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Senate leaders mull germaneness of tax break bills

SANTA FE — In 30-day legislative sessions, the magic word for moving a bill forward is “germane.”

Only bills deemed to be germane can be considered in New Mexico’s 30-day sessions, and there’s been disagreement among some top-ranking state senators about what bills meet that definition.

Specifically, the Senate Committees’ Committee held up a bill creating a tax deduction for broadband infrastructure, Senate Bill 17, earlier this week before eventually deeming it germane.

Tax credit bills have in recent years been automatically ruled germane, but some senators questioned whether that policy should be changed.

“I think if you put five lawyers in a room you’d get five different answers,” quipped Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, during a Senate Committees’ Committee meeting this week.

As background: The state Constitution limits 30-day sessions to budget and revenue bills, and those added to the session’s agenda by the governor.

A 1966 attorney general’s opinion raised questions about whether proposed tax breaks meet the definition of revenue bills, because their aim is usually to create business growth, not generate revenue.

Bills that are ultimately ruled not germane typically languish in the chamber they’re filed in, without being acted upon, until the legislative session ends.

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