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Pre-filed legislation topics range from taxes to the environment to school funding

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
Fly fishing on the San Juan River below Navajo Dam is one of San Juan County's top tourism draws, as anglers come from all over the country to try their luck there. A proposed amendment to the state's Bill or Rights would state that New Mexicans and future generations have the right to a clean and healthy environment.

AZTEC — As New Mexico lawmakers prepare for the legislative session that starts on Jan. 19 in Santa Fe legislators are providing an early look at some topics they may address.

Members of the state House of Representatives and Senate have been filing legislation since Jan. 4. The legislators can pre-file legislation through Jan. 15 and will also be able to file legislation once the session starts.

Here’s a look at some of the legislation that has been pre-filed.

Amending the state's Bill of Rights to include environmental rights

A trio of Democratic Party lawmakers have proposed amending the state's Bill of Rights to include environmental rights.

Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, and Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, filed a joint resolution on Jan. 4 that would guarantee New Mexicans and future generations a clean and healthy environment. If passed, the measure would go to the voters for final approval.

This is part of a growing national movement to include environmental protections in state constitutions, known as Green Amendments. A non-profit organization known as Green Amendments for Future Generations has been pushing states to adopt such provisions in the Bill of Rights section of their state constitutions.

The joint resolution would amend Article II of the New Mexico constitution, which is the state Bill of Rights.

Others are reading:Enchant Energy CEO says 2021 about pushing San Juan Generating Station project over finish line

Environmental groups throughout the state have praised the measure, which states that New Mexicans, including future generations, have the right to “a clean and healthy environment, including pure water, clean air, healthy ecosystems and a stable climate, and to the preservation of the natural, cultural, scenic and healthful qualities of the environment.”

Property tax for schools

Another senate joint resolution that calls for an amendment to the state constitution looks at funding schools through a dedicated property tax of two-mills. A mill is equivalent to $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value for property.

Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, is sponsoring the measure. If approved by the Legislature, voters will be asked to approve or reject the measure as it is a constitutional amendment.

Changes to the Energy Transition Act

New Mexico received national attention when it passed the Energy Transition Act, which some people then dubbed the state’s “Green New Deal.” The law intended to provide a just transition away from fossil fuels and was spurred by Public Service Company of New Mexico’s announcement that the San Juan Generating Station would close in summer 2022.

A new bill introduced by Sedillo Lopez, Sen. Bill Tallman, D-Albuquerque, and Sen. Liz Stefanics, D-Cerrillos, aims to restore some of the regulatory authority that critics of the 2019 law say the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission lost through the Energy Transition Act. 

Steam comes from one of the four units at the San Juan Generating Station.

The new bill specifically addresses the securitization aspects of the Energy Transition Act that allow utilities the ability to refinance past investments into coal-fired power plants through low-interest bonds. The Energy Transition Act also requires a portion of those bonds to go to assist impacted workers and communities.

The new bill would allow the PRC to judge whether the low-interest bonds will provide greater “tangible and quantifiable benefits” to ratepayers than if the bonds were not issued. It also allows the PRC to deny securitization for expenses it deems were not prudently incurred.

More:Small businesses struggling due to COVID-19 can apply for relief funding

This comes as PNM has indicated it will seek securitization as it exits its share of the Four Corners Power Plant.

Other pieces of legislation

Electric vehicles: Tallman has filed a bill that would provide tax credits for electric vehicle owners.

Discrimination: Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, has sponsored a bill that would prohibit school districts from discriminating against certain hairstyles or cultural head coverings.

Clean energy: Sen. Soules has filed a bill that would require any new or replacement generation facility to generate clean energy such as solar, wind, geothermal, carbon capture gas, biomass or hydropower. 

Keep reading:PRC extends utility disconnection moratorium, but says legislative action is needed

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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