Legislative Report Feb. 12, 2020
Roosevelt County Chamber's
Feb. 12, 2020
Gasoline Tax Blocked
A measure that sought to raise the state gasoline tax from 17 cents to 47 cents over several steps was tabled in the House Appropriations & Finance Committee on Monday. The measure, which was opposed by many business organizations was tabled on a resounding 14-1 vote. While the tax had not been increased since the 1990s many felt a year when excess revenues from oil and gas were running so high was the wrong time to take such action. Others opposed it on the basis that not enough of the proceeds were going back into improving roads. The vote to table makes it unlikely the measure will be revived this session.
Senate Passes Retirement Fund Fix
SB 72, which seeks to correct impending solvency issues with the state employee retirement fund passed the full Senate on a vote that was mixed from both sides of the aisle. The fix will require increased payments into the fund by both employees and the government agencies employing them. Many employees and local agencies had opposed those increases. It will also substantially change the annual cost-of-living adjustments a pensioner would receive in the future. It would freeze those increases for two years then change them to a rate based on the rate of return the fund was receiving.
Food Safety Inspection Bill Fails
In another vote that didn't work out along party lines SB 209, which proposed raising safety inspections on restaurants by up to $700 per inspection failed on a 13-24 vote. The bill's supporters argued the money raised was needed to hire more food safety inspectors.
Revised Opportunity Scholarship Surges
A revised version of Gov. Lujan-Grisham's Opportunity Scholarship, which initially sought to make college tuition free to state residents has emerged from the House Education Committee on an 11-2 vote. The revisions would spend $26 million the first year and provide scholarships for two-year institutions only. It would then come in the second year with scholarships for four-year institutions. Also key among the revisions was the requirement to utilize lottery scholarship money first but apply the Opportunity Scholarship before federal aid like Pell Grants so that federal money could be utilized for things other than tuition. A similar bill is at work in the Senate.
Red Flag Bill Headed for Final Showdown
The big fireworks this week occurred when House Republicans objected to Speaker Brian Egolf's decision not to send the so-called Red Flag bill to the House Judiciary Committee, instead sending it for its only hearing in House committee in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee. Debate was limited to 30 minutes for each side in the hearing and the bill was passed on a party-line vote. It is expected to be heard on the floor late this week. That would be the last stop for the bill before it goes to the Governor, who has made passage a centerpiece of her agenda.