2014 Legislative Priorities: Results from the 2014 Legislative Session

This memo is divided into four sections:

  1. Pro-Conservation legislation that passed
  2. Pro-Conservation legislation that didn’t pass
  3. Anti-Conservation legislation that passed
  4. Anti-Conservation legislation that didn’t pass

**Starred bills are high-priority. Votes on these measures may be weighted on CVNM’s Scorecard.

1. Pro-Conservation legislation that passed

Unfortunately, none of the pro-conservation measures that we supported this session passed through the legislature.

2. Pro-Conservation legislation that didn’t pass

We urged all of our Representatives and Senators to SUPPORT these measures, but unfortunately, they did not pass.

HB 72: MFA Shared Renewable Energy Special Mortgages (Gonzales)
This measure required the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority to make it easier for low-income households to participate in shared renewable energy facilities by providing special-access mortgage packages. The bill was a positive step towards helping more people access electricity generated by renewable energy. HB 72 would have also diversified the state’s energy sources and, in doing so, helped to strengthen the state’s renewable energy industry. HB 72 was not acted on because it was not ruled germane.

HB 74: Gas Tax Increase for Major Road Projects (Gonzales)
HB 74 would have created a fund for major highway projects, and temporarily increased taxes on gasoline and the special fuel excise tax as a revenue stream for the new fund. Gas taxes are one way of ensuring that the hidden costs of vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) — such as air pollution, the impacts of extraction and refining industries, and climate change — are offset to at least a small degree. Roads are more heavily subsidized by taxpayers than bus or rail transit — an inequity that should be addressed over time. HB 74 was defeated in the House Taxation and Revenue Committee.

HB 121: Prohibit Slaughter of Horses (Thomson)
This bill would have prohibited the slaughter of horses for human consumption in New Mexico. It is widely recognized that numerous drugs that are regularly administered to horses are forbidden for animals intended for slaughter, and are potentially hazardous for human health. Residual antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, growth hormones, and other substances given to horses may be discharged in wastewater as a result of slaughtering horses. In addition, Congress recently voted to defund horse slaughterhouse inspections. Slaughtering horses for human consumption poses a threat to the health of New Mexicans. HB 121 was not acted on because it was not ruled germane.

HB 128/SB 157: Hunting & Fishing Infraction Penalties (Baldonado; C. Sanchez)
In the last two years, state conservation officers have reported more than 200 cases of big game animal poaching in New Mexico. HB 128 and SB 157 increased the penalties for this crime, making the unlawful taking of big game animals a fourth-degree felony. The bills would have expanded the type of infractions that are covered by “penalty assessments,” meaning the violator can opt to pay a fine instead of going to court. This would have saved conservation officers precious hours preparing for and attending unnecessary court hearings—meaning more time in the field conducting active enforcement. HB 128 passed the House (64-0) but died in the Senate Judiciary Committee. SB 157 died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

HB 233/SB 191: Renewable Energy Tax Credit Eligibility (Dodge; Griego)
HB 233 and SB 191 doubled the cap on the state renewable energy production tax credit (PTC) and extended it to 2021. The credit for solar projects is fully subscribed, and wind will soon follow. Expanding it would help bring more renewable development to New Mexico. By enacting the proposed PTC program changes in HB 233 and SB 191, New Mexico could lead the region in attracting leading clean energy companies to develop more projects here and, in doing so, facilitate the flow of major new benefits to the local economy. HB 233 died in the House Taxation and Revenue Committee. SB 191 died in the Senate Finance Committee.

HB 241/SB 221: Create Southwest Chief Rail Service Fund (Gonzales; Campos)
HB 241 and SB 221 established a Southwest Chief Rail Service Fund in coordination with Colorado and Kansas. The bills provided a recurring appropriation of $4 million to this fund. The FIR stated that if these bills are not enacted, passenger service through Amtrak in New Mexico would end in 2015. Although railways have impacts on air and land, they are considerably less than both road and air travel. HB 241 passed the House (47-12), and both HB 241 and SB 221 failed to be included in the budget.

