The sun rose on Wednesday, the last full day of New Mexico’s 30-day legislative session for 2022lawmakers narrowly cutting it to agree on a budget for fiscal year 2023 and the fate of numerous bills, including an omnibus voting rights and election security package, on hot coals.
The nearly $8.5 billion proposed budget is headed to a conference committee after the state House of Representatives on Tuesday rejected an amended Senate bill. If the chambers do not agree on a budget before the close of business, the governor could call a special session to put together next year’s budget.
Lawmakers worked until late Tuesday night to finish work and pass an omnibus crime bill, a proposed interest rate cap on payday loans and an election. and the voting program, among others.
SB 144, originally a proposal making threatening or intimidating election workers a crime, was converted into an omnibus package on Tuesday when parts of two other bills, one dealing with election changes and the other of the right to vote, were added in a 165-page amendment.
The 2022 regular session of the part-time unpaid New Mexico Legislature ends Thursday at noon.
The Clean Fuel Standard Debate Continues
State Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, proposed an amendment to the Clean Fuel Standards Bill, SC 14, which would allow the San Juan plant to operate for a year beyond its abandonment date in June. The amendment passed unopposed by the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee.
Prior to Ely’s amendment, it had passed the Senate by a vote of 25 to 16.
A previous measure to extend the service of the coal-fired power station by two years was rejected by the House Monday.
Senate Bill 14 would provide tax incentives to fuel producers to encourage the production of low-carbon fuel, and is sponsored by Senate Democrat Pro Tempore Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque. At Wednesday’s hearing, she rejected claims by Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, that this would lead to significant increases in fuel prices, saying there is a global market for the production of cleaner fuels.
State Rep. Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces, carrying the bill for the House, answered questions as the noon hour approached, opening the final 24 hours of the session. He was eliminated from the committee by a vote of 5 to 3.
It took less than 10 minutes for a conference committee chaired by state Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, to emerge with a reconciled proposal that could be presented to lawmakers on Wednesday.
The six-person committee included three members from each chamber. From the house were Lundstrom and Reps Gail Armstrong, D-Magdalena and Nathan Small, D-Las Cruces. From the Senate: George Muñoz, D-Gallup, Siah Correa Hemphill, D-Silver City and Crystal Diamond, R-Elephant Butte.
The committee quickly approved five changes to the budget bill, including dispersing $125 million that had been earmarked for a hydrogen energy center, $50 million earmarked for a public-private partnership program and $75 million dollars allocated to the state cash reserve.
Two changes were rejected after conference committee members opposed them. One would have allocated $30 million for improving the rural health care delivery system and allocating grants to hospitals providing services to the indigent, and the other was an additional $5 million earmarked. to soil and water conservation districts.
This story will be updated multiple times throughout the day as we watch the session.