Piñon Post

ABQ Journal editorial chides ineffective lawmakers for ‘whining’ about no salaries

In a recent editorial by the Albuquerque Journal, the unique nature of New Mexico’s Legislature, which convenes annually in Santa Fe to conduct state business, was scrutinized for its lack of urgency and efficiency. The editorial highlighted that New Mexico hosts the only unsalaried Legislature in the United States, a fact that sets it apart from other states, many of which operate on a part-time basis but still compensate their legislators.

The editorial questioned the necessity of a full-time Legislature in an era where significant policymaking often occurs through executive agencies and boards, citing examples such as the Environmental Improvement Board’s electric vehicle sales mandates and the Construction Industries Division’s EV charging infrastructure requirements. “More and more, the real lawmaking takes place at the level of boards, commissions, and state agencies through rule-making,” the editorial stated, pointing out the diminishing role of the Legislature in direct lawmaking.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Legislature’s lack of involvement in the governor’s emergency public health orders was noted, with lawmakers largely acquiescing to the executive branch’s decisions. This led the editorial to question the value of compensating such an “acquiescent group of lawmakers” who seem to readily align with the governor’s agenda.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers had absolutely no official input in the governor’s emergency public health orders. And they were largely OK with that. Yet they continue to whine about not getting a paycheck from taxpayers. Earning one would be a good start,” the editorial read.

The discussion around legislative salaries has been ongoing for nearly two decades in New Mexico, with House Joint Resolution 7 recently proposing a constitutional amendment to allow for legislative compensation. The resolution suggests creating a citizen commission to authorize payment of legislative salaries, which would require a referendum to amend the state Constitution that currently prohibits lawmaker compensation beyond per diem and mileage reimbursements.

Public opinion on legislative salaries, longer sessions, and increased staffing shows varying levels of support, but the editorial argued that the cost of even modest salaries for legislators could be significant for taxpayers. With legislative salaries in other states averaging around $19,000 for part-time lawmakers, the editorial suggested that New Mexico should consider similar modest compensation, if any, given its status as one of the smaller states in the nation.

The editorial concluded that while exploring legislative salaries is worthwhile, it should be approached with caution and clear limits to avoid excessive taxpayer expenditure. “Lawmaker salaries are still worth looking into, but with clear caps on how far we’re willing to go spending taxpayer money now and in the future,” the editorial stated, emphasizing the need for fiscal prudence in any decision regarding legislative compensation.

The fate of extreme Dem alcohol tax increases has been determined

In New Mexico, attempts to massively increase alcohol taxation have stalled once more, with legislators deciding against increasing the alcohol excise tax or altering the distribution of the revenue toward treatment and prevention programs. The House Taxation and Revenue Committee was the battleground for two key pieces of legislation, but neither managed to progress beyond this point.

Following extensive discussions spanning two sessions, the first extending over three hours on Wednesday and a subsequent hour-long debate, Democratic Representative Cynthia Borrego expressed her reservations. “Probably more questions in my mind than answers,” Borrego remarked, highlighting the need for further refinement of the proposed bills.

One of the bills in question, House Bill 179, which proposed an extreme increase in the alcohol excise tax, was ultimately rejected by Borrego along with nine other committee members. The initial suggestion to elevate the tax by 25 cents per serving had already been scaled back to 12 cents in an effort to gain support.

The fate of the other proposed legislation, House Bill 213, was left undecided as the committee abstained from voting. The bill’s sponsor, Democrat Representative Micaela Lara Cadena from Las Cruces, indicated a deliberate choice to forego immediate action on the bill after fielding questions from her colleagues. This particular bill aimed to adjust the tax application from the wholesale to the retail level, thereby affecting the tax rate based on the price of the alcoholic beverages.

Both legislative proposals shared a common goal: to increase funding for the treatment and prevention of alcohol use disorders in New Mexico, a state grappling with the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths. Committee chair, Representative Derrick Lente of Sandia Pueblo, acknowledged the urgency of addressing the state’s alcohol-related issues but emphasized the necessity of a more thorough preparatory process involving all relevant stakeholders.