HB 341: Contracts in Sunshine Portal (Stewart)
This bill would have included contracts in the Sunshine Portal allowing the public to view them. Due to the extensive use of contracting by governments in New Mexico, it is vital that this information is included in the Sunshine Portal, the state’s transparency website. A democracy relies on a transparent and accountable government, and this bill took an important step in the right direction. HB 341 was not acted on because it was not ruled germane.

**HB 343: Community Health Study Fund (Louis)
Pollution, like legacy waste sites from uranium mining, not only threatens scarce resources, but also poses severe risks to public health. However, there is no process in place to study the impacts that this environmental degradation has on the quality of community health over time. HB 343 began to address this problem by establishing a fund to conduct a baseline community health study of the Grants Mineral Belt. HB 343 was defeated on a tied vote in the House Health, Government, and Indian Affairs Committee.

SB 30: Separate Reporting of Tax Expenditures (Keller/McCamley)
SB 30 required the preparation of a “tax expenditure budget,” detailing the real costs of all tax expenditures—including credits, exemptions, deductions, and more. With this information, the legislature would have the appropriate tool to make sound decisions about which tax expenditures are achieving their objectives, and which should be repealed. SB 30 was not acted on because it was not ruled germane.

SB 48: Health Impact Assessment Program (Keller/Kane)
This measure would have enacted the Health Impact Assessment Act and required the Secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to establish a Health Impact Assessment Program “to promote healthy communities, eliminate health disparities among communities and protect the human environment.” The program would have issued certificates of health impact for any project that requires an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement. SB 48 was not acted on because it was not ruled germane.

SB 65: Water Trust Board Members as Chair (Candelaria)
Currently, the chair of the Water Trust Board is elected by all of the members of the Water Trust Board; at the moment, the chair is the State Engineer. The chair is the only member who can convene meetings of the board, but clearly, the chair also drives the agenda and sets the tone of the board’s discussions. SB 65 would have maximized government transparency and public involvement in the decisions of the board by requiring that the chair be selected from among the public representatives. SB 65 was not acted on because it was not ruled germane.

SB 72: Early Voting Site Voter Registration (Ortiz y Pino)
Democracy thrives when more people participate in the process. On-site, same-day voter registration is one step in promoting greater civic engagement. Reducing the steps new voters need to take to cast a ballot would have increased the likelihood that they would participate. SB 72 was not acted on because it was not ruled germane.

**SB 77: Inter-basin Water Rights Transfers (Keller/Egolf)
Inter-basin water transfers are one of the greatest threats to the future of New Mexico’s rural communities—the lifeblood of our state. SB 77 didn’t prohibit such transfers (although perhaps it should have); it merely imposed certain common-sense requirements and considerations before transfers of large quantities of water out of their basin of origin could be approved. SB 77 was not acted on because it was not ruled germane.

SB 89: Unit Fund for Certain Water Supply Needs (Wirth)
SB 89 would have required the Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) to focus $82 million in federal Arizona Water Settlements Act funding on water supply projects, like water conservation, watershed improvement, and new infrastructure to help meet water supply demands in the southwest water planning region. This measure also represented a positive step towards protecting New Mexico’s Gila River, the last free-flowing river, from a large-scale diversion. SB 89 was defeated in the Senate Conservation Committee.

SB 90: Full Funds for NM Unit Projects Before Notice (Wirth)
SB 90 instructed the Interstate Stream Commission to identify, secure and guarantee all funding needed to build a diversion on the Gila River before committing to the federal government that the diversion would be built. Building a diversion on the Gila River is estimated to cost between $350 and $450 million, and the federal government would help pay a portion of it, leaving New Mexicans to pay about $200 to $300 million to build it. This bill would have given New Mexicans greater certainty about how a diversion would be paid for if that is what is chosen. SB 90 was not acted on because it was not ruled germane.

SB 91: Water Catchment System Financing District Act (Wirth)
The bill would have enacted the Water Catchment System Financing District Act. The act would have allowed municipalities and counties to form districts to encourage water catchment systems on municipal or county property by accommodating and financing water catchment improvements. The districts would have been created after the municipality or county adopted a resolution to do so, and would be governed by a board of directors. SB 91 was not acted on because it was not ruled germane.

