MON: New Mexico Senate approves $10.19 billion budget, + More
New Mexico Senate approves $10.19 billion budget - By Patrick Lohmann, Source New Mexico
Update 2:15 p.m. on Feb. 12, 2024:
The New Mexico Senate Monday approved the $10.19 billion spending plan to fund state government over the next year, with sponsors and supporters calling it a wise way to invest record revenues to see future returns.
Senators voted 31-10 in favor of the bill. That includes six Republicans, including some on the Senate Finance Committee who lauded the bill.
One Democrat, Bill Tallman of Albuquerque, voted against it. He said the bill didn’t adequately fund food banks, reform capital outlay, tax liquor excise or pay for a downtown Albuquerque, among other reasons.
The budget passed after more than an hour of debate. No senator offered amendments.
See below for more details on what the budget includes. Source New Mexico will have a full story soon.
A Senate committee’s plan for spending $10.19 billion to fund New Mexico state government will be considered today on the Senate floor.
The Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved its budget over the weekend. It would spend $32 million more than its counterpart approved by the House of Representatives on Jan. 31.
The difference means the Senate is seeking a6.8% increase in spending over the last fiscal year. Like in the House, senators reined in spending in recognition that oil and gas taxes and royalties are predicted to level out. State lawmakers in three of the last five years increased spending by more than 10%. The House version this year has called for a 6.5% increase in spending, while Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called for a nearly 10% increase in her budget proposal.
Legislative Finance Committee director Charles Sallee, whose nonpartisan committee helps both chambers prepare their budgets, has told lawmakers that there will come a time when they will have to create a budget that only increases spending by 2.5% each year. But by making some tough choices like the ones in the Senate budget, he said Sunday, lawmakers can push that day down the road.
Sen. George Muñoz, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, was less optimistic. While he voted along with eight other senators Sunday to unanimously send the budget to the full Senate, he also criticized state agencies for what he said was “greed” and reckless requests for additional funding.
“We could see a day of reckoning a lot quicker than what you think,” Muñoz (D-Gallup) said to Sallee on Sunday, “if anything happens in the market. Thank God the feds and them are not forecasting a recession and they’re starting to think inflation is evening off.”
The Senate budget arrives at roughly the same spending target as the one passed earlier in the session by the House, but differs in a few areas.
For example, the Senate budget appropriates $220 million on road maintenance, which is $70 million more than the House budget. It also seeks a little more than $1.3 billion for one-time appropriations across state agencies, which is $58 million more than the House recommended.
The Senate budget would also put $50 million into a trust fund for affordable housing development, which is $5 million more than the House recommended.
Both budgets include a salary increase for state workers between 2% and 4%.
New Mexico’s state representatives largely adopted the House Appropriations and Finance Committee’s budget recommendations when its bill reached the House floor on Jan. 31.
Lawmakers added an amendment on the floor that requires that money appropriated to the state public education departmentnot be used to require school districts to meet for 180 days a year.
The Senate Finance Committee’s budget contains that same language. The initiative to require local school districts to count their instructional calendar by days, not hours, is a priority for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
If the Senate approves the budget during its hearing today, both chambers will reconcile any differences and then send it to Lujan Grisham for approval. They must do so before the 30-day legislative session ends at noon on Thursday.
New Mexico officer fatally stabbed before a witness shoots and kills suspect, police say - Associated Press
A New Mexico police officer was fatally stabbed over the weekend while responding to a trespassing report and a witness to the attack apparently shot and killed the suspect before calling on the officer's radio for help, authorities said Monday.
The fatal stabbing and shooting took place late Sunday in Las Cruces, about 225 miles south of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and some 45 miles (75 northwest of El Paso, Texas.
Las Cruces police said Patrol Officer Jonah Hernandez, 35, was stabbed at least once Sunday afternoon and died at a hospital where he was taken.
The suspect in the stabbing, a 29-year-old man, was believed to have been shot and killed by the same witness, according to police. They said the witness used the officer's police radio to call for help afterward.