In the wake of the committee’s decision, Representative Joanne Ferrary of Las Cruces, the proponent of HB 179, stood up to affirm the extensive preparatory work behind her bill, which had been in the pipeline for two years. Her interjection was met with an interruption from Lente.

This latest development continues New Mexico’s long-standing hesitancy on alcohol excise tax reform, with no adjustments made in over three decades despite persistent efforts.

Republicans file to unseat Heinrich, Democrat U.S. reps.

On Tuesday, GOP candidates in Santa Fe initiated their campaign journey for the upcoming June 4 primary, aiming to challenge the current Democrat U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and to secure key congressional seats.

Nella Domenici, a businesswoman and the daughter of the late U.S. Senator Pete Domenici, formally submitted her candidacy petition to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office, eyeing the Republican nomination to confront Heinrich, who is vying for his third term in office.

In her early campaign declarations, Domenici has voiced her concerns over issues like inflation, crime, border control, and the welfare of children, though she opted not to provide further comments on Tuesday.

Her likely opponent in the GOP race is former Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales, who has recently switched from the Democrat Party to pursue the Republican Senate nomination, also filing his candidacy on the same day.

Gonzales, who served as sheriff since 2014 in New Mexico’s largest county, collaborated with then-President Donald Trump in 2020 on law enforcement initiatives and ran for the Albuquerque mayor’s office in 2021, albeit unsuccessfully.

This election cycle, Democrats are on the defensive, striving to maintain their slim 51-49 Senate majority, with 23 seats up for grabs.

Heinrich previously secured his seat in 2018, winning approximately 54% of the vote in a contest against Republican Mick Rich and Libertarian Gary Johnson, a former Governor of New Mexico.

In the race for the congressional seat along the Mexico-U.S. border, Republicans are rallying behind a candidate to challenge U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez. Yvette Herrell, looking to win back the 2nd District seat she lost in 2022, had her campaign manager submit her candidacy paperwork on Tuesday, making the district a focal point in the national debate as Republicans aim to maintain their narrow House majority.

Despite a legal challenge from the Republican Party against a Democrat-drawn gerrymandered congressional map that redefined the 2nd District, the fully Democrat-controlled New Mexico Supreme Court upheld the map.

Currently, Democrats hold sway in New Mexico, controlling both Senate seats, all congressional districts, and dominating state-wide elected positions as well as the state legislature.

In the 3rd Congressional District, former state Rep. Sharon Clahchischilliage from Gadii’ahi has thrown her hat in the ring for the Republican nomination to face off against Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez, who is seeking her third term. Clahchischilliage aims to tackle regulatory overreach and boost economic prospects, citing concerns over policies affecting gun control and the energy sector.

For the 1st Congressional District, two Republicans are vying for the chance to challenge incumbent Democrat Melanie Stansbury. Louie Sanchez, an Albuquerque business owner, emphasizes public safety, gun rights, and economic issues, while Steve Jones, a CPA from Ruidoso, pledges to address federal spending and the national deficit.

Heinrich steps in it again, responds to blowback from embarrassing ‘elk’ post

On Monday, far-left U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich responded to massive social media blowback from his now-deleted Sunday X post that identified a bighorn sheep in the background of a photo shared as an “elk” that he called a “beautiful and amazing animal.”

Later Sunday, Heinrich tried to play interference by sharing what he called “Frito pie with homemade elk adovada” — the same “beautiful” creature he claimed to “interact with.”

Heinrich blamed the painfully out-of-touch post on his staff, writing on Twitter, “Sometimes you send your team a bunch of photos at once and they get jumbled up.”

He added, “Both animals have made amazing recoveries in New Mexico thanks to the work of conservationists.” 

New Mexicans were quick to respond to the clearly manufactured story about his staff supposedly mixing up the pictures.

