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House endorses break on liquor license fees

In this file photo, bottles of wine are displayed during a tour of a state liquor store in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SANTA FE — Legislation that would waive renewal fees for liquor licenses over the next year won approval without opposition in the House on Thursday, putting the bill on the brink of final passage.

The proposal, Senate Bill 2, already made it through the Senate, but a House committee revised the proposal, so it will have to go back to the Senate for approval of the House amendment.

Nonetheless, the bill quickly passed the House on a 64-0 vote Wednesday with no debate.

The waiver of fees would apply to all liquor license holders, not just those who had a 50% drop in gross receipts in 2020, as in an earlier version.

It’s expected to cost the state about $3.4 million to $3.8 million in revenue if signed into law.

The proposal is one of several measures aimed at helping New Mexico restaurants and bars recover from the pandemic.

The bill is jointly sponsored by Democratic Sens. Liz Stefanics, Jacob Candelaria of Albuquerque and Brenda McKenna of Corrales, in addition to Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo.

“We are hopefully entering the final stage of this pandemic, but the challenges faced by our restaurants, bars, and other hospitality businesses won’t disappear overnight,” McQueen said in a written statement. “Senate Bill 2 gives these struggling small businesses at the core of New Mexico’s economy a break from this year’s state fees, so they can instead use those funds for rent, payroll, and other key investments to help keep their doors open.”

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