We’re going to feel this just-ended legislative session in the pocketbook, in our schools and elsewhere.
New Mexicans will certainly feel it when those $500 rebates arrive. Last year, lawmakers doled out similar taxpayer payouts, but this one sets no ceiling on your income, so everyone who filed a 2021 tax return, regardless of income, should get one. Expect to receive yours sometime this summer.
Most of us will feel at least something in the $1.2 billion capital outlay funding bill approved by lawmakers this year, since the projects being funded are both large and small and all over the state. However, we still must await Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s line-item veto pen to know for sure what will actually be funded this year. She has signaled her dislike for partially funded and underfunded projects, so some of the expenditures will surely be nixed before she signs on to the legislation.
Meanwhile, if you’re drawing your Social Security, maybe you’ll feel the impact of a subtle but smart change in how the threshold limit to qualify for a tax exemption (passed into law last year, with a “ceiling” set at $100K for individuals and $150K for married couples) will be tied to the rate of inflation each year. The change is a big deal for most of us, but still, tying the ceiling to inflation is a fairer way to apply the law.
As for your firearms, if you keep a loaded gun tucked away in your nightstand at home, and you have children in your home, you should be aware of a new law that makes it a misdemeanor to “negligently” make a firearm accessible to a minor who then uses it to inflict “great bodily harm or death.” Of course, enforcement of this law will come after a young person has used your firearm to shoot someone, so a misdemeanor could be the least of your worries if such a horror were to hit your home.
And in a different matter altogether, if you’re moving into New Mexico, you have the convenience of a new law that now allows you to register to vote automatically when you get your state driver’s license.
Plus, every voter with kids in school will feel the new law that makes Election Day a school holiday. Whether that will be an added convenience, or just another childcare hassle for working parents, remains open to interpretation.
And whether or not you’re “feeling” this state’s move toward renewable energy, anyone involved in the growing clean-energy industry will likely feel the establishment of a renewable energy office in the state Land Commissioner’s office.
A measure to set new clean fuel standards in New Mexico fell flat this session, but the march continues toward 100% renewable and clean energy consumption by mid-century in this state — something we’ll all eventually be impacted by, whether we “feel” it now or not.
And then there were the public education bills, something the nonpartisan think tank Think New Mexico focused much of its attention on this session. They included school-related measures that:
• Increase minimum instructional learning time in our public schools by 90 hours per school year for elementary students and 30 hours for middle and high school students. The governor has already signed the bill into law, so you’ll feel it in the 2023-24 school year.
• Expand high school graduation requirements to include “personal financial literacy” as part of the coursework, along with standalone classes in financial literacy, world languages and career technical education.
• Provide funds for teacher residency assistance and raises for school principals, both in keeping with Think New Mexico’s “roadmap” to public school reforms.
That roadmap was a research report produced and distributed by Think New Mexico last November. It’s full of recommendations that made some headway in this session and will surely come up again in future sessions. More on that later.
Tom McDonald is founder of the New Mexico Community News Exchange, which distributes this column statewide. He’s also editor and publisher of the Guadalupe County Communicator in Santa Rosa. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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