“Ah the good old blame the staff routine. Amazing leadership from the Senator from Maryland” wrote one X user.

Another opined, “So, um, you killed that elk that was extinct over a century ago thus erasing all the work of previous conservationists. I don’t really think it was your interns. Just own it.”

“It took you over 24 hours to come up with this lame excuse. The only thing needing recovery in NM are the people from all you corrupt politicians,” continued one other New Mexican.

Far-left Dem NM legislators advance bill to hike alcohol taxes by up to 651%

On Monday, legislators in Santa Fe, New Mexico, advanced House Bill 213, which aimed to modify the state’s approach to alcohol taxation. The proposed legislation intends to shift the taxation from being imposed on wholesale transactions to being applied at the retail level.

According to the Legislative Finance Committee, this adjustment might lead to an increase in the cost of alcoholic beverages and cocktails when bought in dining establishments while potentially reducing the prices of certain packaged liquors sold in retail outlets. The committee highlighted that alcohol taxes in New Mexico have remained unchanged for over two decades.

The bill also suggests an exemption from excise taxes for small-scale producers such as microbreweries, craft distilleries, and boutique wine producers, maintaining a tax framework that favors these small entities.

During a session of the House Health and Human Services Committee on February 5, discussions were held regarding the allocation of these funds. 

A major amendment was made to establish an “alcohol and substance use harms alleviation fund.” This fund is designed to allocate half of its resources to secure federal matching funds aimed at preventing alcohol and substance misuse, with the remaining funds directed toward supporting local counties and the Indian Affairs Department.

According to Errors of Enchantment by the Rio Grande Foundation, the bill would hike prices on beer and cider by 651 percent, wine by 376 percent, spirits by 353 percent, and fortified wine by 161 percent.

“We have previously discussed the fact that New Mexico’s taxes on alcohol are NOT low. In fact, our tax on wine is already 5th-highest in the nation,” wrote the outlet.

Despite the bill’s progression, not all feedback was positive. Representative Joanne J. Ferrary (D-Doña Ana), the bill’s sponsor, expressed concerns to the committee, arguing that the proposed tax rates on beer might be insufficient to curb underage and excessive drinking.

Heinrich makes most cringe post ever — gets hilariously mocked

On Sunday morning, New Mexico’s far-left U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, a resident of Maryland, made a cringe-inducing X post reading, “Just a little over a century ago, elk were extinct in New Mexico. Thanks to the work of previous generations of conservationists, I now have the privilege of interacting with this beautiful and amazing animal.” 

However, in the post, he shared an awkward picture of him giving a thumbs-up with a bighorn sheep in the background — not an elk. 

He later deleted the post, but not without people keeping receipts with their screenshots posted on the platform. 

People mercilessly commented on the embarrassingly out-of-touch tweet, with people writing things such as “It identifies as an elk?” and “…Heinrich tells New Mexicans that he is a ‘hunter.’ This photo proves his lies. That is NOT an elk. It is a bighorn sheep.”

Piñon Post editor and State Rep. John Block (R-Alamogordo) mocked Heinrich with a post of the legislator taking a similar selfie but with a pigeon in the background, calling it a “Lesser Mexican spotted jumping prairie chicken.” 

Later on his official U.S. Senate X account, Heinrich posted a photo of what he described as a “Frito pie with homemade elk adovada.” 

Naturally, commenters referenced his since deleted “elk” post.

One account wrote, “​​You’re SURE it’s elk?”

Others posted photos of bighorn sheep: 

“Crazy that you would double down on the elk content after the blunder this morning,” another posted

NM House passes eco-left bill that will significantly raise gas prices

The New Mexico House of Representatives voted Sunday to pass a “clean transportation fuel standard” that will increase gas prices by around 50 cents per gallon or more. The passage was narrowly secured with a vote tally of 36-33, reflecting a divided stance among the legislators, with Democrats joining all Republicans to reject it.

