It's that time again. Our legislators made their way to the Roundhouse for a 30-day session that began Tuesday, Jan. 19. It's a short one, and they have to find a way to tame a gnarly budget. It's likely the cash shortfall will eat up most of their time and attention this year. Here's a look at that issue and some of the other measures on the Legislature’s plate in 2010.
Crack open the news section every week for updates. Or visit our homepage on Wednesdays for some live-blogging fun.
The state will be short $500 million to $900 million next year, and legislators have to fix it. (Last year, the state was facing a $450 million deficit.) They might opt to cut services and save cash. Or they might raise taxes. Or they might do a combination of both. But which cuts? Which taxes?
Speaker of the House Ben Lujan is calling for a raise in the state's gross receipts tax and would like to tack on a 1 percent surtax for joint filers who make more than $150,000. The Legislative Finance Committee suggested state employees lose 2 percent of their salaries and that Medicaid see some budget loss.
The Association of Commerce and Industry is teaming up with the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce to tackle redundant state bureaucracy and agencies that haven't proven their worth.
Everyone's got an opinion. Can these ideas can be reconciled, voted on and implemented?
Domestic Partnerships, Back Again
It’s like the Terminator of legislation. It will not tire. It will not stop. This year's bill, like last year's, would allow same-sex and heterosexual couples to register as domestic partners in New Mexico. In 2009, the measure was voted down in the Senate, with a significant number of democrats weighing in against it. In 2010, proponents were hoping Catholic bishops in the state would remain neutral, but it looks as though they will oppose it.
Down With Candy Cigarettes
Legislation from Rep. Karen Giannini would outlaw "products appearing to be tobacco products." (Bubblegum cigars, too?) The fine for selling such products would not be more than $100.
Speaking of Booze and Smokes ...
Rep. Brian Egolf would like the state to increase the cigarette tax and give the additional revenue to the schools. He'd also like to i ncrease the tax on retail sales of alcoholic beverages and give that cash to the public school fund.
Medical Cannabis Tax
A measure from Sen. John Sapien would impose an excise tax on medical marijuana—to the tune of 25 percent of the product value.
Once again, there's a call for the Legislature to consider ethics. Sens. Linda Lopez and Bill O'Neill are sponsoring a bill that would create an ethics commission to issue opinions, develop a means for filing complaints against state officials, and investigate and hold hearings. The commission would also provide ethics training and publish guides.