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June 2024

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Legislative update for northern New Mexico

The Questa del Rio News has been tracking several bills which might be of interest to local northern New Mexicans.

HJR2 – A joint resolution to amend New Mexico’s Constitution to increase the legislative session in even-numbered years to 60 days making a 60-day session the standard every year. This joint resolution made it through two House committees with a “Do Pass” recommendation but failed to make it to the House floor.

HJR4 & SJR6 – Companion resolutions in each chamber to amend the New Mexico Constitution enshrining “environment rights” into law listing environmental rights as “the right to clean and healthy air, water, soil, and environments, and a stable climate with self-sustaining ecosystems.” The bills “direct the state, counties, and municipalities to serve as trustees of the natural resources of New Mexico for the benefit of all the people” and they would repeal the pollution control provisions of Article 20, Section 21, of the state Constitution. Both of these resolutions failed to pass through a committee in their respective legislative chambers.

HB4 – A bill to amend voter registration provisions and enact automatic voter registration at New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division buildings for “qualified electors” as the bill describes eligible voters. This bill would also grant citizens convicted of crimes who have served their time in a correctional facility their right to vote upon release from said correctional facility specifically stating an inability to vote while incarcerated. This bill passed through two committees in the House and passed the House 41-26, then passed through three committees in the Senate and passed the Senate 27-14. It now sits on the Governor’s desk awaiting action.

HB143 – A bill to increase regulations regarding public school governance, most affecting municipal school boards and their relationship with the NM Public Education Department. The bill would codify new reporting requirements between local school boards and the NM PED, grant the PED power to suspend individual school board members, increase mandatory training for school boards as well as governing bodies of charter schools, and mandate increased public access to decision-making of school boards and governing bodies of charter schools through webcasting and archiving meetings. This bill passed through one committee in the House but failed to make it to the House floor.

HB243 – A bill to require electric public utilities to file a “grid modernization plan” with the NM Public Regulation Commission. Utility companies would need to file applications to the PRC for approval of grid modernization projects supposedly needed by the utility. The bill states “applications may include requests for approval of investments or incentives to facilitate grid modernization, rate designs, or programs that incorporate the use of technologies, equipment, or infrastructure associated with grid modernization and customer education and outreach programs that increase awareness of grid modernization programs and of the benefits of grid modernization” effectively increasing regulation over local utility companies by the PRC. The PRC would review the “reasonableness” of the requests. This bill passed through one committee in the House but failed to make it to the House floor.

HB261 – A bill to expand unlawful taking of big game. Currently New Mexico law prevents wasteful killings of bighorn sheep, ibex, oryx, barbary sheep, elk, and deer requiring hunters to use the entire animal after a kill. HB261 would expand that list to include javelina, bears, and cougars. This bill passed through one committee in the House but failed to make it to the House floor.

HB276 – A bill relating to the environment and oil and gas permits, “amending the Oil and Gas Act, authorizing the Oil Conservation Division of the Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department to require proof of insurance and fiscal solvency when submitting a permit application providing that a permit application may be denied based on poor compliance history.” This bill failed to pass through a committee.

SB1 – The Regional Water System Resiliency Act authorizing the creation of regional utility authorities for local management of water and waste water services. This bill passed through two Senate committees, passed the Senate unanimously, then passed through one House committee, and passed the House 46-22. It was signed by Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham on March 13.

SB21 – A bill to prohibit prescribed burns during the spring. Initially the bill prohibited prescribed burns between the dates of March 1-31 but it was amended by its sponsor to be more specific, prohibiting prescribed burns whenever the National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning regardless of the time of the year. This bill passed through two Senate committees and two House committees and passed both the Senate and the House unanimously. It now sits at the Governor’s desk awaiting action.

Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham has a deadline of April 7 to finish signing passed legislation. If the Governor fails to sign legislation, that legislation is automatically vetoed. A list of signed legislation from this year’s session can be viewed at the website for the office of the Governor: https://www.governor.state.nm.us/about-the-governor/signed-legislation/.