2023 New Mexico legislative session ends

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SANTA FE, N.M. – On Saturday, the state Legislature brought down the gavel on this year’s session. After 60 days of lawmaking, Democrats and Republicans passed more than 200 bills that will affect all of us in the coming months.

Now, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has to decide which of those measures she’ll sign and what gets vetoed. She has 20 days to do that.

The mad dash to the finish in Santa Fe hit its stride in the session’s final evening Friday night, as lawmakers crafted a tax deal that the governor said she’s not certain she’ll sign.

The billion dollar tax deal would give a one-time rebate of $500 to single filers and $1,000 to couples. It drops gross receipts tax by half a percent over four years.

The tax deal adds incentives to attract big-name stars and directors for film and TV production. It also hikes alcohol tax by just a penny or two a drink – directing all of that money to alcohol treatment programs.

“This is the first tax increase on alcohol that this state has seen in over 30 years, and if we want to call it minimal, then we can call it minimal. If we want to call it a tax increase, then we can call it a tax increase, then we’ve done that. But the fact is that we are responding to issues we know plague our society.”

While the Legislature slowed the rollout of the plan to ease the hit on the state budget, the governor signaled in her post-session press conference that her signature is not guaranteed.

“So I don’t know yet, it’s a lot. I’ll tell you that this is another one where I signaled that I was uncomfortable with the amount we were spending, and whether or not it was sustainable,” said Lujan Grisham. 

Also, no sure thing is a bill she didn’t want to create a civil rights division for the attorney general, which Raúl Torrez says he’ll use to keep a closer eye on the children youth and families department.

“We are going to do amazing changes to child wellbeing at Children, Youth and Families, and so I take all of those as a whole. So I don’t have anything to say that it’s an automatic yes or an automatic no,” said Lujan Grisham. 

When it comes to the $9.6 billion budget, the governor can veto individual programs or projects she doesn’t like.

One thing she did like is a bill to block state agencies from issuing permits for a high-level nuclear waste storage project proposed for Lea County. She signed that bill Friday night.

And organized retail theft will soon have a law on the books that specifically targets what’s become a more sophisticated way for criminals to make money.

The governor said she’s not inclined to call a special session. If she were to do that, she said, it would be for public safety measures. At this point, though, it looks like she’s more likely to try to get additional work done in the shorter session next January.