News from the Session: New Year's 2010 Legislative Update
Greetings and Happy New Year,
With the Legislature reconvening January 19th, I would like to share some thoughts about New Mexico's budget and outline some of the legislative initiatives I will be working on during this thirty day session.
For those of you in the Santa Fe area, I have two upcoming legislative town halls which I invite you to attend - specifics below.
Very Best Wishes,
Upcoming Legislative Initiatives
Closing the corporate tax loophole:
New Mexico is in the middle of the worst fiscal crisis since statehood. State finances will be our primary focus in the session as we take action to balance the current budget and pass a budget for fiscal year 2011 which starts July 1st. With a recurring revenue shortfall estimated between 400 and 700 million dollars, our challenge is to find these additional revenues representing between ten and fifteen percent of our 5.1 billion dollar budget.
In my opinion, the new money has to come through a combination of targeted spending reductions and revenue enhancements. Having already reduced our state budget by close to a billion dollars through cuts to state spending, I disagree with my colleagues who think we can continue to "cut" our way out of this predicament. Our Constitution requires a sufficient public education for our children and, while our schools have to restructure and retool like all other state agencies, we owe it to our kids and to the future of this state to provide adequate funding for education. As I have always said, our best economic development tool is good schools and an educated workforce.
One of the revenue solutions I have advocated for in each of the five years I have served in the Legislature is the closing of a corporate tax loophole which allows multi-state corporations to avoid some or all of the corporate tax their New Mexico business competitors are paying. Here is a link to an op-ed which ran in the Santa Fe New Mexican and Albuquerque Journal on this issue: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/Opinion/My-view-Close-tax-loophole---help-local-businesses.
I will introduce this bill again in 2010.
Fighting Domestic Violence and DWI
Under the Constitution, the Governor can add non-budget items to the legislative call. At the request of Governor Richardson, I have agreed to carry the following bills on domestic violence and DWI:
- SB2: Clarifies the definition of "household member" under the Family Violence Protection Act;
- SB3: Mandates that a jail sentence for DWI cannot be served using an "ankle bracelet;"
- SB4: Closes a loophole which has been used to allow individuals arrested for DWI who refuse a breath test to plea to a non-DWI penalty;
- SB5: Creates new penalties for DWI including a mandatory three day jail sentence for a first offence and a felony for a third offense (currently a fourth offense is a felony).
Improved Legal Advocacy
In addition, I am carrying two bills for the Courts Corrections Committee, an interim legislative committee I co-chaired which met through the Fall of 2009:
- SB6: Establishes a new judge in the First Judicial District by authorizing the Court to reallocate existing finances;
- SB7: Defines criteria for filing a citizen grand jury petition.
Protecting people from predatory lenders
This past year I served on Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish's task force on predatory lending. New Mexico repealed its usury law in the 1980s meaning there is no maximum interest rate lenders can charge on installment loans. As a result, some lenders are using the lack of an interest cap to charge borrowers excessive and unconscionable interest rates.
As an example of the abuse occurring, one Farmington lender charged a consumer the equivalent of a 1147.14% interest rate on a $100. 00 emergency loan. The "loan" called for twenty-six bi-weekly installments of $40.16 with a final "balloon" payment of $55.34 for a total of $1,099.71 interest over a one-year period. This on a $100 loan!! While Attorney General King is now challenging this particular loan in Court there are thousands of similar loans which effectively go unregulated. This needs to stop.
While the task force did not reach a consensus on a solution, Lieutenant Governor Denish and I agree that New Mexico needs legislation to protect consumers. Accordingly, at Lieutenant Governor Denish's request, I agreed to carry Senate Bill 33 which caps interest rates at 45% on installment loans under $2,500.00 and creates a database to allow state regulators to track these loans.
Getting your input
During the upcoming session, we will have many issues in consideration. You can review the bills introduced and listen to live web broadcasts of House and Senate Floor debates on the legislature's web site: http://legis.state.nm.us/LCS/.
Your input and opinions are always important to me, so do not hesitate to e-mail with questions or concerns or stop by to visit during the session. It is an honor to serve and represent Senate District 25 in the state legislature.
Upcoming Legislative Town Halls
- Thursday, January 7th, 6 pm to 8 pm
Santa Fe Community Convention Center
201 W. Marcy Street
- Tuesday January 12th, 7 pm to 9 pm
The town hall will be held at the new fire station at the corner of Old Las Vegas Highway and U.S. 285 (Hondo Station 2, 645 Old Las Vegas Highway, near the Eldorado entrance ramp to Interstate 25).
The public is welcome, and the event is free. For more information, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 660-5905.