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The long fought-for legislation to make New Mexico the next U.S. state to legalize adult-use cannabis and comprehensively address past low-level convictions, has passed, after a special session called by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham March 30. The 55th New Mexico 60 day legislative session ended official business on March 20. As of April 4, Grisham had not yet signed the bill, but by April 9 she likely will have done so.

In a press release issued March 31 the governor stated that “This is a significant victory for New Mexico. Workers will benefit from the opportunity to build careers in this new economy. Entrepreneurs will benefit from the opportunity to create lucrative new enterprises. The state and local governments will benefit from the additional revenue.

“Consumers will benefit from the standardization and regulation that comes with a bona fide industry. And those who have been harmed by this country’s failed war on drugs, disproportionately communities of color, will benefit from our state’s smart, fair and equitable new approach to past low-level convictions.”

Legal sales of recreational cannabis in New Mexico will not begin until April 2022. The governor stressed that “we are signaling more clearly than ever before that we are ready, as a state, to truly break new ground, to think differently about ourselves and our economic future, to fearlessly invest in ourselves and in the limitless potential of New Mexicans.”

Eighteen other bills from the NM House and Senate which have been signed by Lujan Grisham include a prohibition on sales of miniature bottles of booze, a loosening of restrictions on delivery of alcohol to the home, and the lifting of bans on liquor sales on Sunday mornings. Another alcohol-related bill amends the Liquor Control Act to waive the next annual fee for renewed liquor licenses and for all new licenses issued in 2021 by the Regulation and Licensing Department.

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A Senate bill that grants a personal income tax rebate of $600 to families and individuals claiming the Working Families Tax Credit (individuals who earn $31,200 or less; and heads of household, surviving spouses or those married filing jointly who earn up to $39,000) was signed by the governor. The bill “provides for a four-month gross receipts tax holiday for food and beverage establishments, including restaurants, bars, food trucks, small breweries, wineries and craft distilleries, which have been financially impacted by the pandemic.”

Another Senate bill signed into law “repeals the provisions in statute, Sections 30-5-1 through 30-5-3 NMSA 1978, which make abortion illegal in New Mexico and punish providing abortion services with a felony conviction except in the circumstances of rape or threat to the pregnant person’s life, provisions that have been considered inoperable following the 1973 US Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade.”

House Bill 57, the Prescribed Burning Act, “expands the safe use of prescribed fire on private lands as part of a statewide strategy to reduce the frequency and severity of catastrophic wildfire and restore the ecological function of forests and watersheds; establishes various accompanying statutes regarding liability, training and certification.”

Those particularly affected by the pandemic economically will applaud the signing of Senate Bill 52, Extended Unemployment Benefits, which “adjusts the state unemployment benefit statute to accommodate changes to federal requirements generated as a result of pandemic-related unemployment programs; repeals statute provisions that restrict the state in triggering additional weeks of extended benefits in periods of high unemployment.”

Similarly, House Bill 11 “GRT and Permanent Funds for LEDA Projects” expands the Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) and makes “a $200 million one-time appropriation from the general fund to the renamed “local economic development recovery act fund” (the “LEDA fund,” previously the “local and regional economic development support fund”) for pandemic relief grants to businesses, to be administered by the Economic Development Department (EDD) and the New Mexico Finance Authority (NMFA).”

Senate Bill 40 and House Bill 2, aimed at extending the school year, while also providing increased funding for both schools and teachers, had not yet been signed by Lujan Grisham at press time.

The governor vetoed one piece of legislation, House Bill 92, which would have increased the fee amount charged on public water supply systems. She wrote: “This bill creates a tax on water that is too onerous on New Mexicans as we strive to recover from the pandemic.” For more on signed legislation, see http://www.governor.state.nm.us/about-the-governor/signed-legislation/ To explore the results of the legislative session in depth, visit http://www.nmlegis.gov/fund.

Implications of lawmakers’ work during the past 60-day session of the N.M. Legislature and the quickly reconvened special session on marijuana won’t be known for months, or even years in some cases. But here is a quick rundown on some of the other more significant bills with relevance for Corrales that made it to the governor’s desk to sign. Some have implications for local jobs and water resources, such as legalization of recreational cannabis, and others will be significant for public health and education.
• Paid sick leave is now guaranteed for New Mexicans in the work force.
• The Health Security for New Mexicans bill made it through both chambers and allocates $575,000 design an innovative health care program to benefit all New Mexicans.
• The Fairness for N.M. Patients Act passed, with the prospect of providing more justice to patients affected by medical malpractice. It also removes corporate hospitals from a fund meant to help local doctors and patients.
• With the passage of the Permanent Fund for Early Childhood Education, a ballot question will be placed in front of voters in November 2022. It will ask whether 1 percent of funds from the Land Grant Permanent Fund should be invested for affordable early learning programs and living wages for childcare workers.
• The Community Solar Act was adopted to encourage rules that allow for the development of community solar facilities and provides the option of accessing solar energy produced by a community solar facility benefitting subscribers.
• The N.M. Civil Rights Act passed which ends the use of qualified immunity as a defense and allows people to hold state bodies accountable through the N.M. courts for violations of their civil rights.
• The Crown Act passed which protects race-based hairstyles from discriminatory policies in the workplace and in public schools.
• Local Government Air Quality Regulations passed, giving state officials authority to set stronger pollution standards to protect our air, water and land.
• A Sustainable Economy Task Force bill passed to spearhead economic diversification, giving New Mexicans in our most impacted communities a voice in the creation of a clean energy economy.

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