Round Up From The Roundhouse for Wednesday: From The New Mexico Republican House caucus:
House Sends State Budget to Governor
Santa Fe, NM – Today the House of Representatives approved a budget that will increase funding to critical areas such as public safety, education initiatives and job training programs. The bill, HB 2 as amended by the Senate, passed on a vote of 57 to 10 and now heads to the Governor’s desk for her signature.
“Although the decline in revenue due to falling oil prices has forced us to tighten our belts, I’m pleased we were able to increase funding for public safety, education and job training,” said Rep. Larry Larrañaga, chair of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.
The budget provides a 2.9 percent increase for the Corrections Department, with $4.5 million to raise guard salaries. It gives $2.45 million to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) for the recruitment and retention of officers. DPS would also get $600,000 for the development of a criminal records database and $1.2 million to process the backlog of untested rape kits in New Mexico.
The bill also includes $6.8 million in new funding for public schools and $1.65 million for early childhood initiatives. A total of $6 million is set aside for the Job Training Incentive Program, and it designates $1.3 million for the creation of a Rapid Response Workforce Program.
The budget will be sent to Governor Susana Martinez for approval.
Bipartisan Bill to Provide More Transparency in Campaign Finance Heads to Governor’s Desk
Santa Fe, NM – House Bill 105, sponsored by Rep. Jim Smith, passed the Senate Chamber today unanimously. The bill would upgrade the Secretary of State’s campaign finance reporting system to provide more transparency and accountability in New Mexico’s campaign finance reporting. The proposal now heads to the Governor’s desk.
“I’m glad the Senate passed and sent this bill to the Governor,” Smith said. “Campaign finance reports should not be difficult for the public to find and this updated system will certainly help to make them more accessible to the public.”
The bill would require the Secretary of State’s office to develop new hardware and software solutions to make the campaign finance information system searchable and easier for the public to find information. Updating the system would also allow the Secretary of State to monitor compliance with campaign finance reporting requirements more effectively. Legislators, candidates, lobbyists and advocacy groups would be able to provide input on the design and implementation of the new system.
Senate Unanimously Approves Bill to Improve Background Checks
Santa Fe, NM – Today the Senate unanimously passed a bill to prevent individuals who may pose a threat to the community from possessing firearms. The legislation will now be placed on the Governor’s desk.
“Passing this bill makes sense for New Mexico,” Gentry said. “Once this bill becomes law, our state will be eligible for hundreds of thousands of dollars from the federal government. This bill will also improve the quality of background checks nationally. I hope the Governor will sign this bill soon.”
House Bill 336 will require the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) to report additional information to the FBI for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to make background checks used for firearm purchases more accurate and comprehensive. The bipartisan bill is sponsored by Reps. Nate Gentry, Paul Pacheco, Bill Rehm and Stephanie Garcia Richard as well as Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto.
Currently, New Mexico is the only state not in compliance with the NICS Improvements Act. The reporting requirements mandated by Gentry’s bill would bring New Mexico into compliance with the federal law, making New Mexico eligible for federal grants to improve the state’s system for collecting and maintaining these records.
The bill directs the AOC to send the FBI information on court proceedings pertaining to a person’s eligibility to own a firearm or ammunition as well as changes and updates to a person’s eligibility. The AOC will also be required to report information on court orders, judgments or verdicts regarding an individual who is found by the court to be severely mentally ill or is committed to a mental institution.
The bill requires the AOC to notify a person if they have been found by the court to have a firearms-related disability that they are not eligible to own a firearm or ammunition and allow them to petition the court to have their eligibility restored.
Bill to Improve Ethical and Transparent Government Passes House Floor
Santa Fe, NM – House Bill 259, sponsored by Rep. Zach Cook, would require public officials and candidates to disclose their consulting income and clients. The bill passed the House of Representatives on a 50 to 12 vote.
“This bill is an effort to improve public confidence in elected leaders,” Cook said. “Full and complete financial disclosures are essential for identifying conflicts of interest and promoting transparency. I’m glad a majority of my colleagues in the House agreed to support this effort to encourage open government.”
The bill would help the public determine conflicts of interests by requiring public officials and candidates to disclose their consulting income and clients. This bill is a response to reports of previous legislators who supported legislation that would have directly benefitted their consulting clients, creating a perception of a conflict of interest.
Today the Senate approved Senate Joint Resolution 1 as amended by the House of Representatives by a unanimous vote of 36 to 0.
Senate Approves Bail Bond Reform Proposal
Santa Fe, NM – Today the Senate approved Senate Joint Resolution 1 as amended by the House of Representatives by a unanimous vote of 36 to 0. The proposal to reform New Mexico’s bail bond system will now be placed on the November ballot for voter approval.
“I’m pleased legislators from both chambers were able to work together to get this important reform proposal passed,” Gentry said. “Judges need this ability to keep known criminal threats in jail and away from the public. At the same time, giving indigent non-violent defendants an avenue to petition for release from jail without posting bond will reduce costs for local governments. I am optimistic that the voters will approve it in the next election.”
SJR 1 seeks to amend the New Mexico State Constitution to give judges the authority to keep violent defendants in jail pending trial. It would also allow non-violent defendants who are not a flight risk to petition the court for relief from bail requirements