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Columns

  • The other way to make laws

    A few bills in the Legislature this year deal with state regulations and how they are made.
     In discussing these bills, I was reminded that most people don’t participate in the rulemaking process, don’t understand how it works, and so might not appreciate the benefits of improving it.
    Rulemaking is not limited to agencies with the word “regulation” in their title. Lots of agencies have regulatory authority, which is conveyed by statutory language creating that authority.
    Where some agencies – such as the boards and commissions in the Department of Regulation and Licensing – generally focus on a particular industry, others, like Taxation and Revenue, may make rules affecting large classes of taxpayers.

  • Legislature winding down

    SANTA FE --  Ready or not, only one day is left in the 2012 Legislature. This 30-day session ends Thursday at noon -- no ifs, ands or buts. The New Mexico Supreme Court decided about 50 years ago that the Legislature no longer could “stop the clock,” as it was called, to get its business finished.
    Congress and many state legislatures keep going until the leadership decides it has had enough. In New Mexico the watches of the House speaker and the Senate majority floor leader determine when it is noon.
    That power used to include stopping the clock for several hours to get business finished. But today, no fudging is allowed. Any legislation passed after noon does not become law. Legislative per diem also stops at noon.

  • More about tax reform

    The underlying theme of the 2012 legislative session was taxes, specifically the issue of tax reform. Gov. Martinez put the gross receipts tax on the agenda with her proposals to both exempt certain small businesses from the tax and to reduce the incidence of “pyramiding” which forces businesses and consumers to pay taxes on top of taxes in this state. $40 million of welcome tax relief was included in the budget, but issues remain.
    Senate Finance Committee Chair John Arthur-Smith made a dramatic point with the introduction of legislation that would have eliminated New Mexico’s gross receipts tax entirely.

  • That’s right. You’re wrong

    During lunch, two of my students were arguing the issue of taxation.  Their stances took the usual form; the rich already pay more than their fair share, the rich make money off the backs of the lower class, capitalism was founded on the principle of self-gain, greed is destroying this country, etc., etc., etc..

  • Dueling with unloaded guns

    A creative headline writer described the employment packages offered by Democrats and Republicans as “Dueling Job-Growth Plans.”
    To have a duel, the guns must be loaded. That’s one little detail Senate Dems forgot.
    In a news conference, they trotted out SB 9, yet another stab in Sen. Peter Wirth’s long campaign for combined tax reporting, which employers say would cost jobs; SB 74, from Sen. Steve Fischmann, who has an untarnished track record for being clueless on economic issues; and Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, whose SB 140 is unworkable.

  • Talking the Rail Runner

    Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, poses a good question about the New Mexico Rail Runner Express with his Senate Bill 247.
    But like nearly all Democrats and a good many Republicans, he missed the point. He only asks who should pay for the Rail Runner’s losses, all New Mexicans or just some, not whether it should continue.
    The bill provides “a dedicated funding source for the operation and maintenance costs of heavy rail mass transit systems that fairly imposes these costs on the locales and persons that are primarily served.”
    Government has things to do. But what things? At what level of government? Is there benefit to people supposedly served by the government activity?

  • Working on PRC reform

    SANTA FE --  Amid legislative-executive turf battles, a few islands of bipartisan cooperation have surfaced. The most noticeable collaboration concerns the reform of the Public Regulation Commission. Everyone is working together on that item.
    As of this writing, the term “everyone” is not an exaggeration. A package of three constitutional amendments presented by the bipartisan think tank Think New Mexico has unanimously passed the House, including its committee referrals. The measures have the support of Gov. Susana Martinez and will be carried in the Senate by leaders of both parties.

  • Tax tips to help small businesses

    Long hours and hard work comes with owning a small business. Few entrepreneurs would have it any other way. It’s the price they pay to live their American dream.
    But not everyone welcomes overtime and extra effort to get the job done. The IRS, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson reported to Congress recently, is suffering “workload overload,” chiefly due to the increasing complexity and frequent changes in the U.S. tax code. Between 2001 and 2010, the revenue rulebook was revised 4,430 times—an average of more than once a day.

  • Contrarian thinking to legislature

    There’s an old saying that no one is safe when the Legislature is in session.
    Most of us wouldn’t argue about whether a lawmaking body is needed; the pace of change in modern society dictates that laws must be added and updated regularly. But the glib little saying is a sharp reminder that there’s always a risk. A legislator once commented to me that the Legislature spends 90 percent of its time correcting its previous mistakes.
    A couple of arguments about our New Mexico legislative process arise year after year, especially during the crowded 30-day sessions.  

  • EPA protection a big win for U.S.

    On Dec. 21, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the first-ever federal protections reducing toxic pollutants, primarily mercury, produced by power plants.
     This is a major victory for all Americans, and one for which the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations have been fighting for years.  An assessment of mercury was required by the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990; so it has taken over 20 years to implement the law.