SB 198: Public Money Water Project Changes (M. Sanchez)
This measure proposed comprehensive changes to the Water Project Finance Act, and other acts that have been used to fund water projects. SB 198 was an effort to consolidate the financing of water projects in one place and to use funds more effectively. It placed the first level of authority to manage water project financing with the Water Trust Board. The board would have created a statewide process for priority ranking of water project applications based on the short- and long-term water capital plan. The bill also added two public members to the Water Trust Board, one who represents water associations organized under the Sanitary Projects Act and another who represents colonias. The measure would have given the Legislative Council, rather than the Governor, the power to appoint the public members. Both of these changes provided more access and input for the public in this process. SB 198 was not included in the budget.

SB 228: Gas Tax Increase, Index & Distribution (Smith)
SB 228 would have incrementally increased and indexed the gasoline tax and the special fuel excise tax. The tax would have increased gradually from 2019 to 2024, and then be indexed. Gas taxes are one way of ensuring that the hidden costs of vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT)—such as air pollution, the impacts of extraction and refining industries, and climate change—are offset to at least a small degree. Roads are more heavily subsidized by taxpayers than bus and rail transit—an inequity that should be addressed over time. SB 228 was defeated in in the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee.

HJR 1: Local Gov’t Funds for Private Use, CA (Cote)
This joint resolution proposed to amend the anti-donation clause of the New Mexico Constitution. The anti-donation clause is designed to prevent state and local governments from spending public funds on private interests. The anti-donation clause has several exceptions and this resolution proposed another. It proposed that municipalities and counties could spend public money on projects that are designed to enhance the quality of life of the residents of the county or municipality. The language of the resolution could have been considered too broad, but there was a built-in safety feature: because every member of the governing body would have been required to approve the expenditure, it minimized the chance of abuse.

If the joint resolution had passed, it would have been put on the general election ballot for New Mexico’s voters to decide in the fall of 2014. HJR 1 was defeated in the House Voters and Elections Committee.

HJR 5/SJR 5: Biennial Tax Credit & Deduction Report, CA (Cote/Keller)
HJR 5 and SJR 5 proposed an amendment to the New Mexico Constitution, requiring that the state prepare a “tax expenditure report” every other year. The measure required the “consensus revenue estimating group” (economists from several state agencies) to prepare the biennial tax expenditure budget by October 15 of odd-numbered years. The budget would detail the costs, including approximate foregone revenues, and benefits of all tax expenditures (credits, exemptions, deductions and so forth). With this information, the legislature would have the appropriate tool to make sound decisions regarding which tax expenditures are achieving their objectives, and which should be repealed.

If the joint resolution had passed, it would have been put on the general election ballot for New Mexico’s voters to decide in the fall of 2014. HJR 5 was defeated in the House Taxation and Revenue Committee. SJR 5 was defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SJR 1: Create Offices of Inspectors General, CA (Candelaria)
SJR 1 would have sent a proposed constitutional amendment to the voters to establish Inspectors-General—appointed and managed by the State Auditor—in various state agencies. This represented a crucial independent oversight function in government to ensure that agencies are fulfilling their mandates.

If the joint resolution had passed, it would have been put on the general election ballot for New Mexico’s voters to decide in the fall of 2014. SJR 1 was defeated in the Senate Rules Committee.

SJR 9: State Ethics Commission, CA (Keller/Cook)
SJR 9 would have sent a proposed constitutional amendment to New Mexico voters to establish an 11-member State Ethics Commission to receive and investigate complaints against state officials and employees, government contractors, and lobbyists. New Mexico lags behind other states in formal processes to enforce ethics rules. This measure would start to remedy that deficiency, while helping counter the public’s rather dim view of government integrity.

If the joint resolution had passed, it would have been put on the general election ballot for New Mexico’s voters to decide in the fall of 2014. SJR 5 was defeated in the Senate Rules Committee.

3. Anti-Conservation legislation that passed

A number of measures posed great risks to New Mexico’s natural resources – by subsidizing polluters, removing regulations, or encouraging activities that threaten our environment. We urged all of our Representatives and Senators to OPPOSE these bills, and we are pleased to report that they were all DEFEATED.