The name of the suspect was being withheld until his relatives could be notified, police said. The identity of the witness also wasn't immediately released.
It was unclear whether the attack occurred at a home or business and whether the witness lived at the address or was a passer-by. But police said more information would be released at a news conference Tuesday.
Hernandez was a former resident of El Paso, Texas, who had served with the Las Cruces police for two years. The department said Hernandez is survived by his widow and two sons, ages 2 and 10.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement Monday that she was "horrified to hear of the murder of a young officer in Las Cruces" and "this loss is felt acutely by every first responder and their families."
Gov’s half-billion bid on Strategic Water Supply wobbles - By Danielle Prokop, Source New Mexico
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s $500 million plan to create a market for treated brackish water, and oil and gas wastewater, faces an unexpected time crunch after it was struck this weekend from a list of long-term funding proposals.
The governor’s much-touted “Strategic Water Supply” will now have to face the gauntlet of committees and chamber votes with a few days left in the session.
Sen. George Muñoz (D-Gallup), who chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee, told Source New Mexico Sunday that the measure was removed from the capital outlay package, which is scheduled to go before the Senate Finance Committee later today.
“It’s in flux,” Muñoz said in the interview, adding that the Strategic Water Supply bill will contain more details about the proposal.
Capital outlay projects – which involve local improvement and construction projects – are often wrapped into the budget process, and are approved in one fell swoop.
Muñoz expressed misgivings about the state’s plans to make water into a commodity, and said he wants more information, considering it’s a half-billion dollar request.
Maddy Hayden, a spokesperson for the governor, confirmed the Strategic Water Supply is no longer in the capital outlay package, and that a bill will be brought forward. There was no further comment on the bill’s chances.
It’s unclear what chamber the bill will be introduced in, and which lawmaker would be the sponsor. No new bill was introduced Sunday before the Senate adjourned. The deadline to introduce legislation passed on Jan. 31. However, the water initiative can be brought forward by amending an already-filed bill.
This marks a shift from Lujan Grisham’s optimism at a press conference Friday that the measure was funded in the capital outlay package, and that she would continue to push for future water funding.
“You should expect me to push harder on some of that, the strategic water supply is a really important first step to making sure that we’re creating revenue that we can then apply to protecting our drinking water and freshwater,” Lujan Grisham said on Friday.
The governor warned of a more expensive future.
“I think that we’re going to have to do a lot more on water in general, water is going to cost every state including this one, hundreds of billions of dollars,” she told Source NM.
‘A LOT OF MONEY TO SPEND ON SOMETHING THAT’S NOT PROVEN YET’
The $500 million-proposal has prompted fierce pushback from climate groups and advocates, who said that neither the treatment science nor the state’s water data is sufficient.
For every barrel of oil, New Mexico produces four barrels of produced water, according to the Office of the State Engineer. The water contains contaminants such as sand, dissolved oils, radioactive materials, hydrocarbons, and proprietary additive chemicals used in fracking.
Melissa Troutman, a climate and energy advocate for WildEarth Guardians, said that the state still doesn’t have guidance from scientists about treatments that will work beyond small, laboratory experiments.
“It’s a terrible, very risky investment by the state on unproven technology, and nobody’s asking for the science,” Troutman said. “Half a billion dollars is a lot of money to spend on something that’s not proven yet.”
Troutman is also a member of the New Mexico Produced Water Research Consortium, a private-public entity that’s supposed to provide the data for using oil and gas wastewater outside of the industry. The consortium’s working groups have not met recently, Troutman said.
On Sunday, Troutman said she’s looking forward to seeing more information on the governor’s water initiatives in a bill, if and when it arrives.
“I like that it’s becoming its own thing, it certainly deserves to have a larger conversation around it,” Troutman said.
Julia Bernal (Sandia), the executive director of Pueblo Action Alliance, said the effort to treat produced water is a “bailout for the oil and gas industry,” and focuses too much on making a profit off of the solution rather than scaling back use of fossil fuels.
