Guns, graduation and tax reform at the Roundhouse
Political division, intense testimony and multiple amendments accompanied yesterday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on a proposed seven-day waiting period for gun purchases. The committee ultimately approved House Bill 129 on a 6-3 party-line vote. Approved changes include ones eliminating a longer wait-time requirement for firearms dealer and exemptions for concealed carry permit holders and law enforcement officers.The bill now heads to the full Senate.
A bill reforming high school graduation requirements unanimously passed the state Senate yesterday and now heads to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk. If approved, bill sponsor President Pro Tempore Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, says House Bill 171 will provide students with greater flexibility in choosing the courses that fulfill their graduation requirements, beginning with the ninth grade classes of the 2025-2026 school year. An amendment requiring financial literacy courses—versus allowing them to be chosen as electives—failed, as did one that would have required ethnic studies.
The House yesterday passed HB252, an omnibus tax package, on a bipartisan 48-21 vote. Among other components, the bill caps the Capital Gains Tax deduction at $2,500; creates several tax breaks in the health care and child care realms; and creates a Fire Recovery Income Tax Credit of up to $50,000, for New Mexicans whose homes were destroyed in recent wildfires. “Our tax package is designed to create greater benefits and opportunities for all New Mexicans, especially our working families and small businesses,” bill sponsor Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo, chair of the House Taxation and Revenue Committee, said in a statement following House approval. “House Bill 252 also prioritizes our state’s values, with measures that will improve access to healthcare and childcare, support clean energy, and provide support for our friends and neighbors who need it most.” The tax package now heads to the Senate.
Environmentalists call out oil and gas PFAS
Environmental group WildEarth Guardians yesterday called upon Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals.” The organization’s appeal follows a US Environmental Protection Agency decision earlier this month to classify PFAS as hazardous waste under federal law. The EPA’s action came in direct response to New Mexico’s petition for greater oversight, efforts WildEarth Guardians acknowledges. “EPA’s approval of New Mexico’s petition to label PFAS as hazardous substances marks a much-needed win to protect our environment, water, and public health against ‘forever chemicals,’” WildEarth Guardians Climate and Energy Advocate Melissa Troutman says in a statement. “Unfortunately, PFAS pollution from the oil and gas industry in New Mexico remains unchecked, posing continued risk to New Mexicans and our outdoors. We call on Gov. Lujan Grisham to protect New Mexico from PFAS in oil and gas.” Under the governor’s administration, the statement continues, “New Mexico’s oil and gas industry receives significant exemptions, handouts, and subsidies that result in undisclosed contamination from PFAS and other dangerous pollutants…we ask her to take a bold step further—ban PFAS in oil and gas and require that the industry fully disclose the substances they release into the environment and our communities.” Nonprofit New Energy Economy similarly recently criticized the governor’s “Strategic Water Supply” initiative in a report on the governor’s relationship with the oil and gas industry, and characterized her water plan as a “bailout for the oil and gas industry.” In response to WildEarth Guardians, the governor’s director of communications, Maddy Hayden, tells SFR via email: “The Lujan Grisham administration has taken addressing PFAS contamination very seriously, including work to hold responsible parties accountable like at Cannon Air Force Base. Questions around the use of PFAS in oil and gas and how they should be regulated are part of a pending petition before the Oil Conservation Commission. We have confidence in that process and its subsequent implementation.”
Committee cool on housing bill
Despite attendance by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham yesterday and more than two and a half hours of testimony, members of the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee failed to warm sufficiently to Senate Bill 71, sponsored by state Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, which would create a state housing office, declare a housing emergency and develop and update a state housing plan, among other measures. A motion to pass the bill failed, but the committee did agree on a 5-4 vote to forward the bill to the Senate Finance Committee without a recommendation. In advocating for the bill, the governor drew a comparison to the creation of the state’s Early Childhood Education and Care Department, and the emphasis and funding the state has poured into early childcare—gaining national recognition for its efforts. The state’s housing crisis ties in urgency, she noted. “We get hundreds of calls a week,” the governor said. “Hundreds of families that are one minute away from being displaced and on the streets. There’s not enough in rental assistance; there’s not enough building; there’s not enough support for workforce housing. Companies are asking me to help their own employees navigate through the system.” A bill analysis noted concerns from the state Mortgage Finance Authority that a new housing office would duplicate much of its work and “may decrease administrative efficiency of resource deployment and convolute the high level of coordination among housing stakeholders that currently exists.” Both the state auditor and treasurer’s offices also raised concerns about potential confusion and duplication. Daniel Werwath, the governor’s housing advisor, pushed back against those concerns during the hearing, noting: “I think if you’re a New Mexican family buried in a unaffordable housing payment, having more than one office digging on this doesn’t feel like duplication. It feels like many hands make light work. And that’s what we need to be doing. We all need to be working together.”
