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June 2024

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Legislative Update for Northern Taos County

The legislative session is underway and we have been tracking various bills that could impact northern Taos County residents.

In the February Questa del Rio paper, Malaquias Rael, Chairman of the Questa Economic Development Fund, wrote an editorial on ‘The Green Amendment’ formally known as HJR4 and SJR6. This would allow legislation that would allow leaders to amend the New Mexico Constitution and enshrine “environmental rights” into law to give residents a right to clean and healthy air, water, soil, and environments.

This bill was of grave concern to Chairman Rael. As he noted in his editorial, this could “destroy communities like Questa, a Village that is only now starting to make progress with increased job creation and tax revenue based on a post-mining economy and sound local environmental stewardship.” SJR6 currently sits in the Senate Rules Committee and HJR4 sits with the House Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources Committee.

A bill to increase access to residents to vote in the state of New Mexico, formally known as HB4 would amend voter registration access, automatically registering eligible people to vote at the MVD. The bill would also extend voter registration access to citizens who have been convicted of crimes and have served their time. This means that upon exiting the correctional facility, convicted individuals will be eligible to vote. The bill has passed the Government Elections and Indian Affairs Committee and the House Judiciary Committee.

A bill to increase regulations of schools and their relationship with the NM Public Education Department (NMPED) is currently sitting in the Government Elections and Indian Affairs Committee. The bill, known as HB143, would codify new reporting requirements between local schools boards and the NMPED and 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 increase public access to the decision-making of school boards and governing bodies of charter schools through webcasting and archiving meetings. The current sitting school board has offered the most stability the Questa Independent Schools have seen in years, therefore it’s unlikely they will have any concerns with this current bill should it pass.

A bill, HB261, to reduce the wasteful killing of protected animals is currently in the House Judiciary Committee. Currently, New Mexico state law prevents the wasteful killings of bighorn sheep, ibex, oryx, barbary sheep, elk, and deer. Hunters are required to use the entire animal after a kill. This requirement would be extended to javelina, bears, and cougars.

The bill SB21 would prohibit prescribed burns during red flag warning days. Red flag warning days are issued whenever there is an extreme risk of fire danger, e.g. high winds, warm temperatures, and extreme drought due to low to no precipitation for an extended period. Prescribed burns are useful to thin out dense pine woodlands, however, doing mitigation work during high fire risk days could be devastating should the burn grow out of control, as the residents of neighboring San Miguel saw with the Calf Canyon Fire and Hermit’s Peak Fire last year. The bill passed both committees, the Senate Floor as well as the House Rural Developments, Land Grants, and Cultural Affairs Committee. It currently sits in the House EENR Committee.