“It’s this backwards thing because oil and gas is causing climate change, yet, we’re also going to rely on that same industry to implement a just transition, I mean, that just doesn’t make sense for me,” Bernal said.
While Bernal supports efforts to improve clean up and even examine brackish water (salty water found in deep aquifers), she said the plans to do so are vague and missing water data.
“I don’t think anybody should be sure about it, because studies need to be done” she said. “Even with desalinated water plants, we have to ask ‘where is that waste going to go?’ I don’t know, will the state build new pipelines to transport waste from here to there?”
“There’s just a lot of uncertainty at this point,” Bernal said.
WHAT EXACTLY IS THE STRATEGIC WATER SUPPLY?
Lujan Grisham first announced the plans for the Strategic Water Supply during a November climate summit in Dubai.
Treated produced water could be used for building a “clean energy economy” by replacing water used in solar and wind manufacturing, she said, adding the water could be used for hydrogen fuel production – which has failed before in previous sessions.
Since then, few details have been shared.
The initiative is a cornerstone of the long-awaited 50-year water plan Lujan Grisham announced in January. The 23-page document that came with the announcement, does not elaborate on legislative action beyond securing $500 million in severance tax bonds for investment. The plan notes in a “return on investment” that the state would have 100,000 acre feet of “new water” by 2028, but does not provide any supporting documentation for that figure.
The water plan said the effort “will reduce risk for private companies looking to build desalination and produced water treatment facilities to convert brackish groundwater and oil and gas sector wastewater to valuable resources.”
In December, the New Mexico Environment Department announced it would be updating rules to allow for pilot projects for treating brackish, produced and wastewater treatment projects. Those projects are closed, meaning they can’t be discharged into surface waters or aquifers.
New Mexico Environment Department Secretary James Kenney and State Engineer Mike Hamman have made presentations before the legislature promoting the idea during the session.
In a Jan. 22 presentation to the Senate Finance Committee, Kenney said the state government would be “a middleman” in purchasing treated oil and gas wastewater or desalinated brackish water from contractors who treat it, and provide it for industrial uses.
“The state will ideally have a match for every barrel produced, there would be a consumptive use of that water,” Kenney told lawmakers. “So it would never fit into the scenario that it would be discharged into the environment.”
In that January meeting, Muñoz called the idea of making the brackish and produced water a commodity “absolutely scary.”
Paid Family and Medical Leave bill passes Senate - By Susan Dunlap, New Mexico Political Report
UPDATE, 2/12/24, 3:30 p.m.: Senate Bill 3 passed the House Health and Human Services Committee Monday. It now heads to the House floor.
A bill that seeks to provide several weeks of paid family and medical leave for workers in the state passed the state senate by a 25 to 15 vote late Friday night after several amendments.
SB 3, sponsored by Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, would enable an employee to take paid time off for family or medical leave. One of the changes to the bill alters how much time an employee can request. Under the bill, an employee can apply for up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to welcome a new child but, if the bill is enacted, an employee can request up to nine weeks for paid medical leave for the first two years of the program.
To qualify for medical leave, the employee would need to have a severe medical condition along with supporting material from a medical provider about the condition, as well as third party verification. An employee can also take up to nine weeks of medical leave when the need arises to care for a family member or person close to them who has a severe medical condition.
The vote fell along party lines except for state Sen. George Muñoz, a Democrat from Gallup, who sided with Republicans to vote against the bill. Muñoz was the only Democrat to speak against the bill during the four-and-a-half-hour debate.
The current version of the state budget, HB 2, contains a $36 million appropriation for startup costs for the program. Beginning in January 2026, employer and employee contributions, set at 0.4 percent and 0.5 percent respectively, will begin, if the bill is enacted. There are exceptions: Employers with four or fewer employees will not need to contribute to the fund, though the employees will. Self-employed individuals can opt out. Employers who have a comparable program can also opt out. Employees who make $168,000 a year or more can opt out.
