House GOP put kibosh on electric vehicles in final hours of session

Time ran out on the short 2020 legislative session, and with it, a bill that would have boosted New Mexicans’ ability to afford electric vehicles. House Bill 217 was killed on the last day of the 30-day session Feb. 20, during an effort by House Republicans to slow debate on the floor during precious few remaining hours.  

The measure would have created an income tax credit for people who purchase or lease a new electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or who install a charging station for the vehicle at their home. It also imposed an annual registration fee of $20 to $50 for each vehicle to feed the state fund used to maintain roads. Those who drive gas-powered cars already pay into the fund through a fee collected at the pump, currently 17 cents for every gallon of gasoline purchased. 

Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, D-Mesilla

Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, D-Mesilla, one of HB217’s sponsors, said changes the Senate made to the bill once it passed the House made the measure more “moderate,” but House Republicans still filibustered final approval in the few remaining hours of the session.

Lawmakers push incentives for electric vehicles

A public electric vehicle fast charging station in Albuquerque limits use to 30 minutes. Image by Marjorie Childress. Legislators are continuing their drive to encourage more New Mexicans to buy low-  and zero-emissions vehicles as part of a larger strategy to rely less on fossil fuels, while ensuring that drivers who use little or no gas still chip in to maintain the state’s highways. 

House Bill 217 would let buyers of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles take $2,500 or $5,000 off their state taxes depending on their income. It would also give them another $300 tax credit toward a home car charging station and impose a $20 to $50 annual registration fee that would go to the state road fund. New Mexicans pay 17 cents per gallon of gas into the road fund. 

Versions of these proposed incentives have been introduced four times in recent years without success.

Fix for hobbled public financing system on Albuquerque ballot

Boxes of signed democracy dollar petitions were delivered to the Albuquerque City Clerk in early August 2017. Albuquerque’s beleaguered public financing program could become more attractive to people running for mayor or city council if a proposition before voters in next week’s election is successful. 

The changes would boost the amount of money going to mayoral candidates whose campaigns qualify for public money. Plus, Albuquerque residents would be allowed to direct additional money to mayoral and city council candidates of their choice, in $25 increments. 

The proposal is being heatedly debated in the final days before the election. Detractors say the program will cost Albuquerque a lot and favor incumbents or other candidates backed by organized groups with resources to help them.  Proponents say public financing, including this effort to strengthen Albuquerque’s system, would help diminish the influence of money on politics, and encourage more people to run for office.  

Problem in search of a solution

The proposal would update Albuquerque’s original  public financing program for mayoral and city council candidates created in 2005 with high hopes of decreasing the influence of private money in elections. The current system requires candidates to demonstrate they have some measure of community support before receiving public money, through gathering qualifying contributions and signatures from a certain percentage of voters.

Climate change means uncertain future for New Mexico chile farmers

This year’s chile season is in full swing, but it is getting mixed reviews from farmers in southern New Mexico. Maria Martinez sells her family’s produce from Anthony and Brazito on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Farmers and Crafts Market in Las Cruces. Her booth stands out with red chile ristras strung up around the sides and sacks of chile piled next to them. Fresh green chile fill baskets at her booth and a continuous stream of customers approach her during the market, searching for their chile fix. She said it’s been a struggle this year because of insufficient water. 

“It’s been kind of hard because they don’t give them much water,” Martinez said of the local irrigation district. 

Dino Cervantes, of Cervantes Enterprises Inc. and a board member of the New Mexico Chile Association, grows cayenne peppers and jalapeños in Vado.

Move to open primaries represents growing number of unaffiliated voters

Christa Frederickson just after she voted in the 2016 primary election. Christa Fredrickson is a registered Democrat in Doña Ana County, but says that’s only because she needed to be a Democrat in order to vote in a primary election a few years ago. She has more than once changed her party affiliation to vote in a particular  primary election, because she thinks they’re important. But she doesn’t consider herself a Democrat or a Republican, or a Libertarian for that matter. Those are the major parties in New Mexico, currently.