The bill in question, identified as a modified version of House Bill 41 by the House Judiciary Committee, seeks to lay the groundwork for a statewide initiative focused on diminishing the carbon intensity associated with transportation fuels. The ambitious targets set by this initiative aim for a reduction of at least 20% from the levels recorded in 2018 by the year 2030, escalating to a minimum of 30% by 2040.

Proponents of the bill, such as sponsor Rep. Kristina Ortez from Taos, argue that the establishment of such standards is crucial for attracting clean fuel businesses to New Mexico. Ortez highlighted the potential financial and environmental benefits at stake, emphasizing the risk of missing out on substantial federal investments and the opportunity to improve air quality.

The bill faced heavy criticism from Republicans, particularly concerning the potential impact on fuel prices. They voiced concerns that the implementation of clean fuel standards could lead to higher costs for consumers at the pump. GOP Rep. Jared Hembree from Roswell proposed an amendment aimed at enhancing transparency regarding compliance costs, which, however, did not pass.

States that have adopted similar standards, such as California, Oregon, and Washington, admit that they directly increase fuel prices in these states.

The discussion also delved into the specifics of how fuels with significant greenhouse gas emissions would be evaluated under the new standards, with assurances that they would indeed be assessed.

As the debate concluded after three hours, the bill now faces its next hurdle in the Senate, with a tight timeline to secure approval if it is to be enacted into law.

NM House narrowly passes one of governor’s extreme anti-gun bills

On Friday, the New Mexico House of Representatives narrowly approved unconstitutional anti-gun legislation that mandates a seven-day waiting period for all firearm sales in New Mexico, amid criticism from Republicans who view it as an unnecessary burden on responsible gun owners and ineffective in curbing criminal access to firearms. The passage of House Bill 129 by a vote of 37-33, with dissent from both some Democrats and Republicans, now sends the bill to the Senate for further deliberation.

State Rep. Andrea Romero (D-Santa Fe), the sponsor, claimed the bill would save lives. In contrast, Republican Representative Stefani Lord of Sandia Park, a staunch defender of gun rights, accused proponents of targeting law-abiding citizens instead of focusing on criminals.

The debate went on for three hours — the maximum allowed under the House rules. State Rep. Bill Rehm (R-Albuquerque) employed a procedural tactic known as a “call of the House” to ensure all members were present for the vote, adding urgency to the proceedings.

Originally, the bill proposed a 14-day waiting period, but an amendment introduced by State Rep. Art De La Cruz (D-Albuquerque), reducing it to seven days, narrowly passed by a single vote with Rep. Anthony Allison (D-Fruitland), who voted against the bill on final passage, not voting on the amendment. The bill now includes a provision for a misdemeanor charge for any sale that contravenes the waiting period, with exceptions for transactions between immediate family members, but not for domestic violence situations or for military, veterans, or police officers.

The bill aims to address loopholes in federal legislation by ensuring adequate time for background checks, a measure supported by the bill’s proponents as a means to prevent impulsive acts of violence. Critics, however, argue that it could disadvantage individuals in immediate need of protection, especially in the most rural areas of the state.

The proposal is part of a broader legislative effort from anti-gun Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, with proposals such as the waiting period bill, failing repeatedly throughout her two terms as governor so far. 

Dems pass first anti-gun bill through NM Senate

In the New Mexico Senate, where Democrats hold a substantial majority, Republican members have pledged to fully utilize procedural tactics to strengthen their position and potentially delay Democratic initiatives they oppose. This strategy was evident during a recent debate over a bill aimed at banning the carrying of firearms near polling locations on Election Day.

The discussion was momentarily interrupted when Senator Craig Brandt, a Republican from Rio Rancho, invoked a “call of the Senate.” This procedure necessitates the presence of all Senate members for a vote, causing a brief pause in the proceedings as absent lawmakers were summoned back to the chamber. The delay lasted approximately 45 minutes until three absent Democrats returned, one of whom, Senator Siah Correa Hemphill from Silver City, sided with the Republicans against the bill. She faces a fierce reelection fight against former state Sen. Gabe Ramos, a Republican. 