The bill requires the Department of Workforce Solutions, which would administer the program, to hire an actuarial company to audit the fund and provide a report to the legislature each year. The bill also includes a cap of increasing the premiums to 0.1 percent per year if solvency issues arise. The department would have a year to promulgate rules with the help of an advisory committee to advise the secretary of Workforce Solutions during the rule-making process. During that year, the department will also educate and train businesses on the program’s requirements if the bill is enacted. The program would begin taking applications for leave on January 1, 2027.
Another change to the bill, an amendment made by state Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, was to change the number of individuals who would sit on the advisory committee from 15 to eight. That group of eight, if the bill is enacted, will be made up of four representatives of the workforce and four representatives from the business community.
Cervantes’ amendment also eliminated the leave option for family of active-duty service members to prepare for a relocation. The amendment also eliminated the eight-hour minimum leave requirement and added a requirement that an employee must provide a 20-day notice when possible. The amendment also changed the 90-day work requirement before an employee taking leave receives job protection to 180 days or six months.
Cervantes said that as a small business owner himself, this aspect of the bill had concerned him. He said that if an employee invests in his business by working there for six months, then he is ready to invest in the employee by providing job protection while the employee takes paid leave.
Cervantes’ amendment passed the senate by a unanimous vote of 40-0.
Stewart said the amendments to the bill on Friday are to allay some concerns from some members of the business community who have been in vocal opposition to the bill. Stewart said her cosponsors in the House have been in conversation for the last few weeks with some of the business opponents to the bill and the bill sponsors arrived at the compromises, put forth through the amendments she and Cervantes made.
Stewart said that for the first two years – from 2027 to 2029 – the state would consider the solvency of the fund and then, if the fund remains solvent, an employee could request medical leave up to 12 weeks. She said that if the solvency is not met within two years, then the paid medical leave will remain at up to nine weeks.
Stewart introduced an amendment to the bill, to say that when an employee works for a temporary company, the temporary company pays the employer contribution of the premium, not the company who the temporary employee is working for.
The amendment also cleaned up some language to say that an employee can only take paid leave once during a calendar year to ensure paid leave does not happen twice within a 12-month period.
Stewart’s amendment passed the senate by a vote of 25-15 along party lines.
Republicans argued against the bill, with the primary theme being that this bill is a mandate, that it will harm small business owners in New Mexico and that individuals will take advantage of the program.
State Sen. Gregg Schmedes, R-Tijeras, called it a “difference in worldview.”
Stewart said that in states that have already passed a paid family and medical leave bill, there is very little fraud reported. She said the bill bans employees found to have committed PFML fraud from applying for benefits for three years. She said the Department of Workforce Solutions will verify claims and that the department will require a third-party verification of the qualifying event. In addition, an employer has the right to appeal the determination.
“Not all states have that and we added it as an additional check against fraud,” Stewart said.
She said that the department can also bring its own action to go after fraudulent claimants.
Stewart also countered the argument that small businesses do not want a paid family and medical leave policy. She said that she and the other sponsors have found support in the small business community for the program.
The bill heads next to the House.
Gun buyers would have to wait one week under bill passed by NM Senate - Austin Fisher, Source New Mexico
Both chambers of the New Mexico Legislature have voted in favor of a seven-day waiting period for all gun sales, though they still need to work out some differences before the proposal can be sent to the governor’s desk.
The New Mexico Senate on Saturday night voted 23-18 to pass House Bill 129, which would require a gun seller to wait seven days after the purchase to deliver a gun to the buyer.
The bill passed the House of Representatives on Feb. 2 in a 37-33 vote. Since the Senate amended the bill, it must return to the House so they can agree to the changes before it can go to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to be signed into law.
HB 129 is sponsored by Reps. Andrea Romero (D-Santa Fe), Dayan Hochman-Vigil (D-Albuquerque) and Cristina Parajón (D-Albuquerque). Sens. Linda M. Lopez (D-Albuquerque) and Joseph Cervantes (D-Las Cruces) are sponsors in the other chamber.
