Alibi V.28 No.12 • March 21-27, 2019 

New Mexico News

Same Time, Next Year

A recap from the Roundhouse

The Senate Chambers in the Roundhouse
The Senate Chambers in the Roundhouse
nmlegis.gov

Well, you all can keep those pipes in your pocket and continue to stash that stash. Though that may seem like bad news to your typical New Mexican, it’s really just a small, smoky mote in the eye.

And the eye is otherwise healthy, encouraged toward progressive governance by a state legislature that did an admirable job, even if it continued to be plagued by the forbidding glove of old-school economic and cultural values.

Education

After this session, our state is still unable to dip into a permanent fund that’s set aside for education, but can’t be used to give a long-term green light to one of the most important educational projects of this or any generation: early childhood education. Though some money has been allocated for the project’s genesis, and a new cabinet-level position will be created to administer the pre-K initiative, more work needs to be done to ensure its long-term success.

We’ve all witnessed the results of having a poorly educated populace sustained over several generations; addiction, child abuse, property crime, behavioral health issues and even our general economic malaise can and should be rectified by investing in our children and their future.

The conservative economic science that continues to guide the Legislative Finance Committee and its coterie of elder statesmen makes using the fund for pre-K seem capricious and pork-like in composition. It’s neither, we assure you. Short term efforts to fund the overarching project are just that. In this case it’s clear that it’s necessary to spend money in order to make money (read: economic sustainability).

Renewable Energy

Here’s a case where the relative success of certain legislation—in this case huge, if you take into account the overall importance of environmental issues right now—almost overshadows the tiny backwards steps made by a legislative culture that is clearly still in transition after years of business-style management by la Tejana and her extensive crew of government gutters.

Anyway, the Energy Transition Act is now a law. That means that utility companies, long the official bugaboo of the progressive army when it was busy toiling away in seige against the valiant Elephants, are going to have to play nice as they make solid plans to shutter their coal-fire plants and truly embrace new techonolgies that can create sustainable revenue streams, provide electricity for all New Mexicans and hopefully end the threat of global warming before it dooms the next generation entirely.

Taxes

HB 6, the big tax bill (it’s like 139 pages long, homies) we’ve been following—because you, know, insert Benjamin Franklin saying about death and taxes here—went upstairs to get the signature of our Democratic governor (hmm...I like the sound of that) with some important modifications.

Lawmakers were arguing about this bill until the very last minutes of the session. But ultimately both parties were amenable to negotiation in a year when Republicans had the no-new-taxes advantage due to the state’s huge $1 billion surplus, care of the oil and gas industry. According to our sources, the huge surge in oil and gas revenue in the state comes from wells that produce via hydraulic fracturing.

There’ll be no increase in the personal income tax except under specific economic circumstances (no permanent fund revenue growth in the next fiscal year) in which high earners could see a 10 percent increase. The capital gains deduction was reduced 10 percent; both details here mean the state will get more tax money from those citizens who have enough economic cachet to make money from investments and real estate (because what else are you gonna do with a salary of $315,000 per year).

Well, I guess you could get into e-cigarettes. Just remember this year the state passed a law that will tax those electronic frajos just like their hot and smoky antecedents.

Gun Control

To say that the progressive gun control agenda was only partially fulfilled this year is a bit of an understatement, but thanks to our leadership, we’re one step closer to sane, practical and effective methods of controlling which citizens have access to firearms. Background checks will now be required for all sales of all firearms in The Land of Enchantment. Closing this loophole makes for a more responsible class of gun owner and shields the public from individuals who should never have access to such a privilege.

It’s clear that continued gun violence is still a daily danger in our city, state, and world. So-called second amendment sanctuary counties are merely symbolic shout-outs to an outmoded outlaw era that must pass if we are to progress as a culture.

A Living Wage

This year will see the passage of a law that will ultimately raise the minumum wage to $12 per hour by 2023. That’s just $480 a week, in case you are keeping tabs. The time period will supposedly give our state’s struggling small businesses the time they need to catch up and pay their workers a living wage.

Though this is a great break for the numerous working poor that live in the state’s urban areas, a bid to cap the interest rate on payday loans at 36 percent—we’re personally aware of an instance where a source was charged upwards of 300 percent for a payday loan and 175 percent for a car title loan. Although it’s clear these loan businesses prey on low-income New Mexicans, lobbyists continue to argue they provide a legitimate service to the community. Yeah, like usury is a service, all right. Basta. We hope that next year’s session sees a successful attempt to curb the blood and brain loss that are the ultimate result of such poverty-enabling services.

More Animals

New Mexico outlawed the cruel and thoroughly disgusting habit of staging coyote-killing contests. Yes, anyone who has lived out in the country knows that these predators can pose problems. When I was a lad, my malamute Arnold had to fight off a coyote intent on killing our little dog, Dulce. So I know about coyotes. But the whole organized violence-fests turned into social activity theme of such contests reeks of a culture consumed with it’s own machismo and ability to dominate others.

Interestingly the Harm to Companion Animals as Domestic Abuse, (HB 52) passed the house by a wide margin, but got bogged down in committee on its trip through the upper chamber. That’s just a bit ironic when one thinks about the wily cannids—now basically protected—above.

Similarly HB 598—cosponsored by the way by newcomer Karen Bash, the Democrat who defeated Republican DWI candidate Monica Youngblood— stalled in a committee, though for this bill, in the lower chamber’s House Judiciary Committee. Oppossed by statewide veterinarians’ associations, the bill would have allowed first responders to provide medical treatment to animals in certain circumstances.

We all know that opens up a can of worms. Why heck, before you know it, EMTs will be stitching up Fido as a matter of public service instead of a trained doctor doing it for between $100 and $500 a dog. The horror.

Citizen Ship

In practical moves designed to spread democracy statewide, the Legislature also passed bill on the the Governor’s office that would allow voter registration up to and on election day, killed legislation designed to open primaries to independent voters as well as a perennial bill that aims to end daylight savings time, because non-productive things happen when it’s dark.

Healthcare

The jury is still out on this one, readers. Let’s say it’s worth a whole ‘nother column, next week. Though small progress was noted in terms of stuff like pre-existing conditions and medicaid and medicare funding, universal, single payer healthcare is still sessions away; until then, private and corporate insurance companies rule the day. Neither a medicaid buy in or the yearly state self-insurance option, the Health Security Act—based on vaguely socialist Canadian models (which we just lurve!)—passed the test, although HM 92, the Health Security Memorial that asks the Legislative Finance Committee to conduct a fiscal analysis of the plan, has the go ahead to proceed—get this—as part of a funding package written into the budget bill passed by both houses and currently awaiting the governor’s signature.

Fracking

A bill (SB 459) that sought a moratorium on fracking, until 2023, did not pass this year. This sort of defeat brings with it a sort of criticality that tries to focus on the triumph of the Energy Transition Act (see item one in this column) while also trying to envision our continued subservience to oil, gas and utility industries that provide a goodly amount of lucre but at a price and using a process that is going to destroy this planet and its human population.

I’m sure at one point in the debate the good Senator from Farmington, Republican William Sharer told gathered lawmakers that we should all be grateful to the oil and gas industry.

That dichotomy, wherein one attempts to serve two masters, is where we leave off this year’s coverage of the first progressively bent yet conservatively contained legislature to come along in eight years.

Let’s hope for more progress on all these fronts in 2020.