Dispatches from Santa Fe by Mo Chavez

At SaucedoChavez, we monitor the legislature as a matter of standard operating procedure. We consider it part of our obligation in effectively representing our clients. Below, we’ve summarized some of the more significant legislative action of the latest session in Santa Fe.

2017 Regular Legislative Session Overview
One of the more significant actions by the most recent legislative session will place a measure on the 2018 ballot to establish the framework for an independent ethics commission to address allegations of misconduct by state candidates, lobbyists, and lawmakers. Significantly, this bipartisan resolution did not require the governor’s signature.

Another widely-praised measure that managed to gain the approval of both the legislature and the governor is a measure to make an overdose antidote more widely available—even directing law enforcement officers to carry doses of the treatment while on the job. The measure is considered to be the first of its kind in the nation. Other bills that managed to become law include a prohibition on so-called “conversion therapy” targeted at changing the sexual orientation of young people, a 175 percent interest rate cap on short-term loans and additional funding for high-speed internet access across the state.

On the other hand, the governor vetoed a record 145 bills during the most recent legislative session—more than 52 percent of the bills sent to her desk by the legislature. Among the bills that fell victim to the governor’s veto pen included increases in the state’s $7.50 per hour minimum wage, a campaign finance measure designed to disclose “dark money” contributions, a requirement for persons involved in domestic violence to give up their guns until the issue had been resolved and a requirement for police to obtain warrants before searching an individual’s email or cell phone.

Changes in Gaming and Alcohol Regulation

Two bills passed by the state legislature that were signed by the governor directly affect the gaming and alcoholic beverages industries:

  • House Bill 162 – Local Option for Liquor Sales Hours specifies restrictions local jurisdictions may place on the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages on premises or sold for consumption off premises. These restrictions specifically apply to Sundays and on Christmas Day.
  • House Bill 230 – Race Day Requirements Change calls for automatically voiding the licenses for racetrack operators who violate regulations relating to the operation of gaming machines on the premises. The legislation outlines specific guidelines on the minimum number of races that must be run by racetrack operators daily or weekly in addition to operating gaming machines.

A third bill, Senate Bill 395 – Rename Alcohol and Gaming Division passed unanimously in both the state House and the state Senate. However, the governor failed to take action on the bill during the legislative session, which effectively killed the bill. This is known as a pocket veto.

The Upcoming Special Session
Governor Martinez is expected to call a special legislative session in the coming weeks. Among the most contentious issues on the table is her veto of $350 million in tax increases. She also utilized a line item veto to axe $774 million from the budget bill, eliminating funding for the legislative branch and the entire state university system. While no one expects universities to face the school year without funding, the governor has insisted on a balanced budget without additional taxes.

At SaucedoChavez, we leverage our connections in Santa Fe to stay current with important changes in legislative and regulatory issues, especially those that could potentially affect our clients. Contact us today and let us put our know-how to work for you.