Despite tough times, legislative session successful

Each day when the Legislature is in session, busloads of school children come from throughout the state to witness democracy in action.

Let's hope none of those impressionable youngsters were in attendance on the final morning, when the House squelched debate, ignored the clock and muscled through a 35-page bill that only a handful of members had the chance to read before voting on.

It wasn't exactly the way they teach it in civics class, but the bill will make New Mexico's tax structure more competitive with neighboring states.

It will phase in a reduction in the state's corporate income tax rate from 7.6 percent to 5.9 percent over five years, give a break to state-based manufacturers that sell most of their goods or services outside New Mexico and increase rebates to 30 percent for television series that shoot at least six episodes in the state. To offset some of the revenue loss, it also reduces certain business tax incentives.

We believe this tax reform will help in the always competitive process of trying to lure new businesses with good-paying jobs to our state.

The bill represents a last-minute compromise hammered out between Gov. Susana Martinez and legislative leadership. Its passage salvaged what has been a frustrating session for the governor, as most of the high-profile initiatives she had outlined in her State of the State Address went down to defeat. And, it ended threats by Martinez that she would veto the budget and call lawmakers back in a special session.

There were other notable successes as well.

Topping that list for our area is a lawsuit liability bill for parts suppliers at Spaceport America that will put us on a more level playing field with other fledgling private space-launch facilities throughout the country. The bill had been defeated last year, due in part to a lobbying effort by the state Trial Lawyers Association. This year, spaceport officials and the trial lawyers were able to reach an agreement ahead of the session on a compromise.

Also this year, lawmakers and the governor reached agreement on a health insurance exchange the state will set up as part of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Perhaps the most contentious issue of the session was not a piece of legislation, but rather the ongoing saga of Education Secretary designate Hanna Skandera. For the first time in three years, the Senate Rules Committee finally held confirmation hearings for Skandera this session — but still no vote. We suppose that could be considered a win for the governor, but are reluctant to name any winners in a soap opera that has done nothing but marginalize the secretary and make a mockery of the confirmation process.

Other education reform bills sought by the governor were defeated, as was her third attempt to prevent immigrants in the country illegally from getting a driver's license.

A bill to raise the minimum wage garnered a great deal of attention this session. While it passed both houses, it seems destined for a veto by Martinez. What other bills fall to the governor's pen remains to be seen. It is only after the signing process is complete that we will be able to get a complete picture of what was done this session.

But it does appear that the session was more productive than it seemed like it would be going into the final days.

— Las Cruces Sun-News

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