Legislative Roundup: N.M. Senate, House OK bill to provide grant funding to small businesses

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times

AZTEC — Legislation aimed at creating grant funding for small businesses in New Mexico that have struggled with the COVID-19 pandemic has passed both the House and the Senate.

The state Senate passed House Bill 11, the GRT and Permanent Fund for LEDA Projects, on a 41-1 vote on Feb. 18. It was sponsored by Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, and Speaker of the House Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe.

Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, cast the sole dissenting vote.

At the House level, the bill passed on a 51-16 vote on Feb. 11. Rep. James Strickler, R-Farmington, Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, and Rep. Ryan Lane, R-Aztec, were among the 16 representatives who voted against it.

Downtown streets were mostly empty on March 24, 2020 as nonessential businesses stayed closed under orders from the governor. House Bill 11 would provide grant opportunities to small businesses hurt by the pandemic.

The bill is now going to the House of Representatives for concurrence on amendments made by the Senate. If the House concurs with the amendments, it will be sent to the governor’s desk.

The bill provides $200 million in grants to support businesses that are hiring or rehiring employees. It is intended to help pay for mortgage or rent obligations. Businesses may qualify for up to $100,000, which will be distributed in four quarterly payments.

New Mexico Senate:Economic relief legislation for families, small businesses passes

“New Mexico will continue to get meaningful financial assistance out the door to businesses all across the state,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in a press release praising passage of the legislation. “Our economy will bounce back. And businesses will get back on their feet.”

The New Mexico Finance Authority will manage applications and payments. The press release states a formal announcement will be made when the application portal opens for the grants.

The first application period will come before June 30 and the second will be by Dec. 31.

Martin Caddell, posing with his wife Brandy at the entrance of The Cave Men's Grooming, says his Farmington business was on the cusp of becoming highly successful when it was forced to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A bill that would create grants for small businesses impacted by COVID-19 has passed the House and the Senate.

Securitization for retiring natural gas plants 

The Ratepayer Relief Act got support of the Senate Conservation Committee on a 5-4 vote after Sen. William Soules, D-Las Cruces, amended it.

The amendment removed language referring to repealing provisions in the Energy Transition Act. It also made it clear that the bill would not apply to coal-fired power plants like San Juan Generating Station and Four Corners Power Plant.

The bill allows investor-owned utilities to access securitization to refinance past investment into generating facilities if approved by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. Payments on the refinanced investments will be paid through a non-bypassable charge on ratepayers’ bills.

This is similar to the Energy Transition Act, however Soules said the Energy Transition Act was very clear in its definitions that it deals only with coal-fired power plants. If passed, the Ratepayer Relief Act would only apply to non-coal generating facilities, such as natural gas power plants.

Soules said it does not require the PRC or the utility to do securitization. He explained that securitization would be used if it provides the lowest rate for ratepayers as investor-owned utilities seek to recover the qualifying investments into the power plant.

Legislative session:New Mexico lawmakers work to address economic impact of COVID-19

A sign on the front door of Feat of Clay Artists' Co-op announces that the gallery will be closed as COVID-19 reached the state in March 2020.

Introduced this week

Financial Literacy for Graduation: Republican lawmakers Rep. Gail Armstrong of Magdalena and Rep. Cathrynn Brown of Carlsbad are sponsoring House Bill 302, which would require students entering high school in 2022 or later to take a financial literacy course prior to graduation.

IPRA Fees for Electronic Documents: Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, has introduced a bill that would allow government entities to charge up to $10 for electronic documents requested through the Inspection of Public Records Act.

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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