House, Senate adjourn for the year

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Mar. 18—The New Mexico Legislature's session ended at noon Saturday, a couple hours after passing a massive tax bill that included rebates of $500 for single taxpayers and $1,000 for married couples filing jointly.

Newly reelected to her second term, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham started the year with an ambitious agenda. Major priorities of hers that were passed into law during this year's 60-day session include free meals at school for all schoolchildren, increased education funding and teacher pay, legal protections for abortion rights and a major expansion of voting rights intended to make it easier to vote.

However, there were some major items that did not come together. While lawmakers did pass laws punishing people who buy guns for felons or whose guns get into the hands of children, more sweeping gun control bills such as an assault weapons ban or a waiting period to buy a gun never made it to a floor vote in either chamber.

Much of the governor's agenda to crack down on crime, including changes to bail laws to make it easier to hold people accused of violent crimes pretrial, also stalled.

A proposal to give New Mexican workers paid family and medical leave failed in the face of unanimous Republican opposition plus a few Democrats opposed to it, although supporters say they plan to bring this back next year with the governor's support. Environmental advocates have also expressed disappointment at the failure to take further steps on climate change that would build on some of the actions taken during Lujan Grisham's first term.

The governor is planning a Saturday afternoon news conference to talk about the session and how her initiatives fared.

As with most legislative sessions, lawmakers from opposing political parties quickly came together to hug, shake hands and bid goodbye as if they were old friends who were about to embark on worldwide journeys.

Both chambers moved quickly to pass a number of bills — none, perhaps, of major consequence to the average New Mexican — as the noon deadline approached.

One Saturday morning victory was the passage in the House of Representatives of a sweeping omnibus tax package offering film production incentives, a reduction in the gross receipts tax and the aforementioned rebates — likely coming to all taxpaying New Mexicans — around midyear.

In a statement issued shortly after the Legislature adjourned for the year, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver hailed the passage of several election-related measures this year, including House Bill 4, which among other major changes restores the voting rights of convicted felons the day they get out of prison. It would also institute an automatic voter registration system through the Motor Vehicle Division, create a permanent absentee voter list and make Election Day a state holiday.

"These bills are big wins for voting access, election security, and election administration in New Mexico," she said. "I'm grateful to the sponsors of these bills and for all the hard work they did to get them passed this year. I also want to thank all the members of the public and the multiple county clerks from across the state who have shown such strong support."

Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca, R-Belen, said Republican accomplishments this year include passing medical malpractice reform legislation and relief for communities stricken by wildfires and blocking gun control bills.

"In a state where the extreme partisans have a heavy influence, Senate Republicans stood tall for the hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans not represented by this Democrat trifecta," he said in a statement. "Against all odds, we brokered a lifeline for this state's doctors and delivered meaningful CYFD reform. Though dark money progressive groups pushed through bills that we vehemently disagree with, they did not move without our vocal opposition and our best efforts to lessen the blow to New Mexico families."

Noah Long, with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said lawmakers made some progress such as more funding for environmental agencies new clean energy tax credits for electric vehicles, geothermal energy and heat pumps and electric storage. But, he said, more remains to be done.

"As the New Mexico legislative session closes, state leaders have substantial unfinished business to address the rising costs and increasing damage from climate change — seen in devastating wildfires, withering drought, and rising temperatures — with more and swifter action needed to accelerate the transition to a diversified clean energy economy," he said in a statement.

House Democratic leaders hailed the session as a success.

"From a transformational budget to tax reforms that will uplift working families, I couldn't be more grateful for all that we achieved this session," said Speaker Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque.

In a statement, they singled out dozens of bills, including the couple of gun bills that made it through the process, a bill cracking down on organized shoplifting rings, abolishing life sentences for juvenile offenders and expanded protections for abortion rights and LGBTQ New Mexicans.

"State legislatures are increasingly on the front lines of protecting our fundamental freedoms," said House Majority Floor Leader Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque. "The legislation the House passed this session will protect these freedoms and make immediate and lasting positive impacts for New Mexicans from all walks of life."

New Mexico Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action praised the gun control measures that did pass and said the groups look forward to continuing to work with Lujan Grisham on further measures.

"This week is a testament to the work on the ground and behind the scenes from our grassroots army and gun sense lawmakers," Regina Griego, a volunteer with the New Mexico Chapter of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement. "We thank our representatives and senators, as well as Governor Lujan Grisham for getting the child access prevention bill across the finish line and not letting their foot off the gas."

This is a developing story and will be updated.