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New Mexico News

The Point of Safe Return

An update on governance in New Mexico

By
The Merry Roundhouse
The Merry Roundhouse
N.M. In Depth

When you read this, there will be just about two weeks left at this year’s state legislative session. That’s a veritable gift of 60 days—in even numbered years, the session is scheduled for a mere 30 days, though the governor can call unlimited additional meetings of both chambers if deemed necessary—for a Democratic governor with a bold progressive vision and the ability to morph back and forth into a national-level leader—when deemed necessary.

Even as the battles here in la tierra, for education funding and reform, clean energy, healthcare affordability, capital outlay to improve infrastructure, tax reform, criminal justice reform, et cetera, ad infinitum rage—because how much repair must be done after eight years of stingy, sludgy, corporate modeled Republican leadership—Governor Lujan Grisham has demonstrated a willingness to involve our state in the national dialogue about Trump’s border wall.

There is no emergency; it turns out our culture is indeed woven into the same fabric as Latin America; mutual economic interests, a shared history and psychogeography as well as thousands of interlinking lives preclude any sort of border wall. Lujan Grisham’s is a brave move that not only demonstrates affiliation, it also announces resistance as a matter of realpolitik. Hopefully that will influence other leaders’ behavior and actions toward the corrupt Trump regime.

Limitless Stars

Besides executive actions like the one designed to send our New Mexico National Guard back to the practical and necessary mission of living normal lives while steadfastly on the alert for situations that may actually threaten our state and its people, plenty of changes are coming.

Recall, please, that our current state executive recently made a video that showed her blasting through walls, gloriously, heroically. Clearly much of that super-powered energy comes from success. It’s logical to assume that to keep on walking through barriers of all sorts, from Trump’s wall to our state’s myriad issues, our governor is going to need some help from the Legislature. And not just this year, but for many years to come.

But as mentioned before, there is so much to do; so much to be undone. The issues are practically limitless and may take as much as a generation to fully rectify. That seems a hard reality to embrace, but it really is heartening to know that our leadership is on board for the journey forward.

Before we update you on the vast array of legislation awaiting a final determination, here’s a funny bilingual joke about infinity and humans.

An Englishman was held captive by cruel Spanish pirates. They threatened to execute him unless he answered a great question. The captain asked, “Cuántas estrellas hay en el cielo?” The English sailor quickly replied, randomly shouting in his best Spanish, “¡Cinquenta!,” as he prepared for a certain death. The pirate captain looked at him keenly and said, “Ay, los estrellas son sin quenta” … and so freed the sailor to go home to dingy Old Blighty. Hurrah.

Declare the Pennies

One of the main tax reform bills we covered, HB 6, which among other things would provide limits to the capital gains deduction from net income, deeper regulation of corporate tax reporting and an increase to the gasoline tax in order to provide for transportation infrastructure funding, was discussed in the House Taxation and Revenue Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 27. If the committee passes this bill—which is in contention mostly because the proposal would cause an immediate rise in the price of gasoline—it will be voted on by the full house in early March.

“The issues are practically limitless and may take as much as a generation to fully rectify. That seems a hard reality to embrace, but it really is heartening to know that our leadership is on board for the journey forward.”

A Living Wage

We initially reported on the minimum wage bill sponsored by Representative Patricia Roybal Caballero (D-Bernalillo), a bill, HB 46 that would have seen an immediate increase in wages and the elimination of a separate minimum wage for workers who regularly receive tips. Since that instance, the issue of appropriate worker pay in the state has come to the forefront. In a state that seems to be perpetually trying to make a substantive economic recovery, here’s an issue that many New Mexicans feel. With a fairly large, tip-based service workforce in play here as well, pay is a daily issue for many citizens.

After much discussion, HB 46 seems to be stalled in committee; luckily an alternative bill, HB 31 has been passed in the House and moved onto the Senate where it is currently in committee. A phased-in minimum wage increase with an exemption for tipped employees are the main planks on this administration-favored bill which will keep the tipped wage guidelines in place until 2022, before eliminating them altogether.

Although lobbyists in the restaurant industry paint that as dire news, many supporters of the bill argue that a statewide, regulated by the the cost of living minimum wage will be a benefit for all workers, especially those who have been living off of tips.

Stewards of the Earth

The Harm to Animals as Domestic Abuse, HB 52, passed through the lower chamber of the N.M. Legislature at the end of January on a vote of 50 to 13. The legislation which seeks to define animal abuse using human standards, and in effect legally adjudge companion animals to be sentient, with rights, was sent to the Senate Public Affairs Committee a couple of weeks ago.

Family and Medical Leave

Two of the bills that would establish paid medical leave and/or family leave for New Mexicans remain locked in committee in the House of Representatives. HB 264 and HB 213 have been determined to be in conflict with one another by the powerful Legislative Finance Committee, which has generated detailed reports on the cost of such legislation. In both cases, the reports describe a start-up cost of $36 million and yearly system maintenance in the area of $20 million per year, thereafter.

Because of these reports and because time is of the essence and these bills are still in committee—yet to be heard in the full lower chamber—they just don’t look viable this year. Perhaps next year’s attempts to define family and medical leave will be supported by realistic analysis of the money needed to create a system to manage such luxurious benefits, eh?

Energy in Transition

The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another; that’s a universal constant, a big deal in the world of humans and their millions of machines. So it’s no surprise that the big news this week from the Legislature has to do with clean energy, and more specifically, the process the entity collectively called the state of New Mexico will use to pry itself from the teat of this or that dead dinosaur whilst wholesomely embracing—and sustainably one might add—the power of the sun and the four winds.

At the end of January we wrote about SB 275, a bill designed to increase renewable portfolio standards, so that as the years pass, our state will mandate public utilities like PNM to embrace renewable energy sources by requiring that that they make incremental increases to the amount of revenue derived from all of their energy making platforms.

It’s a for sure way to taper the state off of coal use. The bill is still in the Senate Conservation Committee, but meanwhile SB 489, the Energy Transition Act is being heard this week in the same committee with the approval of PNM and with the full support of a new administration that, like its Democratic counterparts at the federal level, has made renewables a priority.

As with the proposal to increase renewable portfolio standards, the renewable energy act would call on utilities to ramp up use of solar and wind power, so that by 2030 50 percent of our state’s electrical power would come from solar and wind; by 2040 there would be a mandate for 80 percent with 100 percent by the year 2050.

Commenting on their amenability to this probable new law, the head of PNM told the local daily last week, “It takes us out of our comfort zone. … But it’s where New Mexico wants to go. … We need to be able to step up to the challenge.”

When environmentalists, legislators, the common man and now a representative of the corporate state all bind together to try to correct a very deep issue, something must be up. Perhaps we are past the point of safe return. The possibilities are sin quenta.


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