City helps launch historic home repair program
A new program would potentially help owners of historic buildings in the city of Santa Fe who face expensive repairs. The city’s Historic Preservation Division is assisting the Historic Santa Fe Foundation in its partnership with Santa Fe Habitat for Humanity to launch the Endangered Properties Program through a $24,000 grant from the State of New Mexico Historic Preservation Division, the city announced yesterday. The initiative intends to start by identifying three properties that meet the project criteria, which includes being owner-occupied, at least 50 years old and representing the “vernacular building traditions and materials of the Santa Fe area.” The outreach will include working with property owners to determine the building’s eligibility and needs, along with “capturing oral histories associated with the neighborhood or property.” The grant does not cover the repairs, which will be undertaken by Habitat for Humanity, with the pilot for the program expected to conclude in September (find the application here). “We’ve recognized how expensive it is to maintain historic homes,” Historic Santa Fe Foundation Executive Director Melanie McWhorter tells SFR, noting that the idea for launching this program has been many years in the making. “We’re really excited about it. We are most definitely looking for homes just to see if they qualify, and then if they don’t qualify for this program, they may qualify for another one.”
Today’s playlist comes from Sam Herrera, who describes himself as a “Santa Fean (not Santa Fesino — whatever that is).”
1. “This Will Be Our Year” by The Zombies: “Picked because always inspirational and we need it in 2024.”
2. “Angry” by Rolling Stones: “Because 80-year-olds rock!”
3. “Path is Long” by Dave Davies: “Because in my heart I am just a boy, just a boy.”
4. “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’” by Hollis Brown: “Because Lou Reed covers are always in fashion, especially in 2024.”
5. “Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite” by Andy Timmons Band: “Because the world yearns for a scorching guitar instrumental version of this Beatles song.”
No place like home
We’ve tried to keep abreast of and to share here all the myriad takes on the Española-based Showtime cringe comedy The Curse but, finally, Vulture has the take we’ve been waiting for: “Watching The Curse When You’re From Española,” written by Santa Fe-based writer Adele Oliveira. Let’s start with the distinctive Northern New Mexico accent, which Española resident Dennis Ortiz says the show nails with Fernando, a character in the opening scene: “His dialect and cadence is unmistakable,” Ortiz says. The show, Oliveira writes, serves as Española’s first time playing itself, after standing in as Texas and other wide-skied locales for various films. For what it’s worth, The Curse attempts to acknowledge the complexity of Española—its “complex history of poverty, substance use, and violence”—alongside its scenic beauty. Locals watching the show have have “been wrestling with its depiction of their home and whether it does justice to life in Española. ‘You’re showing the physical bodies and the landscape of a place that’s gone through generations of colonization,’ Española native Maryssa Rose Chavez says. ‘It’s a fine line to walk.’” And Españolans are wary, the story notes, of their portrayal. Samuel LeDoux, who auditioned to play Fernando and is an Española City Council candidate, tells Oliveira: “We’re resistant to people pointing out the problems, especially if they don’t live here…We have a lot of accomplished, educated people—that’s not ever really showcased or highlighted.” For a less local take, The New Yorker also weighs in on the show’s message about gentrification, economic prospecting and the role the uncanny plays therein.
Sierra Club’s magazine, Sierra, examines the ongoing work in New Mexico to restore New Mexico’s waterways in the wake of the damage sustained during the catastrophic Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon fire in 2022. Writer Anna Marija Helt visits the Rio Gallinas in Las Vegas where Hermit’s Peak Watershed Alliance founder and Executive Director Lea Knutson explains the work involved for phase 1 of “Rewinding the Gallinas River,” which involved restoration of “the most degraded stretch of a river suffering from centuries of cattle grazing, crop growing, industry, and human presence along its banks.” Amongst its other features, described in detail, “thousands of square feet of terraced floodplain and wetland now flank the river” and “successfully trapped ash and sediment from floods that roared down the river” from the Hermits Peak/Calf Canyon Fire in the upper watershed. As the story notes, post-fire flooding destroyed Las Vegas’ water supply, and landed the river on American River’s “Most Endangered Rivers” list last year. The story also includes overviews of a few of “waterway restoration” projects in Northern New Mexico, including ones from Amigos Bravos that include identifying and replacing leaking septic systems along the Rio Fernando de Taos and reducing water contamination in the in the upper Rio Fernando de Taos watershed. “As New Mexico becomes hotter and drier and its population continues to expand, the work of these and other organizations to protect and restore the health of New Mexico’s beleaguered waterways grows ever more critical,” the story concludes.
Sun, snow, repeat
The National Weather Service forecasts a partly sunny day, with a high temperature near 40 degrees and southwest wind 10 to 15 mph. Tonight brings a 70% chance for precipitation, with likely snow showers between 8 pm and 2 am and new snow accumulation of less than 1 inch possible. Friday looks sunny again before a snowy weekend.