Proponents point to mass shootings in the U.S. committed with guns bought a week earlier, and say waiting periods have been shown to reduce gun homicides and suicides.
Cervantes, who carried the bill on the Senate floor, said in his closing statement the legislation means a lot to him because his law office is in El Paso, and his community was affected by the racist mass shooting in 2019 at a Walmart. The shooter was sentenced to 90 consecutive life sentences for the killings, including hate crimes because he targeted Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.
“Imagine what that did to our community, Las Cruces and El Paso,” Cervantes said. “Imagine what it feels like to know that you’re hunted because you’re brown.”
He said the bill may not solve the problem of mass killings, “but the statistics show we will make an impact on suicide deaths and we will reduce guns in circulation.”
The bulk of Saturday night’s debate was over three failed amendments introduced by Republicans which sought to circumvent the waiting period for active duty military, people who have obtained a family violence protection order and those who pass a background check before the waiting period is over.
Across four-and-a-half hours of debate on Saturday night, opponents argued a waiting period to buy a gun is effectively a ban. They said guns allow more vulnerable individuals to defend themselves, people will get guns some other way without waiting, and the proposal won’t actually decrease the number of suicides.
“This is gun control disguised as suicide prevention,” Sen. William Sharer (R-Farmington) told the Senate.
Sen. Greg Nibert (R-Roswell) said he thinks New Mexico’s problem is young people getting guns.
“New Mexico has a problem with, frankly, minors who are incapable of purchasing a firearm, yet they seem to have them, and unfortunately they’re using them in places — and doing things with them that are horrific,” he said. “We have to get our handle around that, but taking people’s rights away I don’t think is a mechanism by which we address that.”
Three Democratic senators from Northern New Mexico, George Muñoz (Gallup), Pete Campos (Las Vegas) and Benny Shendo (Jemez Pueblo), joined Republicans in voting against the bill.
“These things are not going to change,” Muñoz said. “When people want access to a gun, they’re going to get access to a gun as quickly and as easily as they can get it.”
Muñoz said “common sense” is “not there anymore.”
“Sometimes children should be spanked, and whipped, and learn to respect things like guns and lives,” he said.
If New Mexico passes the bill into law, Cervantes said it would join other states with waiting periods ranging from three to 14 days including California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Washington D.C. also has a waiting period for gun buyers.
Delays in background checks wouldn’t prevent sales
The one floor amendment the Senate approved on Saturday would fix what Cervantes called a complication stemming from the way Congress adopted federal background check procedures.
When someone applies for a background check, they either get cleared immediately and complete the sale, or they get flagged and wait for three days. If they don’t hear anything, then they complete the sale. In the latter case, the background check continues but is abandoned after 30 days, Cervantes explained.
The bill passed by the House would have had the potential for a sale never being completed, he said. The Senate Judiciary Committee felt it would likely make the law unconstitutional, Cervantes told lawmakers.
“The difficulty this created is that you would have had the gun being released after the 30th day but the federal background check would be abandoned at the 30th day, and so the fact that these two things would have occurred simultaneously wouldn’t work as a practical matter,” Cervantes said.
So, the Senate amended the bill to allow for the seller to release the gun 20 days after purchase, even if the background check is incomplete.
The bill is a priority for Lujan Grisham and it has until noon on Feb. 15 to get approved again by the House.
New Mexico budget bill would found literacy institute, propel housing construction and conservation - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press
New Mexico's strategy for spending and investing a multibillion-dollar annual surplus linked closely to oil production came into sharper focus Saturday, as a legislative panel advanced an annual spending plan toward a Senate floor vote.
Legislators are tapping the brakes on recent double-digit budget increases in the nation's No. 2 state for oil production behind Texas, while setting aside money in endowments and investment accounts to ensure funding for critical programs in the future — in case the world's hunger for oil weakens.
Advancing on a 11-0 committee vote, the amended budget proposal would increase annual state general fund spending by roughly 6.8%, to $10.2 billion, for the fiscal year that runs from July 2024 through June 2025.
