A quick Roundhouse roundup:
HB4 — Ethics Commission has passed the House and is now stuck in the Senate Rules Committee
Unfortunately, the commission will only handle cases involving the Gift Act and campaign finance issues. The dismal process for handling harassment claims is still in the hands of the legislature. This legislation does have a blackout near elections, confidentiality up to the point where probable cause is found and real teeth in the form of subpeona power. It also requires a complaint to be made under oath.
HB300 — Allow mail-in votes to form a quorum for rural electrical cooperatives
This too passed the House, and it is stuck in Senate Rules
Find the names/emails of the Senate Rules Committee Members here.
Now we will talk about House Memorial 63.
Recently, the governor signed Senate Bill 11, titled “Gross Receipts for Non-Profit Organizations” into law. Don’t let the name fool you, it isn’t really about non-profit organizations. It specifically carves out an exception to the usual tax-exempt status of non-profit entities for two specific businesses, Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories. I will skip the part where I explain how dumb I think creating exemptions from exemptions to the tax code is as a policy. I now turn you to the smiley photo op moment published on the governor’s Facebook page.
https://www.facebook.com/GovMLG/photos/a.2265811537078391/2305286606464217/?type=3&theater, accessed 3/5/2019.
Pictured are Senators Cisneros and Martinez, the governor, and Representatives Chandler and Romero.
The caption reads “This important safeguard will ensure lab-adjacent New Mexico communities maintain a crucial revenue stream.“
Again, don’t let this fool you. “lab-adjecent” means Los Alamos County and City, who will reap the benefit of the $20M local portion of GRT paid by Triad, the new contractor for LANL. While Senators Cisneros and Martinez have constituents in Los Alamos County (Cisneros in White Rock and Martinez in Los Alamos proper), and Chris Chandler represents all of Los Alamos in the House, Andrea Romero has precisely ZERO constituents that will directly benefit from this GRT bill. None. Zip. Nada. Zilch.
Under state statute, local portions of the GRT collected are collected by the County and City in which the payer is located. In this case, Los Alamos is both city and county and grabs 2% of the tax. The remaining 5% and change goes into the state of New Mexico’s general fund, which gets spent, well, on “stuff”. So, I was curious about how the communities surrounding LANL that are not Los Alamos might benefit from this tax. The answer is, they mostly don’t, except tangentially.
Now enters House Memorial 63. It asked that the legislature fund a study to determine the most equitable way to allocate GRT taxes collected from a place like LANL. You see, Los Alamos is a town of 18,000 residents, and 55% of the workforce at LANL don’t live there. They live in Santa Fe city and county, Rio Arriba and Sandoval. No doubt some also make the long commute from Bernalillo. Additionally, the Department of Energy really likes to keep its employees happy, and it grants Los Alamos schools an additional $8M/year to make sure it stays that way.
Joseph Sanchez, representative of House District 40, in the northern parts of Espanola and farther reaches of Rio Arriba County, and incidentally a staff member in Los Alamos, wanted to know if there was a way to quantify the impact and equity in this tax code. There was only one problem. His “progressive” representative colleague Susan Herrera would not just refuse to cosponsor the bill, she would sit in committee and work to kill it. The smiling face of Andrea Romero, representative to the northernmost parts of Santa Fe County which are also “lab-adjecent” was nowhere to be found on the issue when it got to committee.
Today, I got to see progressives fight AGAINST social and economic inequality. Yup, you heard it here first.
I wrote and had published an open letter to this committee, which you can read here. It lays out the great disparity in Los Alamos and its neighboring communities in the areas of education and in income. It begs the question of whether the United States’ second most wealthy County should receive 100% of the benefit of this local GRT. The answer for progressive Susan Herrera seems to be that yes, Los Alamos deserves this cash influx and that they act as good stewards and neighbors to surrounding communities. I whole-heartedly disagree that the issue is that simple.
I would like to thank Joseph Sanchez for taking on this issue and advocating for his constituents (and Romero’s and Herrera’s). I would also like to thank Mayor Javier Sanchez of Espanola, who spoke of losing money when students flee to the much more superbly funded district of Los Alamos, and for Ohkay Owingeh and Santa Clara Pueblos, who stood in support of the bill.
Before the committee started, I noticed a fist bump between a gentleman and Susan Herrera. That gentleman is the lobbyist for Los Alamos.
After the committee ended, a Bernie delegate (self-proclaimed progressive) from Los Alamos approached me to suggest we talk to their superintendent to “see what they are doing that Pojoaque and Espanola are not”. I calmly told him “You mean besides getting $8M/year from DOE?”
A stammer and a rationalization followed.
Well done, progressives. Well done.
To weigh in with your local reps on this issue, feel free to contact them here:
Susan Herrera firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrea Romero email@example.com
Susan Herrera firstname.lastname@example.org
Richard Martinez email@example.com
Carlos Cisneros firstname.lastname@example.org