ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO - JUNE 26, 2022: The alcohol department at a grocery store Albuquerque, NM on June 26, 2022. CREDIT: Adria Malcolm for New Mexico In Depth
The alcohol industry notched a victory Saturday as the Legislature approved an alcohol tax hike of less than a penny-a-drink on beer and hardly more than that for liquor and wine, a fraction of the 18- to 20-cents public health advocates pushed for in this year’s session.
Lawmakers also rejected a $5 million request from the Department of Health for a new Office of Alcohol Prevention, despite the state’s historic budget surplus.
A school bus takes students home in rural New Mexico. Image: Marjorie Childress/New Mexico In Depth
New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez wants the Legislature to make explicit his power to investigate possible civil rights violations in New Mexico, with a focus first on children, including racial disparities in school discipline and problems at the state’s troubled child welfare department.
On Wednesday, a Senate committee amended a tax package passed by the House earlier this week to hike alcohol taxes 5¢ per drink for beer, wine, and spirits, greater than the 1¢ to 2¢ increase included in the original proposal. The hike, larger than opponents had wanted but smaller than supporters had hoped for, would be the first in 30 years.
Research has shown that making alcohol costlier is a way to reduce excess drinking, and supporters argued that a significant tax increase is necessary to combat the state’s alcohol crisis.
Eight days are left for lawmakers to decide whether to ask New Mexicans to vote on what the rest of the country already does: Pay its state legislators.If voters approve, House Joint Resolution 8 would amend the state constitution to establish an independent commission that would set salaries for New Mexico’s 112 state lawmakers. But, first, the joint resolution, which already has passed the House of Representatives and a Senate committee, must jump through more hoops: one more Senate committee and a vote by the entire Senate after which it would go to the House where lawmakers would decide whether or not to accept changes made in the Senate.
It’s a lot as the 60-day session enters its final week, when lawmakers will parse an avalanche of competing measures.
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO: The alcohol department at an Albuquerque grocery store. CREDIT: Adria Malcolm for New Mexico In Depth
A proposal to raise New Mexico’s alcohol tax to a flat 25-cents per drink in a bid to curb the state’s exceptionally high rate of alcohol-induced deaths has disappeared behind closed doors.
Both House Bill 230 and its companion in the Senate were tabled by their respective tax committees, leaving them in legislative limbo, even while lawmakers said they’d be considered for inclusion in a larger tax bill in the late hours of the session.
From the start, the legislation faced a rocky path.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s appointment of a former San Ildefonso Pueblo governor to lead the state’s Indian Affairs Department could be in peril as members of the state’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Task Force, and a Navajo state senator, say they will fight his nomination.The appointment of James R. Mountain to head an agency tasked with addressing violence against Native American women despite a rape charge against him 15 years ago, later dismissed, provoked outrage and sometimes tearful reactions from members during a task force meeting on Wednesday. The task force is one of four initiatives prominently highlighted on the agency’s website.
Two members were considering resigning from the task force if Mountain is confirmed, they said, and other members supported seeking a meeting with Lujan Grisham to protest Mountain’s nomination.“Our governor of the state needs to know that we are not OK with this,” Nambé Pueblo victim/legal advocate Chastity Sandoval said.
On Thursday, Lujan Grisham’s Director of Communications Maddy Hayden said the governor does not intend to withdraw Mountain’s nomination.
“We hope that those who are leveling these concerns would respect the judicial process and acknowledge the results,” Hayden wrote over email.
A child plays in an activity area of the New Mexico PreK class at Berrendo Elementary in Roswell. Xchelzin Pena/New Mexico In Depth
New Mexico lawmakers are debating a bill that would curtail expulsions and out-of-school suspensions for the state’s youngest students.