Proposed changes from the Senate add $32 million to the spending package, setting average public salary increases at 3% for state employees and staff at K-12 schools, state colleges and public universities.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has advocated for a more robust spending package, a 10% annual spending increase that would shore up housing opportunities, childhood literacy and health care access.
New Mexico's Legislature assembles its own budget — a bill that currently includes the governor's $30 million request to establish a literacy institute and bolster reading programs, along with $125 million in new financing for housing development projects.
Democratic state Sen. George Muñoz of Gallup, chairman of the lead Senate budget-writing committee, said the budget plan slows down spending increases and still funnels more money to rural hospitals, the new literacy institute, state police salaries, safety-net program for seniors and increased highway spending to overcome inflationary construction costs.
A monthly payment of $25 to impoverished seniors and the disabled from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would increase to $100, he said.
"You can leave at the end of the day and say we helped the poor, we helped the seniors, we helped law enforcement, you fixed a lot of things," Muñoz said.
Legislators also want to help the state and local governments compete for a greater share of federal infrastructure spending from the Inflation Reduction Act, the Biden administration's signature climate, health care and tax package. Senate budget amendments apply $75 million in state matching funds to the effort.
Under another $1.5 million budget provision, New Mexico would for the first time help compensate landowners and agricultural producers when wolves are confirmed to have killed livestock or working animals.
Wolf-livestock conflicts have been a major challenge in reintroducing endangered Mexican gray wolves to the Southwest over the past two decades. Ranchers say the killing of livestock by wolves remains a threat to their livelihood despite efforts by wildlife managers to scare the wolves away and reimburse some of the losses.
Separately, a conservation fund established in 2023 would get a new $300 million infusion. The fund underwrites an array of conservation programs at state natural resources agencies, from soil enhancement programs in agriculture to conservation of threatened and big-game species.
Leading Democratic legislators also say they want to ensure that new initiatives at agencies overseen by the governor are cost-effective and responsive — especially when it comes to public education, foster care and child protective services — before future funding is guaranteed.
The state House on Friday endorsed the creation of the "government results and opportunity" trust that would underwrite pilot programs during a three-year vetting period, with requirements for annual reports to the Legislature's accountability and budget office. The Legislature's budget bill would place $512 million in the trust.
"It gives us funding for several years to solve problems," said Rep. Nathan Small of Las Cruces, a cosponsor of the initiative. "It gives us a quick ability to analyze whether or not, and how, that's working."
Legislators have until noon Thursday to deliver a budget to the governor, who can veto any and all spending items.
Bill to increase royalty rates on future oil and gas leases passes House – New Mexico Political Report
After a lengthy debate on Saturday, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would result in higher royalty rates on premium oil and gas leases offered by the State Land Office on a 39-28 vote.
Sponsor Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, said that New Mexico has the duty to maximize profits from oil and gas leases for the benefit of schools.
HB 48 would not impact existing leases, nor would it affect every lease in the future. While there are two oil and gas producing regions in the state, McQueen said it would mostly impact the Permian Basin in the southeast region of the state and not the San Juan Basin in the northwest. He explained that is because the premium leases are in the Permian Basin.
Under HB 48, the maximum royalty rate that the State Land Office could charge is 25 percent. The current cap is 20 percent.
The royalty rates have not been changed since the 1970s.
During questioning, McQueen said that if no one bid on a parcel that was offered at 25 percent royalty rate, the State Land Office could repackage it and offer it for lease at a lower rate.
CONCERNS ABOUT CANCELED LEASES
Oil and gas companies have a certain time frame to put a lease into production. If the parcel is not put into production within that time frame, the State Land Office can choose to offer it up for bid once again.
McQueen said that if an existing lease on a premium parcel is terminated for reasons like nonproduction or noncompliance with contract terms, the State Land Office could put it out to bid once again with the higher royalty rate. One example of noncompliance with contract terms is the company that owns the lease does not have adequate bonding.
