Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced her agenda for the upcoming legislative session Wednesday, putting marquee education, cannabis and gun bills on the call as well as lesser-publicized legislation related to crime, health and the environment.
“My call underscores our rock-solid commitment to investing for tomorrow, delivering today,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the Legislature to make a positive, meaningful difference for New Mexicans.”
The governor released her agenda in the lead-up to the Legislature’s 30-day session, which begins Tuesday. Such shorter sessions, which occur every other year, are dedicated primarily to budgetary matters, but the governor can issue “messages” for legislators to take up other legislation as well.
The agenda includes a number of bills that have been studied and publicly discussed for months and are expected to be headline items during the session. Those include a proposal sponsored by Rep. Javier Martínez, an Albuquerque Democrat, to legalize recreational cannabis. A task force appointed by the governor worked on the issue throughout much of last year.
The call also includes a bill to allow for “extreme risk protection orders,” which would let law enforcement obtain a court order to remove guns from people considered dangerous.
Additionally, two major education initiatives are on the agenda: the proposed Opportunity Scholarship, which would allow tuition-free college for New Mexico residents, as well as a measure to create an Early Childhood Trust Fund with a $320 million one-time initial appropriation.
Other initiatives on the governor’s agenda include:
- Environmental bills, including proposals to renew a solar tax credit, create an electric vehicle tax credit and allow counties to issue bonds to fund transmission lines.
- Public safety bills, such as measures to increase penalties for drug trafficking, human trafficking and using firearms in a non-capital felony.
- Proposed new penalties for cyberattacks and threatening acts of mass violence.
- A proposal to shore up the unfunded liability at the state’s public pension system.
- Health-related bills, including creating an office to develop a drug importation plan to ensure drug safety and reduce drug costs for New Mexicans.
- A measure that would require members of the state’s Medical Cannabis Program to be New Mexico residents.
- Expanding requirements for sex offenders to register in New Mexico, motivated by allegations against deceased billionaire Jeffrey Epstein, who is accused of sexually assaulting girls at his ranch in Santa Fe County and other properties in the U.S.
- Increasing the percentage of the Severance Tax Permanent Fund that can be used for economically targeted investments by the State Investment Council.
- Making changes to the structure of the state’s Public Regulation Commission in a bid to fully staff the regulatory agency with technical experts and reduce the number of ethics complaints.
“These proposals are investments in the present well-being and future success of students, workers, kids and parents all across New Mexico,” the governor said. “These are quality-of-life initiatives I am proud to introduce and support.”
Lujan Grisham said in an interview last week that she saw a “clearer path” to win approval for the bill on gun removals, sometimes referred to as “red-flag” legislation, than the proposal had in the past.
She referred to the recreational cannabis effort as a “heavy lift” but said she planned to “fight hard to get it over the finish line.”
House Speaker Brian Egolf, a Santa Fe Democrat, said, “I think it’s a good agenda that reflects a lot of our priorities. I think, along with what we’ll be able to do with the budget bills, we’ll be able to have a good session.”
Egolf specifically mentioned PRC reform, pension reform and a solar tax bill as legislation he was happy to see on the call.
Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil, D-Albuquerque, said she was “honored” that her domestic terrorism bill, which would expand the state’s anti-terrorism act to criminalize terroristic threats and conduct, was included on the call.
“I think she covered all of the bases,” Hochman-Vigil said. “I didn’t see anything on there that was surprising to me.
“I was happy to see that the governor’s priorities were in line with the New Mexico Legislature in terms of prioritizing education, public safety and economic diversification,” she added.
House Republican Leader Jim Townsend, however, said in a statement that the governor was continuing a “radical” agenda that would “alienate New Mexicans across the state.”
“Once again, the Governor has decided that attacking the second amendment rights of law abiding citizens is needed to address the state’s out of control crime epidemic. This, in addition to more out of control spending is what spurred citizens from around our state to strongly voice their opposition last year.”
In recent weeks, Lujan Grisham has met with legislators on these issues, including more conservative Senate Democrats who were key to blocking progressive legislation she supported a year ago.
A notable absence on the agenda released Wednesday was an effort to repeal an old New Mexico law that makes it a crime to perform an abortion. That measure was defeated in the Senate last year, with eight Democrats voting against it.
Lujan Grisham already has released her budget recommendations, which — along with the Legislative Finance Committee’s plan — will serve as a guideline as legislators craft what could be a $7.7 billion budget for fiscal year 2021.
A number of bills on the governor’s agenda already have been filed by their legislative sponsors. Others are still being worked on and will be filed before the start of the session, the Governor’s Office said.
While the list of bills released Wednesday likely constitute the bulk of items that will be on the call, the governor can send a message adding more legislation to the agenda after the session has started.