Obstructionism? You decide.

Dear Friends:
Many of you have asked for an update on bills I sponsored during the 2015 legislative session. A comprehensive list of all my bills and the action taken can be found on the legislature's web site.

Below is a more specific description of eight bills that passed the state Senate with the action taken, or in the majority of cases not taken, by the state House. I also include two House bills that I sponsored with Republican House members. Click on the bill to see the final version.

Senate Bill 58

Public Financing Fix. This legislation strengthened our public financing statute for Public Regulation Commission races and appellate judge elections. It prevented a candidate from contributing public dollars to themselves their spouse or a child or stepchild. It also reduced the amount of public money available in an uncontested election cycle from 50% to 10%. The bill passed the Senate 30-9 and passed its first House committee on March 12th, nine days before the end of the session. It was never scheduled for hearing in its final House committee, the House Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 59

Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. This was a Uniform Law Commission bill to establish who legally can deal with our emails, social media and on-line presence after we die or are incapacitated. It passed the Senate 39-0 and was passed out of the House Regulatory Affairs Committee on March 13th, eight days before the end of the session. Despite the fact that the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee is a Uniform Law Commissioner, the bill was never scheduled for hearing in his committee.

Senate Bill 60

Another Uniform Law Commission bill, SB 60 codified common law on powers of appointment used in estate planning documents and amended sections of New Mexico's Probate Code to make them uniform. The bill passed the Senate 38-0 and unanimously passed the House Government and Elections Committee on March 16th. Again, SB 60 was never heard in the House Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 174

Continues State Investment Council Reforms. This bill strengthened the governing statute for the State Investment Council adding requirements for reporting campaign contributions and providing indemnification for volunteer board members. SB 174 passed both chambers and was signed into law by Governor Martinez on April 8th.

Senate Bill 279

Extends the Sustainable Building Tax Credit. As a state Representative in 2007, I worked with former Senator Dede Feldman to pass this law. It provides tax credits for new and remodeled energy efficient home construction. The program has been very successful. In 2013, seventy-one percent of the new home construction in Albuquerque was "green built." This year's legislation, which I sponsored with Representative Carl Trujillo (D Santa Fe), extends the five million dollar annual tax credit for ten years and includes water conservation. It passed both chambers and Governor Martinez signed it into law on April 10th.

Senate Bill 281

Income for Tax Purposes Act. This bill continues my long-standing effort to "level-the-playing field" for New Mexico businesses. It amends the current corporate tax formula to give New Mexico the opportunity to collect its share of tax on businesses selling intangible personal property in our state. An example would be legal services available over the Internet. Under SB 281, income from such sales would be apportioned between the states allowing us to tax those services provided in our state. The bill passed the Senate 36-1 on March 17th, four days before the end of the session, but was never scheduled in the House Ways and Means Committee.

Senate Bill 467

Changed the composition of the Interstate Stream Commission, a nine-person board that plays an important role in setting New Mexico's water policy. This legislation equalized appointments between the legislature and the Governor, expanded the types of people who could serve to be more reflective of water interests around the state, and required balanced political party appointments. The bill passed the Senate 28-13 on March 19th. It was never referred to any House committees.

Senate Bill 493

This legislation clarified that water leases could not be issued by the State Engineer until those whose water rights were impacted by the proposed lease receive due process. Primarily as a result of increased short-term water use by oil and gas, the state engineer recently began approving water lease applications before those impacted received notice and the right to protest. SB 493 passed the state Senate 29-9 on March 14th, seven days before the end of the session. It was never scheduled in the House Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 38

Forest and Watershed Restoration Act. This bill, sponsored with Representative Paul Bandy (R. Aztec) created a diverse board to prioritize and implement forest and watershed thinning. It had a 2.25 million dollar appropriation for fiscal year 2016. It passed both the House and Senate unanimously only to be vetoed by Governor Martinez. Here is a link to her veto message. Given the unique collaboration of parties supporting this legislation, I hope the Governor will reconsider her position in a future legislative session.

House Bill 278

Co-sponsored with Representative Jim Smith (R. Sandia Park), this bill attempted to do the one thing allowed by the United States Supreme Court after Citizen's United - require disclosure of donors giving unlimited money to so called "Super PACs." The bill also defined a "coordinated expenditure," important to prevent these Super PACs from working directly with campaigns, and it rectified a number of unconstitutional provisions in our campaign finance code. Of all the legislation I worked on this session, the failure of HB 278 was the most disappointing. It received three committee referrals in the House. It passed its second committee March 11th, ten days before the end of the session. Despite being told it would be scheduled in the House Judiciary Committee the next day, it was not heard until March 19th, two days before the end of the session. And, even though it passed its final House committee unanimously, the House Judiciary Committee never reported the bill to the House floor for a vote. This means that we will go through another election cycle in 2016 without a requirement that groups with no campaign limits disclose donors.

Bipartisan Compromise is Possible

As the fate of the above bills demonstrates, this was a difficult legislative session. I remain optimistic, however, that legislators of both parties can work together to find policy solutions that make sense. A perfect example is Senate Bill 653 sponsored by Senator Ingle (R. Portales) and Senator Smith (D. Deming). This bipartisan fix to the undocumented driver's license issue, created a two-tier driver's license where those wanting to use their license to enter federal buildings and board airplanes obtain a "Real ID" compliant license. All others keep their existing license. This bill passed the Senate 35-5. While it was not supported by the Governor and was never heard in the House, the SB 653 solution addressed security issues in a practical and non-discriminatory manner. It is a great example of legislation that puts good policy before good politics.

It's an honor to serve as your state Senator in District 25. As always, do not hesitate to email, write or call with questions or concerns. Peter Wirth

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