One reason that bonds are important is that they ensure there is at least some money available to cover reclamation and plugging of the wells should the company go bankrupt.
Some Republicans from oil and gas producing regions of New Mexico expressed concern that the increased maximum royalty rate could lead to the State Land Office trying to take back more leases for noncompliance with terms, though McQueen said the State Land Office has in the past worked with the operators to come into compliance with the contract terms.
Rep. Jared Hembree, R-Roswell, attempted to amend the bill on the House floor to prevent leases from being canceled for reasons other than nonproduction and being leased out at a higher royalty rate within a year of the lease being canceled.
“This is just really to address the concerns of some of the smaller producers who are afraid that their leases will be canceled for reasons that may not be fully supported by statute,” Hembree said.
McQueen called Hembree’s proposed amendment a “solution in search of a problem.”
The House voted 38-24 to table the attempted amendment.
RATES COMPARED TO OTHER STATES
Rep. Larry Scott, R-Hobbs, argued that the rate is higher than other oil producing states, with the exception of Texas, which also has oil and gas production in the Permian Basin.
McQueen said because the Permian is such a productive basin, it supports higher royalty rates.
“So if another state is charging less for royalties, there’s a reason for that,” he said. “But if New Mexico can charge more in the Permian on the minerals it owns, it should do that.”
There are various factors that go into operating costs of extracting oil and gas and McQueen said just because New Mexico’s royalty rates on state trust lands might be higher than other leases, for example federal leases, does not mean that the state is less competitive in the leasing.
In terms of federal leases, McQueen said companies face longer times before they can develop the lease and are subject to more requirements.
Private lands do not have restrictions on how much they can charge in royalty rates. McQueen said private landowners in the Permian Basin have been able to negotiate 25 percent royalty rates.
The additional revenue generated by the leases would go into the Land Grant Permanent Fund. According to the fiscal impact report, HB 48 could grow the Land Grant Permanent Fund by $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion by 2050.
The Land Grant Permanent Fund provides money to schools, hospitals and universities.
FOSSIL FUELS VS. RENEWABLES
Rep. James Townsend, R-Artesia, argued that the oil and gas industry is being targeted while the renewable energy industry is receiving incentives.
He acknowledged that the increased royalty rates on some future leases will have a small impact on the industry, in part because the majority of the parcels in the Permian Basin have already been leased.
According to the fiscal impact report, less than one percent of the tracts in the high-production zone of the Permian Basin are available to lease at the potentially higher rates.
“Going from 20 to 25 percent on the remaining one percent of the land is of really no consequence,” he said.
But he argued that renewable energy should not receive subsidies.
Fossil fuel extraction has been linked to climate change, which is having dire impacts on New Mexico including increasing drought and wildfires. Oil and gas extraction is also linked to various adverse health conditions in frontline communities. Additionally, injection wells related to the oil and gas industry are linked to increased seismicity and increased geohazards in southeast New Mexico.
Solar and wind energy, in contrast, has fewer environmental and health impacts. Because of this, there is a global push to transition away from oil and gas in favor of wind and solar.
While New Mexico is a prime location for renewable energy production, wind and solar projects tend to result in an increase in short-term employment but limited long-term jobs. This can create challenges for regions that have historically relied on fossil fuels as an economic base.
McQueen said that oil and gas has a long history in New Mexico while renewables are newer. He further argued that HB 48 removes a subsidy for the oil and gas industry.
“We’re currently selling tracts below market value and that’s a subsidy to the gas industry and it’s been a subsidy for a long time,” he said.
The bill now heads to the Senate.
People’s Forum urges NM lawmakers to call for ceasefire in Gaza - By Austin Fisher, Source New Mexico
Twin measures introduced in the New Mexico Legislature that urge the state’s congressional delegation to call for a ceasefire in Gaza have sat untouched by the powerful lawmakers responsible for giving them a hearing.
In response, a coalition of 19 organizations and five lawmakers from across the state held a two-and-a-half-hour “People’s Forum” at the state capitol to hear testimony that they said would be given in an official hearing.
