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Legislative session roundup: Controversial bills mark the start of the second week

Rep. Rod Montoya sponsors joint resolution that could increase the number of bills discussed during future 30-day sessions

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
  • Sen. Shannon Pinto introduced her first bill, which would fund a feasibility study for rehabilitating Whiskey Lake in McKinley County.

FARMINGTON — This week brought guns and cannabis into the forefront for debate during the legislative session.

The second week of the 30-day legislative session started out with a bang as the Senate Public Affairs Committee discussed controversial bills like the Extreme Risk Protection Order and legalizing recreational cannabis. 

The Public Affairs Committee was the first hurdle these two bills had to clear. Both bills received do-pass recommendations from the Senate Public Affairs Committee on Jan. 28 following lengthy discussion and public input. None of the San Juan County delegation sit on the Senate Public Affairs Committee. The bills passed the committee on party-line votes, with the Democrats voting in the affirmative.

More:Gun legislation advances with state Senate committee vote

A collection of hand guns owned by Robert "Bud" Light is displayed, Friday, Feb. 3, 2017 at the San Juan Wildlife Federation Gun and Knife Show at McGee Park in Farmington.

The Extreme Risk Protection Orders bill would allow families, household members or law enforcement officers to obtain a court order that would temporarily remove a person’s access to firearms if they are deemed a threat to themselves or others.

The bill will likely face multiple amendments. Last year, a similar bill was introduced but failed in committee. 

Meanwhile, on the House side, two gun-related bills sponsored by Rep. William Rehm, R-Albuquerque, passed their first committees. One would increase penalties for convicted felons in possession of firearms. The other would make it a crime to carry a firearm while trafficking a controlled substance. Both bills passed the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee on a 4-1 vote on Jan. 28.

More:Legislators react to news of Escalante's closure with bill aimed at economic development

Montoya looks to broaden scope of 30-day legislative session

State Rep. Rod Montoya

The 30-day session means it has a narrow scope. Only budget, appropriations and finance bills, bills authorized by the governor and bills vetoed by the governor during the previous session can be discussed. But Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, hopes that will change in the future.

Montoya has sponsored House Joint Resolution 7, which would expand the scope of a 30-day session. If passed, the joint resolution would allow voters to decide whether to allow up to two bills sponsored by each legislator to be discussed even if the bills were outside the general purview of the 30-day session.

Montoya has sponsored several bills limiting abortions this session. These bills will likely not be discussed this year.

The joint resolution was introduced on Jan. 28 and referred to the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee.

Task force could study topics surrounding juvenile detention 

A house memorial that would request New Mexico Counties to convene a task force to study juvenile detention facilities passed the House Judiciary Committee on Jan. 28 on a 13-0 vote with one committee member absent.

Traci Neff, administrator for the San Juan County Juvenile Detention Center, talks about the Kids and Canines program at the juvenile detention center in Farmington. The program brings shelter dogs into the detention center for the youth to train.

This report from New Mexico Counties would be due to the Legislature in December. New Mexico Counties is a non-profit entity that provides support to counties in the state.

Out of the 33 counties in New Mexico, only six have juvenile detention facilities. San Juan County is one of those six. That means youth from other parts of the state are transported to San Juan County for housing in the juvenile detention center.

The study would look at seven things:

  1. How the state, counties and city governments can share the costs of juvenile detention facilities
  2. Creating alternatives to juvenile detention
  3. Improving court processes and procedures to reduce the impact on detained youth
  4. Funding for residential treatment facilities targeting youth with substance abuse, mental illness or developmental disabilities
  5. Promoting gender-based and LGBTQ approaches
  6. Increasing community resources to reduce the number of youth involved in the criminal justice system
  7. The feasibility of creating a trained and certified statewide transportation team

Neville, Candelaria sponsor bill to fund transmission lines

Transmission lines run from the San Juan Generating Station in August 2016.

Sen. Steve Neville, R-Farmington, and Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, have sponsored a bill that would allow the use of industrial revenue bonds on electrical transmission facilities, such as transmission lines. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham authorized this bill to be discussed during the 30-day session. 

The bill would help New Mexico export electricity, especially renewable energy, to interstate markets. However, the fiscal impact report warns that projects funded by industrial revenue bonds can have negative fiscal implications for the state, county and school districts by reducing tax base.

Despite the potential tax impacts, the bill cleared its first committee with a do pass recommendation on Jan. 27.

Sen. Pinto introduces her first bill after taking grandfather's seat

Shannon Pinto is pictured in 2019 while applying for the San Juan County nomination to her grandfather's seat on the state Senate.

Sen. Shannon Pinto, D-Tohatchi, introduced her first bill on Jan. 27. Pinto was appointed to the Senate following her grandfather Sen. John Pinto's death earlier this year. The first bill she introduced would appropriate $150,000 to the Indian Affairs Department to conduct a feasibility study on remediation of Whiskey Lake for recreational use. Whiskey Lake is a reservoir in McKinley County.

The Senate Committees Committee determined that the bill falls within the purview of the 30-day session on Jan. 28 and referred it to the Senate Indian and Cultural Affairs Committee.

The deadline to file legislation is Feb. 5.

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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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