Stay engaged during 2017 legislative session

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If you think a partial reinstatement of the death penalty in New Mexico should be a priority, at least one GOP lawmaker has a legislative session for you. The highly divisive issue is back on the table, even though its revival during last year’s contentious special session gained little to no traction. We believe bringing back capital punishment would simply add additional costs to a judicial system already overwhelmed by the state’s budget deficit and, despite horrific crimes in the state last year, is unnecessary.

The 2017 legislative session at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe begins Jan. 17. It is a 60-day session that ends March 18. We encourage all Taos County residents to stay informed and connected on the issues their representatives in New Mexico will work on during those two months. The issues matter greatly to the health and future of the state and to Taos County.

Another ultra-divisive issue, gun regulation, is being teed up, too. A Republican state senator filed legislation that would allow individuals to carry a concealed handgun without a concealed carry license if they already meet certain requirements. And Democratic lawmakers still want to close the so-called gun show loophole by requiring federal background checks on most private firearms transactions.

There is one issue in particular, however, that seems to have the attention of Taos County residents as well as many others across the state — medical cannabis expansion and marijuana legalization.

To guarantee an adequate supply of marijuana for those in the medical cannabis program, the amounts that licensed producers in New Mexico would be allowed to grow could more than double under a bill filed in the state Senate. And patients in the state program would be permitted to possess more marijuana. Wait times and approvals have hamstrung many in the program for months with dire consequences. It’s a big concern in Taos County with our high number of veterans in the program.

And while lawmakers have killed previous marijuana legalization efforts, with Gov. Susana Martinez stating her opposition to any legalization similar to what Colorado and other states have implemented, legalization could gain traction anew with Democrats in power.

Speaking of Martinez, she unveiled her $6.09 billion budget proposal this week. While other issues are important, the session will likely be consumed by concerns about the state’s depleted coffers. The governor’s proposal has already been criticized for what amounts to a reduction in take-home pay for tens of thousands of state employees and teachers by forcing increased retirement plan contributions and reductions of the state’s contributions by 3.5 percent. It’s been flatly called a pay cut.

There are many more issues that will arise during the two-month haul that begins next week. We encourage our readers to stay involved in a number of ways.

Our sister paper, The Santa Fe New Mexican, and its reporters will be in the trenches for the entirety of the session providing day-to-day coverage. We will present their stories and some of our own through March 18 and beyond. Stories will appear in our weekly print edition and on our website at taosnews.com.

Stay connected with your legislators and the governor’s office, too. The “contact us” link at nmlegis.gov has contact information for you to access if you have a concern or want to give lawmakers and the governor your feedback. Send us a “My Turn” or letter-to-the-editor submission. Those can be sent through our website or directly to editor@taosnews.com. Visit our website and pick up a copy of The Taos News for the latest coming out of Santa Fe.

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