On the House side, representatives Eleanor Chávez (D-Albuquerque), Patricia Roybal Caballero, Angelica Rubio (D-Las Cruces), Susan Herrera (D-Embudo) and Miguel P. García (D-Albuquerque) are sponsoring House Memorial 8.
House Memorial 8 was sent to the House Judiciary Committee on Jan. 22 and has not budged. That panel is headed by Rep. Christine Chandler (D-Los Alamos).
Chavez said the memorial is “still sitting in the House.” So, she and the organizers decided to hold a people’s hearing in the Rotunda on Friday.
“This is the people’s forum,” said Samia Assed, with the Southwest Coalition for Palestine. “The voting power is with us.”
The event came as the U.S. Congress was expected to vote on an emergency funding bill that includes aid to humanitarian relief in Gaza, and billions more in military aid to Israel.
Chavez encouraged the crowd to contact U.S. Sens. Ben Ray Luján and Martin Heinrich to support an amendment to remove the funding for Israel. Yesterday, Luján and Heinrich voted to continue debate on the emergency spending bill in the Senate. They each have said that any version of this bill passed by Congress must include humanitarian aid for Gaza.
Rubio expressed issues with the Congressional spending bill. She said she is horrified that the U.S. government is funding a genocide in Gaza, and militarization along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We have the money, we just choose not to invest it in our own communities,” Rubio said.
In the Senate, Sens. Linda Lopez (D-Albuquerque) and Pete Campos (D-Las Vegas) are carrying Senate Memorial 6.
Lopez said the measure has not gotten a hearing. It was referred to the Senate Rules Committee on Jan. 25, and has sat there since. The committee is headed by Sen. Katy Duhigg (D-Albuquerque).
Source New Mexico left messages with both Duhigg and Chandler about why the bills are not receiving a date on their committee’s calendar. We will update if they respond.
“They should be hearing us, because that’s what we elect them for,” Lopez said. “May our voice be heard in the halls of Congress, and in the White House and all those appointees to the federal government: we need a ceasefire now.”
As Roybal Caballero expressed disbelief at the lack of an official call from her fellow lawmakers for a ceasefire in Gaza, she looked up from the Rotunda at the upper floors of the New Mexico Legislature.
“Those of you that are not moved by these atrocities, perhaps it’s time to visit your faith, your pastor, your guide, whoever that might be,” Roybal Caballero said. “Something has got to move you. Something has got to move this Roundhouse, something has got to move the White House. Something has got to move Congress, something has got to move the Senate.”
Roybal Caballero encouraged the crowd to contact their state lawmakers.
“What are we afraid of?” Roybal Caballero asked. “I want us to understand how important it is for us — especially those of us in decision making bodies such as this Roundhouse — to be courageous and take a vote on the House floor on the House memorial.”
Assed addressed lawmakers who haven’t called for a ceasefire: “you’re going to have to reckon with your conscience, your morality.”
Plan to shift CYFD oversight stalled – Santa Fe New Mexican, KUNM News
An effort to shift oversight of New Mexico’s troubled child welfare agency from the executive branch to an independent commission appears to be dead in the water.
The Santa Fe New Mexicanreports the sponsor of the joint resolution, Democratic Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino, says opposition by Gov. Michelle Luján Grisham likely scared off lawmakers. The bill was to be considered this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The joint resolution would have gone directly to voters if both houses passed it.
Ortiz y Pino told KUNM earlier this year the Children, Youth and Families Department was in a death spiral. CYFD has drawn criticism over a lack of transparency, housing children in its offices andputting foster teens in a facility for kids with histories of mental illness and violence.
Ortiz y Pino spent much of his career at CYFD. He criticized recently confirmed Secretary Teresa Casados as having no background in this field, which he says has hurt recruitment efforts.
Casados told lawmakers she opposed the idea of an independent commission because the structures would create barriers to collaboration with other agencies and Native American tribes.