SANTA FE — Highlights of the outcome of major proposals in the 51st New Mexico Legislature that adjourned Saturday.
BILLS PASSED AND SENT TO GOVERNOR
Budget and Finance
—A $5.9 billion budget for education and general government programs in fiscal year starting July 1; nearly $274 million in capital improvements, including in the home areas of legislators, mostly paid for with bonds backed by severance taxes; increase tax incentives for certain television and film projects; require report to assess effectiveness of tax deductions and incentives.
—A $274 million capital outlay bill to fund project that range from state-owned building upgrades and school equipment to improving local athletic fields.
—Require the Senate to confirm the appointment of the state investment officer, who manages state permanent funds.
—Provide high school students more options to demonstrate competency in math, reading and other subjects in order to graduate starting in the next school year. Scores on college entrance exams or end-of-course tests could be used rather than the current standardized testing requirement
—Prohibit charter public schools from contracting with private companies to manage or administer the schools or educational program. The measure came in response to online charter schools using out-of-state, for-profit companies for their curriculum and classes.
—Eliminate the public education secretary’s power to overturn decisions of the elective Public Education Commission to approve or reject proposed charter schools. Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera recently approved a statewide online charter school after it was rejected by the commission.
—Create a School Grades Council to study and make recommendations on school grading and develop understandable guidelines on how to evaluate schools.
—Prohibit public and private universities from requesting social media passwords from applicants.
—Prevent possible cuts in financial aid to New Mexico students receiving lottery-financed college scholarships.
Business, regulation and economic development
—Establish a state-operated health insurance exchange.
—Shore up long-term finances of pension systems for state and local government workers, educators and judges.
—Increase the state’s minimum wage to $8.50 an hour, from $7.50.
—Overhaul the Public Regulation Commission to carry out voter mandates to increase qualifications for future members, shift the registration of corporations to the secretary of state’s office and create an independent office to regulate insurance.
—Improve solvency of the state system that provides benefits to jobless workers. The measure changes how much businesses are required to pay into the unemployment compensation fund.
—Revamp regulation of taxis, shuttles and in-state moving companies to potentially lower costs for consumers and make it easier for them to expand their services into other parts of the state.
—Shield commercial space travel companies from some damage lawsuits. The goal is to keep Virgin Galactic as the anchor tenant at Spaceport America and attract more commercial space companies to New Mexico.
—Offer a tax break to the BNSF Railway Co. on locomotive fuel in New Mexico if the company invests at least $50 million to upgrade its rail infrastructure. Similar tax treatment is provided to the Union Pacific Corp.
—Strengthen sex-offender registration requirements, clarifying registration requirements for offenders with out-of-state convictions who move to New Mexico.
—Create a politically balanced commission to oversee the new independent Public Defender’s Office approved by voters in November.
—Expunge court records of people not convicted of a crime or wrongfully arrested.
Open government and oversight
—Exempt legislators’ email from disclosure through public records requests.
—Requirement that governmental bodies give 72 hours’ notice of public meetings.
—Allow bars and restaurants to begin serving alcohol at 11 a.m., instead of noon, on Sundays.
—Allow beer and wine to be served to guests at bed and breakfasts.
—Increase penalties on poachers who take the heads and antlers of elk, deer and other trophy animals and leave the meat behind to rot.
—Make hunting and fishing licenses valid for one year from the date of issuance rather than ending March 31.
BILLS THAT FAILED
Governor’s top initiatives
—Stop New Mexico from issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. The governor has push unsuccessfully for this since taking office two years ago. A new proposal backed by the governor would have provided temporary driver’s licenses to younger immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and are covered by a federal policy deferring deportation.
—Hold back third graders who can’t read proficiently and provide them with additional help.
—Merit pay for high-performing teachers.
— Lower corporate income tax rate and provide tax break for companies with most of their sales outside New Mexico.
—Exempt retirement pay of veterans.
—Tougher penalties for repeat drunken drivers.
—Lawmaker failed to act on confirmation of Education Secretary Hannah Skandera.
— Require criminal background checks of more people who buy firearms at gun shows .
— Long-term compact to allow the Navajo Nation to operate five casinos in New Mexico.
SIGNED INTO LAW
—Allow New Mexicans to file lawsuits for gender-based wage discrimination in a state court rather than having to go to federal court.