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Media Releases, Legislative News, Agricultural Updates
The 2022 Colorado Legislature will convene in regular session on January 12, 2022. The party control will stay the same –as Democrats maintain their 41-24 majority in the House, and they control the Senate on a 20-15 majority. Governor Jared Polis enters his fourth year in office, giving the Democrats the “trifecta” in Capitol politics.
This year will have a heavier dose of politics, as everyone is gearing up for the November 2022 election. In addition to the regular elections (all House members and half the state Senate), there will be a crowded ballot with Governor Polis and other statewide officials (Attorney General, State Treasurer, and Secretary of State). Also, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet is running for reelection, and Colorado will have a new “open” congressional seat in a district that includes Adams County and Weld County. Finally, as we love to vote in Colorado, we can expect to see the usual array of ballot measures in November 2022.
Federal Recovery Funds The first priority of the legislature will be to spend the remaining ARPA funds. The legislature has prioritized three major areas of focus: Mental Health; Housing; and Economic Recovery The Legislature has established interim “study” committees on each of these areas, and those committees will make recommendations for spending in each of the priority areas.
Restructuring State Programs Working with the Governor’s Office, the legislature has created the Department of Early Childhood, scheduled to open for business on July 1, 2022. This agency will coordinate the state’s various children’s programs. In addition, the state will create the Behavioral Health Administration, a coordinating entity within the Department of Human Services.
Agriculture One of the major bills in agriculture will be legislation defining care for animals. There have been some citizen ballot initiatives – including the PAUSE Act proposal – that would define animal cruelty and animal neglect in statute. In order to address the issue through legislative deliberations, one state representative is working to bring consensus through the animal rights groups as well as the agriculture industry in order to reach a definition of animal care in statute. However, many in the agriculture industry feel that existing statute adequately addresses these topics and further legislation is not necessary.
Water Speculation The Interim Committee on Water Resources is advancing a bill to prohibit water speculation, defined purchasing agricultural water and then reselling the water for a profit. However, there is no consensus within the water community about this bill. While some want to prohibit “middlemen” from profiting through agricultural water transactions, others do not want the state to limit the options for what they do with their private property.
Both the animal care bill and the water speculation prohibition will get plenty of discussion.
Short Term Rentals There will be discussions on the tax status of short-term rental properties. No one wants to tinker with those properties that are rented on an infrequent basis; however, some luxury properties are purchased and rented every day of the year. Should those properties receive the lower residential tax assessment status?
Budget Colorado’s tax revenues are strong, and in fact revenues are sufficiently strong to trigger a TABOR refund. Based on the September revenue estimates, Colorado expects to return $1.0 billion in TABOR refunds in 2021-22. Refunds will continue for the next few years.
All five of the statewide elected offices are up for election as is Wyoming’s lone congressional seat. The 2022 session will gavel-in on Feb. 14 for a planned 25-day session. It will follow the normal rules for a budget session (non-budget bills require a two-thirds vote for introduction).
Budget The combination of federal stimulus funds and recent increased natural gas and coal production and price increases have stabilized revenue for the next two years, if not longer. I don’t expect any new programs or initiatives to be proposed that would require any large amount of new spending
Water The Select Water Committee Is proposing an expanded development and rehabilitation program using ARPA funds to reduce the backlog of projects needing repairs. It includes an appropriation of $95,000,000 of ARPA funds.
Major Legislation Interim committees have been active drafting bills for consideration in the 2022 session, this will include a legislative redistricting plan from the Joint Corporations Comm. to comply with the 2020 census. The Transportation Comm. Is offering a 15-cent fuel tax increase to fund highway maintenance. There will be a number of individually sponsored bills covering a wide range of subjects which will need a 2/3 majority vote to be discussed. I will highlight some of these as they become available.
New Mexico is wrapping up a second special session this year that has several issues for lawmakers to approve. Redistricting of congressional districts, or Senate Bill 1, may be the most contentious and if you look at the map this new model could lead to all three congressional leaders living in the greater Albuquerque area. This could result in rural areas of New Mexico being left behind and under-represented. House Bill 2 is another bill that folks around the state are watching closely as it will impact future appropriations. There is slightly more than $1 billion available, all of it from the state’s federal ARPA fund. Notably absent is funding for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.
As we investigate the future for the 2022 session, we know the session will start at noon on Tuesday, January 18 and end on Thursday, February 17. Currently, if anyone plans to provide in person testimony to the legislature, they will have to show proof of full vaccination for Covid 19. Also, the public will not be allowed to carry a firearm in the Capital. Persons entering the Capital will be required to enter through a metal detector and have their handbags inspected. So, bring your vaccination cards and leave your guns at home.
We have seen an early version of the Hydrogen Hub Act. With fossil fuels under a microscope, the need for clean, domestically-produced energy is ever increasing. Although, there is no silver bullet to solve the energy challenges of the future, New Mexico will add hydrogen to the renewable energy portfolio. This act will drive technological innovation, create clean energy jobs, and diversify the economy – all while accelerating New Mexico’s efforts to reach net-zero carbon emissions by no later than 2050.
Clean Fuel Standard There is a draft of an act to establish standards for transportation fuels and direct the environmental improvement board to promulgate rules to implement the standard.
30 x 30 As the plan for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s 30 x 30 executive order begins to develop, we hope that agriculture will be included in the discussions. There is a notable need to conserve land, water, and natural resources in New Mexico. Farms and ranches in New Mexico will need funding for prescribed conservation projects to achieve this goal.
The Food, Farm, and Hunger Initiative led by Governor came out of a 2021 legislative appropriation to “develop and implement a comprehensive plan to address hunger and food insecurity and to strengthen food systems in the state in partnership with agencies and stakeholders in the agriculture, food, and hunger-alleviation sectors.” The $28 million appropriation would provide resources to eight agencies to expand programs including the N.M. Grown Program to purchase New Mexico farmers produce in schools, senior and early childcare nutrition programs. If fully funded, the Department of Agriculture would get a 45% budget increase to include funds for the Healthy Soils Program, Value-Added Innovation Grants, Agriculture Workforce Program, SNAP Double Food Bucks, and Farm to Food Banks.
Livestock Board Meat Inspection Authorization, sponsored by Representative Jack Chatfield, is back for a second legislative session having almost passed in 2021. The legislation would provide funding and a pathway for a state meat inspection program. Representative Chatfield is a strong proponent for increasing in-state agriculture food production.
A legislative memorial urging New Mexico’s congressional delegation to take into consideration the impact of drought when setting federal agriculture policy is being sponsored by Representative Zamora. The memorial emphasizes that the drought is different in the west than it is in other parts of the country and that consideration must be taken in the upcoming federal farm bill.
GO Bond The proposed spending of $50 million in general obligation bonds for conservation projects which would be split among the following six New Mexico state agencies.
Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department – $12 million for conservation easements, forest and watershed projects
Department of Agriculture – $12 million for soil and water conservation districts and healthy soil program
Economic Development Department – $9.5 million for outdoor equity fund and trail project grants
Environment Department – $7 million for river stewardship program
Cultural Affairs – $7 million for property conservation
Game and Fish – $2.5 million for land acquisitions
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