2019 NMC Legislative Final Report
Another New Mexico Legislative session has come and gone and is now in the record books (thankfully). Like all sessions, the 2019 one was unique, interesting, entertaining, frustrating and, sometimes, rewarding. Let’s take a quick look at what happened:
All of the New Mexico House of Representatives were up for election in November, and New Mexico had its version of the national “blue wave.” There are now 46 Democrats and 24 Republicans in the House, the largest Democratic majority since 1994 (53-17). State Senators are not up for election until next year, so that body stays at 26 Democrats and 16 Republicans.
New Mexico also elected a new Governor, Michelle Lujan-Grisham, who is a former Bernalillo County Commissioner, U.S. Congresswoman and long-time cabinet secretary for Governors Bruce King, Gary Johnson, and Bill Richardson.
In the 2019 Legislative session, the House introduced 695 bills, 16 joint memorials, 11 joint resolutions, and 94 memorials. The Senate introduced 675 bills, 20 joint memorials, 19 joint resolutions, and 131 memorials. We, along with many legislators, expected a much larger number of bills. In all, the Legislature passed 309 bills and the Governor signed 281, vetoed 15, and pocket vetoed 13.
In the tax arena, the counties were finally able to “de-earmark” many of our gross receipts tax silos, a major accomplishment. A big thanks to Representative Jason Harper, Legislative Council Service drafter Pam Stokes, and former New Mexico Counties (NMC) financial whiz Santiago Chavez for wrapping this up for us. The NMC legislative team also worked all session on HB6, through its many iterations. In the final version, county government made out very well, receiving our local gross receipts tax increments on internet sales and compensating tax, leaving the “hold harmless” existing structure in place, and adding half of the motor vehicle excise tax increase to the local road fund.
This year, the counties also made big strides in our efforts to address behavioral health care, especially in our detention centers. HB43, sponsored by House Majority Leader Sheryl Stapleton, will provide therapeutic services to individuals in our rural county jails who have serious mental health issues. Grace Philips, NMC General Counsel, was very instrumental in finally pushing through a fix for some of the unintended consequences of the “forfeiture reform” of 2015, in addition to helping make several “bad” bills more palatable (e.g., restricted housing in detention centers).
In the final budget that was passed and signed, counties missed out on “new money” for detention and transport of state prisoners, and we were not able to find consensus on how to deal with the crisis in emergency medical services. We did have several “wins,” including elimination of the “notwithstanding” language in House Bill 2 regarding the administrative fee charged by the Taxation and Revenue Department to local government (saving local governments about $6 million). HB2 also contained over $400 million dollars for transportation projects, including over $50 million for the local road fund.