2021 Legislative Session Preview

With a new legislature taking the reins at the capitol New Mexicans can expect an agenda that reflects the majority party's less moderate inclinations. In other words, the progressives are in charge in Santa Fe more than ever before.

In spite of a proposal to limit the number of bills that can be filed, there will still be far more laws than can be reasonably followed by the public. Over two hundred bills have been pre-filed in the house and senate so far. Perhaps the most important bill would be one from the Senate that would automatically terminate orders under the Emergency Powers Code fourteen days after being issued. High profile laws pertaining to controversial issues such as legalized marijuana and abortion are anticipated. Here are some of the early ones to keep an eye on:

  • Two different versions of mandated paid sick leave, HB20 Healthy Workplaces Act and HB27 Paid Sick Leave Act as well as HB38 Paid Family and Medical Leave Act. Businesses in the state have been hit hard and this legislation will only add to the challenges they currently face. These economic dictates are fashionable favorites of socialists despite their negative impacts on those it would supposedly benefit.
  • The anticipated raiding of the permanent fund to stuff the coffers of a failed public school system makes its appearance in the form of House Joint Resolution 1. With a new make up of the legislature following the 2020 election cycle the push to tap into the Land Grant Permanent Fund will be closely watched.
  • While the state is in desperate need of serious tax reform most of the numerous tax legislation that has been pre-filed are minor revisions, exceptions, or tax increases. HB49 would exempt social security from income tax. HB42 would extend the low-income comprehensive tax rebate eligibility from a cap of $22K annual income to $36K while HB45 would extend the rural health practitioner tax credit to include pharmacists, independent social workers, clinical mental health practitioners, marriage and family therapists, professional art therapists. HB65 would increase the pension contributions for public employees. Considering how much of our state's economy unfortunately consists of government jobs, this could have a significant fiscal impact and might face fierce opposition.
  • HB44 Unemployment Compensation Restriction Changes would extend unemployment benefits to employees who cannot work due to COVID-19 lockdown; not just for those infected who must quarantine or those whose employer tells them not to come in (either because of safety or economic concerns.) It also extends benefits to people who have an underlying medical condition (ex., from asthma to to obesity presumably), who stopped working to take care of a family member – including for a “domestic partner” defined as pretty much anybody whose “close association...is the equivalent of a family relationship.” The broad language means that potentially someone who quit their job to take care of their live-in girlfriend's BFF could be eligible for benefits. Someone who already would be getting paid sick or medical/family leave benefits (see HBs 20, 27, 38) would not be eligible for HB44. One disturbing detail kicks off the whole bill: “Effective until January 1, 2023.” Are we to expect the lockdown to last ALL this year AND all of NEXT year?
  • HB47 is an assisted suicide bill, which is always fraught with big moral considerations. The bill's sponsor Deborah Armstrong's website describes her “passion” for “patient autonomy in decision-making,” and mentions she has taught college classes in “bioethics,” a word often used by neo-eugenicists.
  • HB73 is entitled “The Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Act.” The title made it seem that it was a re-introduction of last year's bill that would have required sex offenders – like Jeffrey Epstein – to register if they spend 20 cumulative days or a stay of 10 consecutive days in our state.  But HB73 does not address that at all. Instead, it will require strip clubs to charge a $5.00 entry fee and require retailers who sell internet-enabled devices to make sure that such devices are “equipped with an active and operating filter prior to sale that blocks by default” child porn sites and sites that “are known to facilitate human trafficking or prostitution” as well as revenge porn or “obscene material harmful to minors.”

On the senate side they do not use “SB...” designation for pre-filed bills so we will cover them more broadly. There is a bill that bans fracking, expands unemployment, use the motor vehicle excise tax to fund the “transportation project fund” instead of local roads, increase the minimum wage for college students by 3 dollars an hour, give a tax privilege to electric and hybrid car buyers, mandate new power plants to generate “clean” energy, creating a Sustainable Economy Task Force, require new residential construction to wire for solar panels and electric car charging, new taxes to fund the failing public school system (not part of the permanent fund pilfering), add a new tax bracket, and create a Ratepayer Relief Act that would also repeal the Energy Transition Act.

A few bills are worth taking a closer look at. One would allow a “political party to nominate any qualified candidate, regardless of the candidate's party affiliation, to run under its party name in an election.” This very much seems to be the doing of the Working Families Party (WFP) who became an official party in New Mexico last year and first known as the New Party formed in New York in the mid-1990s. They are the major player in ousting John Arthur Smith and Mary Kay Papen in the most recent Democratic Party primary and targeting other moderate Dems using the front group No Corporate Democrats, the state's version of New York's No Independent Democrats. Their radical takeover of America is covered here and here.

Speaking of the culture wars, there are several divisive virtue signaling bills, among them a senate bill with subtle but potentially significant implications requiring the administrative services of the Cultural Affairs Department to provide social, racial, and cultural impact statements for pending legislation.

A few bills are aimed at opening the market to incentivize economic opportunity by offering certain GRT exemptions and a "reparations tax credit" for small businesses impacted by the Governor's lockdown, and another allowing a local option district to approve the issuance of restaurant licenses for certain beer and wine sales.

As for constitutional amendments, here are two big ones. The first would make up something called “Environmental Rights,” which ultimately will enable the Green Industrial Complex's lawyers to file a whole new kind of lawsuit to push Big Green's totalitarian agenda. There are several other bills that revolve around energy and utilities indicating a very coordinated effort with little transparency including HB5, HB76, HB51, and the Senate Local Choice Energy Act. Also a senate bill would mandate the General Services Department to make "at least 75 percent" of state vehicles to be electric by the end of 2029. There are several other Big Green related laws revolving around transportation and water.

Another amendment to the state constitution would require the Secretary of State and County Clerks be to be "elected in a nonpartisan election in odd-numbered years and to require an additional oath of office for the Secretary of State and County Clerks to carry out their duties in a fair and neutral manner." This proposal seems to be inspired by our current SOS's highly activist and partisan tenure as well as the Dona Ana County Clerk's Office's long history of “voter irregularity” problems.

Finally, there is a proposed constitutional amendment to change what happens when a governor does not sign or veto a bill. Currently, the bill dies when the governor takes no action. The change would make it so the bill automatically passes if it is not explicitly vetoed. The proposed amendment would also mandate that the governor explain why the legislation was vetoed.

That is an early glimpse of what will surely be an unusual and highly partisan 2021 Legislative Session. Stay tuned.

Victor Contreras
Chairman, Hispanos Unidos