2014 Legislative Wrap Up
As many of you know, our second legislative session wrapped up last week — here’s an update on what we worked on.
Many of you wrote in to express your thoughts on some of our biggest and most divisive issues — things like driver’s licenses for undocumented workers, legalizing marijuana and same sex marriage. However, since this legislative session was for the most part limited to bills related to budgetary items, these issues did not make it to the House floor for a vote.
For this session, our primary focus was on securing funding for a variety of projects that encourage high tech investment and job creation here in New Mexico. As a materials science researcher, I’ve seen firsthand how high tech jobs and businesses can grow a sustainable, vibrant economy like almost nothing else. High tech businesses tend to be cleaner and more respectful of our environment. And the high tech jobs they create tend to pay higher salaries and have more promising career paths — all of which benefit all of us here in New Mexico and create opportunities for our brightest young people to stay here rather than having to move away to build their futures.
Among the high tech initiatives we worked on this session was HB36, which creates tax incentives for small high tech businesses who expand or start up in New Mexico. HB36 in particular focuses on promoting home-grown high-tech business ideas developed right here in New Mexico. HB36 was unanimously approved by the House, but did not make it through the Senate.
Of course, if we’re going to create more high tech jobs here in New Mexico, we need to prepare people to succeed at those jobs. That’s why I also sponsored HB17 and HB21, both of which provide funding for programs that give our kids in high school and college additional access to programs that teach them about computers and science. I’m happy to say that HB17 was approved by both House and Senate and is part of the overall budget currently awaiting the Governor’s signature.
Protecting our environment requires more than just high tech business development, so I also sponsored HB124, which offers tax credits for homeowners who want to expand or renovate their homes to make them more energy and water efficient. Although HB124 was approved by all of the committees that heard it and had widespread support across multiple coalitions, it was not heard on the House floor due to time considerations. A big thank you to BuildGreenNM and SF Community College Green Building and Energy Efficiency Center, who worked hard to get this bill passed — we’ll try again next session!
And speaking of water, water rights and conservation remain a big issue in our community. This past session, we worked on preserving some of our oldest water right systems by funding to maintain the infrastructure of our local acequias. HB299, would also assist in providing funding to our “small mutual domestics” that help ensure that our small communities have a reliable clean water source. However, due to some technicalities on which entities are considered “small mutual domestic water systems,” we pulled the bill for this session pending resubmission in 2015.
As always, we’re proud to represent the very large part of our community that cares deeply about animal welfare. To help protect our animal companions, we sponsored HB20, which allocates $250,000 for statewide spay/neuter programs. There are places here in our state where the pet euthanasia rate is over 80% — we can and should do much better in preventing the tragedy of pet overpopulation and stopping the cruelty of euthanizing healthy, adoptable pets just because there are no homes for them. Unfortunately, HB20 was hung up in House Appropriations, but the good news is that the team at Animal Protection Voters with the help of Sen. Richard Martinez, was able to put $100,000 in the budget for spay/neuter programs. We’re still hard at work figuring out more ways to protect the animals that are an important part of our community. Thank you to Animal Protection Voters for their hard work on this one.
We also sponsored several bills designed to strengthen our communities. HM17 and HB356 seek to address the issue of electrical right-of-way fees that are excessive and mandate that these fees be set at fair, just, and reasonable – a measure designed to keep everyone’s energy rates fair and equitable. HM17 was approved by the House and now goes to the PRC for study. And due to a heroic, bipartisan effort on the part of so many of you, HB356 made it through all of its committees — further than anyone expected it to. And given how important this issue is to so many in our community, we’re not going to give up on this one.
Finally, to address the continuing epidemic of drunk driving & alcohol abuse here in our community, HB16 increases the percentage of existing liquor tax revenue to DWI Grant Fund, which assists counties with DWI education, prevention and intervention — because those businesses who make a profit from selling alcohol need to be paying their fair share for the damage that drunk driving does to our communities. I’m happy to report that HB16 was approved by both House and Senate and is currently awaiting the Governor’s signature.
Funding for education was a big issue this session as well. Many of you already know that I voted to table HB67 out of concern that it was unfair to our most experienced teachers. (For more on HB67, click here). While I continue to have concerns about the specific pay structure advocated in HB67, I’m happy to have voted to include an across-the-board 3% pay raise for all of our teachers. Education is and has always been a big priority for our community, and I share the belief I’ve heard over and over from educators that raising teacher salaries and prestige has to be a big part of any education reform we undertake.
As a citizen legislator, my priority is to be your voice in the Roundhouse. I can only do that if concerned citizens like you share your thoughts with me on issues that matter to you- – so I hope you’ll continue to communicate with us about them as we prepare for the 2015 session.
Carl Trujillo, Citizen Legislator
State Representative, District 46