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Morning Word: Special Session in Limbo

Democrats adjourn after voting on budget bills; Republicans focus on crime bills

October 3, 2016, 12:00 am
Special Legislation Unsettled
New Mexico senators passed several bills Saturday aimed at fixing the state’s growing budget deficit and then adjourned from a special session convened by Gov. Susana Martinez. House Republicans spent the weekend focused on tough-on-crime measures. On Sunday, Republicans gave positive recommendations to two of the senate bills, but a floor amendment would require the senate to return to Santa Fe. Political blogger Joe Monahan writes, “The gridlock is set to end Thursday when the Senate will have to return to Santa Fe to take up the House version of the budget bills.”
There is agreement to plug the $131 million hole left from the budget year that ended June 30 with cash from the tobacco settlement fund. As for the projected $458 million deficit for the current year, the Senate bills get the state close to resolving most of it, but it remains to be seen how much the House raises. They are rejecting the aforementioned public school cuts as well as a freeze on the corporate income tax reduction.
Crime Bills Pass House
New Mexico House lawmakers also passed a bill to expand the number of habitual felons who could be sentenced to life behind bars after being convicted of a third violent crime.

State Could Earn Millions Increasing Medical Cannabis Plant Count
Before the Democrats left Santa Fe, they voted in favor of increasing the number of cannabis plants producers may grow. Currently, they’re capped at growing 450 plants at a time. If the legislation moves forward and gets signed by Martinez, the number of  plants legally allowed would be tied to an amount equal to 15 percent of the number of registered patients. Today, there are around 30,000 patients, so producers would be allowed to grow 4,500 plants. Read the entire fiscal impact report here and see why health regulators object to the proposal. 

Voters Support Tax Hikes and Spending Cuts to Fix Budget
A new poll shows that nearly 60 percent of New Mexicans favor a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes to balance the state’s budget.

Clinton Leads Tight Presidential Race in New Mexico
Speaking of polls, Brian Sanderoff’s latest presidential candidate poll numbers show Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump, 35 percent to 31 percent. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the 2016 Libertarian Party candidate, is at 24 percent and looks like he’s getting a big boost from Hispanic voters unhappy with the other choices.

Lawmakers Urge Continuity at UNM
Community leaders, including Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, are expressing concerns about the frequent leadership changes at the top of the University of New Mexico’s administration. Current president Robert Frank, who is moving to the Health Sciences Center in 2017, decided not to seek a new contract as president of the school. Rep. Larry Larrañaga says more continuity at the top would benefit the institution.

Trump Impression Lands Big Audience
The Saturday Night Live ensemble is always best during presidential election years, and 2016 is no different. In fact, Alec Baldwin's impressive role as Donald Trump boosted the show to its highest season premiere rating since 2008, when Tina Fey did Sarah Palin. 


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