4. Anti-Conservation legislation that didn’t pass

**HB 102: Transfer of Public Lands Task Force (Herrell)
This bill would have provided funds to create a task force to study the possibility of transferring public lands to the state. The U.S. Constitution provides for the federal government to manage, maintain, and control federal public lands. This task force would have attempted to violate the Constitution by usurping federal authority and transferring oversight of federal public lands to the state. HB 102 did not allow for full stakeholder input and transparency because no public members or other stakeholders, such as a representative of the federal government or of the land grants, would have been on the task force. This measure would not have exempted designated wilderness areas or lands protected as a national monument. HB 102 was defeated in the House Health, Government, and Indian Affairs Committee.

**HB 183: Economic Development Utility Rates (Maestas)
This bill would have shifted costs for economic development utility expansion (e.g. sprawl development or industry) to other ratepayers, effectively subsidizing the expansion at the expense of small business and lower-income ratepayers. HB 183 was not acted on because it was not ruled germane. HB 183 was almost identical to HB 296. However, HB 296 was the version that was ruled germane and advanced through the process.

**HB 296/SB 283: Economic Development Utility Rates (Maestas; Ingle)
These bills would have shifted costs for economic development utility expansion (e.g. sprawl development or industry) to other ratepayers, effectively subsidizing the expansion at the expense of small business and lower-income ratepayers. HB 296 and SB 283 were almost identical to HB 183; there were only minor differences, with the addition of an emergency clause in both HB 296 and SB 283. HB 296 passed the House (47-17) and was defeated in the Senate Conservation Committee. SB 283 died on the Senate calendar.

SB 80: Exclude Humate as Mineral in Mining Act (Munoz)
SB 80 would have excluded humate mining from the state Mining Act, leaving regulation of reclamation, air quality, and operation for current and future mining to rules set by the State Land Office. However, mining conducted on private land would not fall under the jurisdiction of the State Land Office, creating a loophole in which reclamation would not be required for those mines. CVNM and New Mexico Environmental Law Center negotiated with the sponsor and stakeholders involved in this bill and SB 95, and we withdrew our opposition. SB 80 now directs the Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department to propose new regulations for release of financial assurance.

SB 95: NM Financial Assurances (Griego)
SB 95 would have called for new regulations to address all aspects of financial assurances for mining operations. CVNM and New Mexico Environmental Law Center were able to amend and thus narrow the bill so that it addresses only how many times a year a mining company can apply for release of its financial assurance. This promotes more frequent reclamation because a mining company must prove reclamation has been completed before some or all of the company’s financial assurance is released.

**SB 229: Right to Farm Act Nuisance Lawsuits (Griego)
Taking defense of unlawful polluters to the extreme, SB 229 proposed to exempt illegal, improper and negligent agricultural operations from nuisance laws. SB 229 was defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

**SB 256: Land Transfer Cost & Benefit Study (Griggs)
The U.S. Constitution provides for the federal government to manage, maintain, and control federal public lands. SB 256 attempted to violate the Constitution by usurping federal authority and transferring oversight of federal public lands to the state. SB 256 died in the Senate Conservation Committee.

HJM 19: Nuclear Task Force (Alcon)
The measure proposed that New Mexico explore nuclear economic opportunities. Pinning economic development hopes on the nuclear industry is fraught with peril—not just in environmental and health costs, but in the economic costs associated with any potential accidents. Nuclear is incredibly risky, as evidenced by the fact that nuclear facilities can’t secure private insurance—they are dependent on government guarantees of liability, thus putting tax payers at risk. The current uranium market is unstable. After Fukushima, several major countries such as Germany and Switzerland began to phase out nuclear energy. The market value and long term viability of the nuclear industry, given these shifts in future demand and investment, should also be taken into consideration. New Mexico would be better-served finding safer, more sustainable avenues for economic development. HJM 19 was defeated in a tie vote in the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

SM 47: Study Transfer of Federal Lands to State (Griggs)
This memorial would have provided funds to create a task force to study the possibility of transferring public lands to the state. The U.S. Constitution provides for the federal government to manage, maintain and control federal public lands. This task force would have attempted to violate the Constitution by usurping federal authority and transferring oversight of federal public lands to the state. SM 47 was defeated on a tied vote in the Senate Rules Committee.

Click here for results from our 2013 Legislative Program.

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