Legislative update held in Socorro

........................................................................................................................................................................................

The New Mexico Association of Counties gave a legislative update during its District 3 meeting at the Socorro County Annex on April 10.

Daniel Monette, Socorro County commissioner and NMAC executive board member, said this is the first year NMAC has held legislative updates with its districts.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” Monette said about the update. “This kind of brings everybody together on a level playing field where we can visit and ask questions.”

NMAC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association representing and serving the 33 counties in the state, according to its website. The organization has served as a statewide voice for New Mexico’s counties since 1968. NMAC District 3 comprises Socorro, Cibola, Bernalillo, Valencia and Catron counties.

The legislative update was well-attended by Socorro County commissioners and staff, as well as commissioners and staff from other NMAC District 3 counties; NMAC executive director Paul Gutierrez; Grace Phillips, NMAC attorney; Tasia Young, NMAC contract lobbyist; Ryan Gleason, director of the Department of Finance and Administration’s Local Government Division; District 15 Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto; District 12 Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino; District 49 Rep. Don Tripp; District 28 Rep. James Hall and more.

Young said NMAC tracked about 300 of the bills introduced during the 60-day session. There was a total of 1,317 bills introduced; 294 — or 23 percent — were passed in both the House and Senate.

Young said Gov. Susana Martinez finished signing bills April 5. The governor signed 43 bills, and another 70 were vetoed or pocket vetoed. A pocket veto means a bill was neither vetoed outright nor signed into law.

Ivey-Soto noted this was his first year as a member of the Legislature, and he felt it was a great year to come in.

“Overall, the feeling there was very positive,” Ivey-Soto said.

Ivey-Soto said the governor, who seemed to come into office with an “I’m in charge” message, recalibrated to more of an “I’d like to remain governor” tone.

“And that made a difference in terms of the communications with the Legislature … a lot of the my-way-or-the-highway kind of experience that people have had in the past is changing,” Ivey-Soto said.

Tripp said the first session of the 51st Legislature was one of the best he’s attended for a long time. He said the House of Representatives was under new leadership — a “refreshing change” — and there were 35 new members in both houses. With that many new members, he noted there was a learning curve.

Young distributed a preliminary report she had prepared, which includes paragraph summaries of over 40 bills. The report includes major bills affecting counties that passed both chambers during the session, although not all became law with the governor’s signature. She noted the report includes a list of bills that did not pass but are expected to be brought before the Legislature again, such as two bills that would have enhanced local governments’ ability to control fireworks.

The first three bills listed in Young’s report were NMAC’s priorities for 2013: HB 2, General Appropriations Act, effective immediately; HB 37, Annual Delinquent Property Tax Sales, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2014; and SB 353, Local Government Record Indexing & Protecting, effective immediately.

According to the fiscal impact report for HB 2 posted on the Legislature’s website, the bill appropriates money for the operation of state agencies, higher education and public schools during fiscal year 2014, as well as certain fiscal year 2013 expenses. Young’s report states the bill includes a $500,000 appropriation from the local DWI grant fund to pay for state drug courts.

Young’s report states HB 37 requires the state Taxation & Revenue Department to offer for sale at least one real property on each county’s delinquent property list every year, unless the TRD and county treasurer enter a written agreement to postpone the sale.

Ivey-Soto explained SB 353 was an amendment to existing law. He said in 2011, amendments were made to the Inspection of Public Records Act. Among them was a stipulation that if someone requested information electronically, it has to be provided electronically and the agency can only charge the cost of providing the information.

Ivey-Soto said the intent of the amendment was to guard against having to pay $1 per page for PDF documents. However, it was being used to make massive data requests to county offices, such as requests for records of every piece of property in an entire county. He said SB 353 gives counties the ability to charge according to access of their databases.