With a week left, here are the bills the governor is likely to sign
More than 100 down. About 200 more to go.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has until Friday to sign or veto a stack of laws passed during the legislative session that ended earlier this month. Some big issues are still awaiting her decision, from the budget to taxes, decriminalizing cannabis, expunging criminal records and changing the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
With fellow Democrats in control of the Legislature, she is unlikely to use her veto pen as much as her Republican predecessor, Gov. Susana Martinez.
“Our job is to get to ‘yes,’ and if the Legislature got it passed, I’ll work hard to get to ‘yes,’ ” Lujan Grisham said on the last day of the session when asked about her approach to deciding whether to sign or veto legislation.
To veto a bill, she said: “It would have to be a substantive flaw, math doesn’t work or another significant issue.”
Any bills the governor does not sign within the next week will be automatically vetoed.
The governor signed a series of bills over the last couple of days, including Senate Bill 20, which makes it easier for New Mexicans to change the gender on their birth certificates.
Lujan Grisham also signed House Bill 135, sponsored by Rep. Liz Thomson, D-Albuquerque, which sets out certain rights for survivors of sexual assault. For example, it will require forensic laboratories to test a sexual assault evidence collection kit within 180 days of receiving one, which could prevent future backlogs.
But not all of the bills on her desk will meet with her approval. Here are some of the issues to watch:
Must get signed
• The budget: The $7 billion budget approved by lawmakers is awaiting the governor’s signature. To be sure, there’s a lot to double-check before signing off on it. But HB 2 has to be signed. And with around $250 million for roads as well around $450 million in additional funding for education, there’s a lot for the governor to support. It’ll be worth watching if she takes her veto pen to any of the smaller details and appropriations stuck into the bill, such as for more legislative staff — a controversial provision among senators on both sides of the aisle.
Likely to be signed
• Raising the minimum wage: Lujan Grisham campaigned on raising the minimum wage. SB 437 would lift the statewide rate from $7.50 an hour to $9 in 2020 and eventually up to $12 in 2023, and $3 an hour for tipped wages. It’s not quite what she wanted. The governor proposed automatically adjusting the minimum wage annually in the future based on the cost of living, as in cities like Santa Fe. But this would still amount to a raise for many workers around the state.
• Taxes: What started as a proposal for raising more than $300 million in revenue through higher personal income taxes, vehicle registration fees and the like has been winnowed down to a package for raising around $75 million, at least to start. HB 6 calls for collecting gross receipts tax on internet sales, raising taxes on e-cigarettes and raising the personal income tax on high earners if the state’s revenues start to taper off. Lambasted by Republicans for coming at the same time the state enjoys a budget surplus, the bill is still likely to get the governor’s signature, as it will be key to keeping the state’s budgetary reserves in the neighborhood of 20 percent.
• Indigenous Peoples’ Day: The governor has said she would support changing the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. That’s exactly what HB 100 would do and it’s awaiting her signature. In a state with a relatively large Native American population, the only surprise with this bill may be that New Mexico hasn’t enacted something like it sooner.
• Popular vote: HB 55 would allow New Mexico to join a national compact of states seeking to effectively short-circuit the Electoral College. If a critical mass of states join the compact, those states would allocate electoral votes based on which presidential candidate got the most ballots. The idea is to avoid having presidents elected despite getting fewer votes than opponents, such as President Donald Trump. Several states already are on board, and this is likely an easy commitment for a Democratic governor.
• Pay raises for state officials: New Mexico’s governor hasn’t had a raise in years. Of course, plenty of New Mexicans probably haven’t, either. Proposals to boost the pay of the state’s top elected officials have always been politically touchy. SB 547 would raise the salary of statewide elected officials by 15 percent for terms starting in 2020. This would include the governor, lieutenant governor, commissioner of public lands, attorney general and public regulation commissioners. So, the governor would not get a raise immediately. But if she won re-election in 2022, her salary would go from $110,000 to $126,500. Lujan Grisham might not sign it. After all, it would also be politically difficult for a governor to give herself a raise, even if it wouldn’t kick in for years.
• Five feet for passing bicycles: Motorists would have to give 5 feet of space when passing bicyclists on the road. But a last-minute amendment requires bicyclists stay out of traffic when there are separate bicycle lanes or pathways adjacent to the road. That has drawn criticism from plenty of bicyclists.
• Surplus spending: The House and Senate each took $30 million of the state’s surplus to divvy up equally among members’ districts for favored projects. The money will go to everything from new patrol cars for the Albuquerque Police Department to funds for the state to market Virgin Galactic’s as-yet-unscheduled maiden voyage from Spaceport America. The governor would be unlikely to veto it all. But there’s bound to be some pork in there. And she might line-item veto questionable items.