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Morning Word: It's Soda Season

March 9, 2017, 7:30 am

Santa Fe Council Schedules Sugary Slugfest
With the clock itching to strike midnight, the outcome of the vote long since known and the last public comment complete, the Santa Fe City Council voted 8-1 to let voters decide on a two-cents-an-ounce tax on sugary beverages. The money would go into a special fund and would provide grants to serve roughly 1,000 3- and 4-year-olds through early childhood education programs. The special election, which will cost somewhere around $90,000, will be May 2. Get ready for soda season.

Gov Talks Taxes With Key Legislators
There are 10 days left in the legislative session, and after trading insults about working less and wasting time, the governor and legislative leaders sat down for an hour and a half yesterday to see if there's common ground on the budget and tax reform. There might be. Santa Fe representative and Speaker of the House Brian Egolf says a proposed tax reform bill will leave untouched the food tax exemption that is near and dear to Democrats' hearts.

House Moves on Massive Tax Reform
After the meeting mentioned above, the House of Representatives took up the tax reform bill and made significant changes to it before passing the measure unanimously—which often means party leaders had already outlined an agreement to members and whipped the votes into line. The bill eliminates many cut-outs from the gross receipts tax, with the ultimate goal of lowering what's often just referred to as "sales tax" to about 5 percent statewide.

Gov Throttles Industrial Hemp Bill
If it looks like the marijuana and smells like the marijuana, mightn't it actually be the marijuana? That was the reason—it could confuse law enforcement—Susana Martinez gave two years ago when she vetoed an industrial hemp bill. She gave no explanation this time around. The plant is, in fact, related to marijuana, but has much lower levels of the high-inducing THC, needs half the water of wheat and just a quarter of what alfalfa has to have to grow. Dozens of other states have industrial hemp programs. There's a slightly amended bill headed the gov's way, which includes a provision that cops need to be trained to know the difference between marijuana and help, with no indication whether Gov. Martinez will sign it.

House Passes Early Childhood Education Amendment
See? We told you the House was doing stuff. Late last night, and after an emotional return to the House floor by Santa Fe Rep. Jim Trujillo, the House okayed a change to the way the permanent fund gives money to schools. The fund, which gave $656 million to New Mexico schools this year, would have a bigger chunk taken out and earmarked for developmental programs. There's a lot of evidence it would do a lot of good, which the largely dissenting Republicans don't dispute. The question is whether taking the extra money from the fund would shortchange future students. There's a tough road ahead in the Senate.

Senate Confirms Former Oil and Gas Exec as Agency Chief
Despite vociferous but ultimately useless criticism by some liberal senators, the state Senate confirmed former oilman Ken McQueen as secretary of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. McQueen believes the methane cloud above the Four Corners area is likely due to natural seeping. Environmentalists say it's like putting a Goldman Sachs partner in charge of regulating Wall Street. Then again, that's not exactly a novel idea.

Throwing Away the Key
For New Mexico's most serious criminals, their sentence may not matter; it's essentially going to be life in prison. SFR's Jeff Proctor looks at how the woman running the New Mexico Parole Board ensures very few people who have served their time and are eligible to return to society actually get the chance to do so. It's an important read.

It's Dry, Windy and Ready to Burn
Ah, spring in New Mexico. The least enchanting season. Allergies, wind and wildfire. A warm February and windy March means the state is under serious threat of wildfire. It's an annual concern, of course. Most of the threat is on the Eastern Plains, as Santa Fe and other ski areas prepare for a different threat: Texans and Oklahomans on spring break.

Thanks for reading! The Word points out that beer is not a sugar-sweetened beverage. It's also not appropriate for breakfast. Probably. 

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