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Legislative roundup, March 12, 2019

March 12, 2019 GMT

Days left in the session: 4

Tax breaks nixed: A bill that would have lowered gambling taxes paid by racetracks from 26 percent to 10 percent died Monday in a 33-32 vote of the House of Representatives.

Rep. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso, said his House Bill 650 would have given racetrack operators the chance to use the savings to make capital improvements over the five years the tax credit was in place.

Cook said the state’s five racetracks, including Ruidoso Downs in his district, deserved help because they draw tourists and money. But many Democrats raised concerns about offering a break for select businesses that would collectively cost up to $7.5 million a year.

As originally crafted by Ruidoso Downs, Cook’s bill would have provided tax breaks to that track and SunRay Park in Farmington. But Cook said he intended to amend the bill to cover all five racetracks.

What so proudly we hail: Monday was Military and Veterans’ Day at the Capitol, and the Legislature thanked those who have served and still serve in the armed forces.

The Rotunda was the site of an array of presentations from military groups, including a table hosted by the New Mexico Military Museum dedicated to Vietnam War weapons and gear. It included a 25-pound PRC77 radio and a Model 12 shotgun.

Several Vietnam War veterans stopped to talk about the gear. Capt. Gabriel Peterman, who oversees the museum, said he wanted the display to “highlight the conflict and allow veterans to reconnect with the materials they used.”

New Mexico is home to five military installations, 11,000 active-duty military personnel and 165,000 veterans.

Republican petition ready: Taking another step in using an arcane provision of the state Constitution that would give voters the right to overturn a law, Republican leaders in the House of Representatives delivered a petition to overturn Senate Bill 8 to the Secretary of State on Monday.

The House of Representatives voted almost completely along party lines, with Democrats in the majority, to approve the bill, which would require background checks for almost all gun sales in the state. Republicans lawmakers argue most people in the state do not approve of the proposal.

“We are extremely grateful to all the New Mexicans who are reaching out to ask how they can help,” House Republican Leader Rep. Jim Townsend, R-Artesia, said in a written statement Monday. “This bill is opposed by an overwhelming number of county leaders and also by our sheriffs. This is an attack on law-abiding New Mexicans and they deserve the opportunity to overturn this shameful law.”

If the Secretary of State approves the petition, the question would go to voters on the next general election ballot, slated for November 2020.

Quotes of the day: “I’m a veteran of World War II. I served in the South Pacific. That’s where I lost my hearing when they started shooting at me.” — Sen. John Pinto, 94, who was a Navajo Code Talker, during the Senate’s observance honoring military veterans.

“Representative, I really like you. I really do not like this bill.” — Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences, to Rep. G. Andrés Romero, D-Albuquerque, about his proposal to prohibit people under 18 from using indoor tanning salons. Romero’s proposal cleared the House of Representatives, 30-26.