Rancho was unopposed in the Republican primary and has no opponent in the upcoming general election. 

The schoolteacher said in a statement that he is leaving the Legislature after ten years to spend more time with his family. “Serving these last ten years has been a privilege and great honor, and I will always be grateful for the support that the people of Rio Rancho have given me over the years,” Lewis said. “The decision to withdraw now has not been an easy one for me. My family is the primary reason, but I also recognized early on that the office is best served by those who do not make a career out of politics.” 

House Minority Leader Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, praised Lewis’ time in the Legislature.

Internet sales tax receives bipartisan support

Republicans and Democrats on Monday threw their support behind a proposal to collect gross receipts tax from major internet retailers such as Amazon and eBay. Legislators have considered several similar proposals in recent years, but backers of House Bill 202 hope that the state’s budget crisis, a changing legal landscape and bipartisan support will send this measure to Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. She has steadfastly opposed all proposals to raise taxes. But other Republicans who have been similarly wary of anything that sounds like a tax increase said during a meeting of the House Business and Industry Committee that they see the bill as ensuring fairness for small businesses competing with internet companies that do not have to pay the state’s 5 percent gross receipts or local taxes. “It’s really just closing a loophole,” said Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque.

Film industry seeks bump in New Mexico tax incentives

A proposal to boost New Mexico’s maximum annual payout of tax incentives for film and television productions moved forward Friday afternoon with a do-pass recommendation from the House Business and Industry Committee, despite legislators’ vexation over a mathematical error in the bill’s text. Legislators of both parties expressed support for New Mexico’s growing film industry, though some cautioned against the perception that the state might prioritize these incentives while lawmakers struggle with pressing budget concerns. “We just cut education twice — in the special session, we just cut it a few weeks ago, and we’re getting ready to cut it again,” said Rep. Tim Lewis, R-Sandoval. “Three times. My constituents are like, ‘Can we at least freeze the film industry in these difficult times?'”

However, backers of the bill characterized the proposed increase as an investment by the state and an adjustment for inflation.

Bill to preempt local government on labor decisions advances

A House panel wants the state government to be in charge of most labor decisions. The House Business and Employment Committee advanced a controversial bill that would take power away from local governments when it comes to scheduling employees and on requiring certain levels of benefits. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, advanced on an 11-2 vote, with only two Democrats voting against the legislation. Harper introduced a relatively major change since the last committee hearing; the new version of the legislation no longer included the portion of the bill that would have barred counties and municipalities from raising the minimum wage. Instead, the bill focused on other employment issues, including not allowing local governments to require private employers to provide paid sick leave or a minimum notice for setting employees’ schedules.

Public defenders office still needs money to fill positions

In a report to an interim legislative committee, the New Mexico Law Offices of the Public Defender told lawmakers the situation for public defenders in the state is getting better, but that they still need more funding. Chief Public Defender Jorge Alvarado told the Legislative Finance Committee on Friday that his office is on its way to filling 33 staff attorney positions this year, but that contract counsel is still a problem. In his presentation, Alvarado said his office is struggling to maintain an adequate amount of contract attorneys to defend cases in rural parts of the state. He added that even with a standard of having “a heartbeat and a bar card” for contract attorneys, low flat rates for contracts makes it hard to attract lawyers. The Law Offices of the Public Defender has long advocated for hourly rates over flat fees in order to properly defend clients in court.

A second look at what’s been filed so far

New Mexico’s Legislative session starts in about four days and state lawmakers are still busy prefiling legislation. New Mexico Political Report previously looked at early bills regarding driver’s licenses, minimum wage and right to work legislation. Since then, duplicate bills were filed regarding some of those issues. Here’s a look at what has been filed in January so far.  Schools
Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, filed a joint resolution this month that aims to limit class sizes by the 2022-2023 school year.