Despite Correa Hemphill’s vote, the bill, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth of Santa Fe, passed with a 26-16 vote and was forwarded to the House of Representatives. Wirth emphasized the bill’s intention to protect voters, citing concerns from a poll worker about the intimidating presence of armed individuals during elections. He believes that keeping firearms away from polling places is a sensible step given the current national climate surrounding elections.

The proposed legislation would make carrying a firearm within 100 feet of a polling site a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine, with minor exemptions, including for law enforcement officers. Wirth also introduced amendments to the bill in committee hearings, aiming to address some concerns by allowing voters to leave their firearms in their vehicles at polling sites.

However, these concessions did not sway the Republicans, who proposed their own amendments, such as one by Senator Mark Moores of Albuquerque. Moores suggested permitting New Mexicans with concealed carry permits to bring firearms into polling places, but this amendment was not adopted due to opposition from most Democrats.

The bill is part of a broader effort by Democrats to advance anti-gun legislation this session. With the Democrat majority in the House as well, it is unclear if the bill has a chance in the House. 

Dems continue to gamble state funds on unreliable, expensive EVs

Traversing New Mexico’s remote landscapes could soon spawn electric vehicle (EV) charging stations emerging in the least expected rural areas. This initiative, sparked by the state Transportation Department in 2022, aims to cover the state with charging infrastructure, from bustling cities to the quietest corners, in anticipation of an EV mandate from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s attempt to ram EVs down New Mexicans’ throats. 

The endeavor seeks to mitigate one of the primary hesitations potential EV buyers have: the fear of running out of charge far from a power source, coupled with the undeniable fact that EVs generally command a significantly higher purchase price than their gasoline counterparts.

The state’s extreme plan, fueled by a mix of state and federal funds, targets the establishment of a comprehensive network of charging stations by 2026, aligning with a new state mandate pushing for an increase in EV deliveries to New Mexico. Jerry Valdez, a special projects manager with the state Transportation Department, emphasizes the necessity of developing this infrastructure to foster EV adoption, suggesting that “a big question is what comes first: the cars or the infrastructure” and highlighting the intent to “increase the market penetration of zero-emissions vehicles.”

Despite the good intentions, the rollout of charging stations, particularly in rural locales, has not been without its critics. The Advanced Clean Cars and Trucks rule, which mandates a significant uptick in EV sales, has been met with skepticism from car dealers concerned about the lack of charging facilities. This rule demands that by 2026, 43% of new cars and light-duty trucks delivered to the state be electric, escalating to 82% by 2032, with similar targets set for heavier-duty commercial vehicles.

The state’s response has been to invest heavily in charging infrastructure, with plans for 86 stations across 40 locations, leveraging $10 million from the American Rescue Plan. Yet, despite these efforts, the presence of charging stations in remote areas like Tierra Amarilla raises questions about their practicality and utilization, given their sparse populations and the current low adoption rate of EVs in the state.

Critics argue that the push for EVs and the associated infrastructure is a costly endeavor that may not yield the desired results. Larry Behrens from Power the Future voices a common sentiment, questioning the wisdom of investing taxpayer dollars in a technology that, according to him, lacks consumer demand in New Mexico. 

He points out that EVs constitute less than one percent of the state’s vehicle ownership, suggesting a lack of enthusiasm for the transition to electric mobility. Furthermore, a poll by his group indicates a majority opposition to the governor’s EV policies, casting doubt on the effectiveness of building charging stations as a means to stimulate EV adoption.

On the other hand, advocates for EVs argue that the demand for electric vehicles outstrips supply and that the state’s efforts are aimed at addressing this imbalance. They contend that the establishment of a reliable charging network is essential for encouraging more EV sales and facilitating the transition to cleaner transportation.

More eco-left legislation continues to permeate throughout the Roundhouse during the 2024 Legislative Session, which will raise gas prices for everyday New Mexicans and businesses, thereby killing New Mexico’s economy.

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