SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham will ask the New Mexico Legislature to consider tax relief for individuals, loans for small businesses and local governments, police reform and election improvements, among other topics, when it meets in a special session beginning Thursday.
Lawmakers will be asked to consider those bills in addition to modifying the state budget that takes effect July 1, the main purpose of the special session.
As a result of the global pandemic, projected state revenues declined steeply following the legislative session earlier this year, leaving a gap estimated at more than $2 billion. The executive budget framework includes cuts to state agency budgets, grants to local governments and sovereign nations and a preservation of a portion of the pay raises that had been scheduled for educators while using the state’s unprecedented reserves and federal funding to patch the budget hole created by the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the non-budget measures the governor supports and will ask the Legislature to take up are proposals requiring police officers to wear body cameras, banning chokehold restraints, and making police disciplinary history a matter of public record. Those measures have gained traction across the nation in the wake of the May 25 murder of George Floyd, a black man who died while a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly 9 minutes.
Additionally the governor will support a proposal to create a state commission by statute to explore the issue of qualified immunity.
“This is not the end of the reform work we must take up – on public safety and racial injustice or on budgetary matters,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “The focus of this special session is relatively narrow given the economic crisis and the public health concerns about gathering for an extended period of time – but we must begin to address both the financial and human rights emergencies of this moment and put ourselves in a position to evaluate and enact broader structural reform in the next regular session of the Legislature.
“New Mexico families, workers and businesses have been suffering as a result of this pandemic, and it is our duty not merely to shore up the state budget – although that is imperative – but to deliver them whatever immediate relief we can as a state. We must assure New Mexicans, all together, that this state will take care of its own, will meet the needs of its families and workers, and we can serve as a national example of a targeted, sustainable, balanced recovery.
“I look forward to and anticipate bipartisan cooperation and expeditious work with the Legislature this week, as well as the professionalism and diligence New Mexicans have come to expect from this group of legislators,” the governor added.
The governor also supports, as part of her “call,” a proposal to promote and ensure the security and timeliness of remote voting during the pendency of a public health emergency like a pandemic. New Mexico’s election code currently requires voters to request an absentee ballot before one can be issued. The proposal to be taken up by the Legislature will give county clerks the authority to send a ballot to registered voters with a current mailing address and will allow voters and election administrators to track their ballots through the mail delivery system to help ensure timely delivery of their ballots, among other changes.
Tax relief for small businesses and individuals impacted by the pandemic will also be on the call. Specifically, the governor will ask the Legislature to waive penalties and interest for small businesses and individuals who have been unable to make timely property tax and gross receipts tax payments due to the economic impact of the pandemic.
Additionally, she will ask the Legislature to approve a proposal to direct the State Investment Officer to invest a portion of the state’s multibillion-dollar Severance Tax Permanent Fund to support loans to small businesses and municipalities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The low-interest, long-term loans would help municipalities meet budget shortfalls and get businesses back on their feet following COVID-19-related closures.
The governor will also ask the Legislature to temporarily endorse gubernatorial flexibility and authority to assist businesses amid a public health emergency or pandemic – for example, to potentially allow liquor delivery or electronic notary services.
The legislative session will begin at noon Thursday.
The police and public safety reform proposal will be sponsored by Sen. Joseph Cervantes and Rep. Micaela Cadena.
The proposal regarding a commission to evaluate qualified immunity will be sponsored by Speaker Brian Egolf.
The election modification proposal will be sponsored by Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto and Rep. Linda Trujillo.
The severance tax support for small businesses and municipalities proposal will be sponsored by Sen. Jacob Candelaria, Sen. John Sapien, Rep. Daymon Ely and Rep. Marian Matthews.
The tax relief proposal will be sponsored by Sen. Peter Wirth and Rep. Christine Chandler.
The proposal regarding gubernatorial authority to permit flexibility in allowing liquor delivery and other potential items will be sponsored by Sen. Mary Kay Papen and Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas.
Image Source: NM SOS