SANTA FE – Writing a $6 billion budget for the year that begins July 1 is the biggest job for the Legislature. The agenda for the 30-day session is restricted by law to budget and tax matters, whatever else the governor puts on the agenda and changes to the state Constitution. Here’s a quick look at some proposals that might be considered.
CRIME: Change the constitution to legalize marijuana; eliminate the time limit on prosecutions for second-degree murder; make it clear everyone is required to report child abuse; require background checks for gun show purchases; enact tougher penalties for repeat drunken drivers; require mandatory penalty for having a child blow into an ignition interlock device; prohibit sale of electronic cigarettes to minors; ban texting while driving.
ECONOMY: Change the constitution to raise the hourly minimum wage to at least $10; reward relocated or expanded businesses that meet job creation or capital investment benchmarks; create an online portal for business fees and filings; expand an investment credit for backing startup companies; combine and bolster existing tax credits for research and development; expedite hiring of military veterans as truck drivers and medical technicians.
EDUCATION: Shore up the lottery scholarship program; require third-graders to be held back if they can’t read proficiently; intervene to help struggling readers; raise the minimum starting salary for teachers and reward high-performing teachers with stipends; create interactive “parent portal” websites; re-establish an elected state Board of Education to run schools; increase distributions from the permanent fund for early childhood programs.
GOVERNMENT: Repeal the law allowing illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses; give the governor more authority to ban fireworks; require state licensure and oversight of private youth ranches; create an ethics commission; confirm Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera; revamp the judicial retirement system; change the Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage; approve a gambling compact with the Navajo Nation.
HEALTH: Expand family practice residency and nurse practitioner programs at UNM; establish a common nursing curriculum; streamline licensure for relocating nurses; allow nurses to more easily become nurse educators; train and certify community health workers; provide financial aid to health care professionals who will work in rural and underserved areas; expand the use of telemedicine for rural areas.
TAX: Limit what cities and counties can do to raise taxes to offset the looming loss of state “hold-harmless” funding; provide income tax credits for water harvesting; require more detailed reporting of costs and benefits of existing tax breaks; temporarily increase gasoline and special fuels taxes to fund highway projects; eliminate a tax break for cigarette distributors; raise the tax on sales of RVs and ATVs.
WATER: Regulate transfers of water from one river basin to another; provide extra funding for water planning; require funding to be in place before a Gila River dam and water diversion can proceed; consolidate and prioritize state capital spending on water projects, including watershed and dam rehabilitation, and infrastructure for water treatment and delivery; create new funds for water emergencies and technical assistance planning.