Although this 30-day session began slowly, as activity picked up so did efforts to work in bipartisan and collaborative manner. In the first three days of the session, we passed legislation to allow nurses from other states to work here without the need for additional credentials. I am proud to say that I was a co-sponsor of this legislation.
Many of you have contact me with your concerns about our “catch and release” bail system. When the resolution enabling the amendment passed, I stood on the House floor and stated it did not go far enough to protect the community and predicted we would be back to fix it. With that in mind, this session I introduced two bail reform amendments—HJR 5 and HJR 7. As of today they have not been scheduled for a committee hearing.
A few weeks ago, the House passed HB 2, the budget bill for FY 2019. New Mexico continues to see budget fluctuations due to oil and gas price uncertainty. This year, however, "new money" estimates, primarily from increased oil and gas prices, has New Mexico with an additional $290 million for the upcoming fiscal year. We should understand that “new money” is not the proper phrase as the last couple of years we have trimmed the budget. It simply means that the economy is recovering.
The FY 2019 budget increases spending over the current fiscal year by 4.1%, nearly $250 million, including an increase to teacher salaries of 2.5%.
As crime continues to plague our communities, especially in Albuquerque, we made it a priority to fund the Bernalillo District Attorney's office. Although less than District Attorney Raul Torres requested, the House budget increased the Bernalillo County DA’s budget. This budget gave him about $2.2 million in recurring increase and about $3.5 million in onetime appropriation. I have continued to work on this matter with numerous Senators, and I believe their budget will increase the funding by an additional couple million.
The House budget allocated $80 million to replenish funds that were used in prior years to help with budget shortfalls. We set aside another $80 million for state and local roads, funding we have needed for many years to repair our highways and byways. Unfortunately, the Senate reduced road and transportation funding in their version of the budget.
Finally, the budget that passed out of the House of Representatives leaves the state with an important 10% operating reserve, $642 million dollars which will improve the State’s bond rating.
Permanent Funds for Early Childhood Education HJR1
As you may have heard, The House of Representatives recently passed HJR 1 on a narrow 36 to 33 vote). This proposed constitutional amendment aims to raid our Land Grant Permanent Fund “LGPF” for money for undefined early childhood education programs. While I strongly support early childhood education, I believe raiding the permanent fund is unnecessary and jeopardizes the long term solvency of a fund that provides hundreds of millions of dollars a year to our classrooms. I do not support this legislation because we would be irresponsibly spending our grandchildren’s money.
Reducing Business Regulations
I introduced three pieces of legislation, HB 292, HB 293, and HB 294 to speed the renewal of state licenses. Each person who holds a NM license is required to renew the license. This legislation states once you have been issued a license you will not be required to resubmit fingerprints upon renewal. This should save both time and money when renewing licenses.
Public Safety Legislation
Many residents in District 31 are frustrated by the upsurge of recent criminal activity, and I am fed up as well. As a retired police officer and a concerned citizen, I have been offended by the lack of criminal detention and penalties imposed by our judges. This lack of consequences has emboldened the criminals in our communities to commit more crimes. As your State Representative, I am trying to reduce criminal activity and make our communities safer by introducing the following legislation that targets specific criminal behavior.
HB 28 Three Strikes: This legislation increases penalties on career criminals. A criminal who has either killed someone or caused great bodily harm to someone, three or more times, could receive a life sentence. The Sentencing Commission estimates this population is 27 inmates. Status: Tabled in first committee.
HB 27 Delinquency Acts: This legislation addresses juvenile delinquents who are on probation and who abscond from supervision. Status: Awaiting action on the House floor. Similar legislation has passed the House in previous years.
HB 25 Felon in Possession of a Firearm: This legislation increases the penalty on felons who are caught possessing a firearm. Representative Antonio “Moe” Maestas (D-Albuquerque) and I have combined our proposals to build legislative momentum for this idea. Status: HB 25 is awaiting action by the House Judiciary Committee.
HB 29 Firearm Enhancement Penalty: Currently, a person convicted of committing a crime while using a firearm will have their sentence increased by one year. Representative Moe Maestas and I are proposing to increase that sentence to three years. Status: Tabled in the first committee.
HB 33 Second Degree Murder: Murder is the intentional killing of a person. We are the only state in the US that has a statute of limitation (6 years) on prosecuting 2nd degree murder. This legislation will remove the statute of limitation. The “West Mesa murders” will probably qualify as 2nd degree murder cases, and the statute of limitation on prosecuting the offender has passed. HB 33 passed the House unanimously on February 9 and awaits Senate action.
HB 34 DWI While Under the Influence of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, etc. Status: Tabled in its first committee hearing on February 8.
HB 222 Senior Property Tax Freeze: This legislation proposes that seniors whose income is $125,000 or less per year would pay the current property tax level but not have their property taxes increase yearly by any amount. This legislation has not had a committee hearing assigned.
HJR 5 & 7 Denial of Bail: These two pieces of legislation, if passed, would ask the voters to improve our current bail rules by either denying bail or requiring bail for those arrested, released and rearrested on another felony. Neither has had a committee hearing assigned.
It is an honor to serve you in the New Mexico House of Representatives. Please contact me with your concerns or comments by calling 505-259-3398, or emailing me at Bill.Rehm@nmlegis.gov. If you email, please indicate in the subject line that you live in District 31 and include your home address in the body of the email. Please visit my website at BillRehm.us