Briefs

‘Feed Bill’ signed into law

By: - January 24, 2024 3:02 am

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham gives her State of the State address on Jan 16. 2024 during the opening day of the legislative session. (Photo by Anna Padilla for Source NM)

The 2024 New Mexico Legislative Session has sent its first bill into the law books.

House Bill 1, affectionately called the “Feed Bill” is a formality required to keep lawmakers, staff and everyone else operating in the Roundhouse during the 30-day session.

It passed each chamber and was sent to the governor six days after the session started. It requests $41 million from the general fund for both the session and interim periods, according to the independent fiscal analysis of the bill.

HB 1 is sponsored by Rep. Gail Chasey (D-Albuquerque). It appropriates $11.7 million to pay for the 30-day legislative session, including staff time, mileage costs for lawmakers and other expenses at the Roundhouse.

It also pays for the interim period between sessions that includes $21.9 million for expenses at legislative offices and $2.1 million for the legislative information system, according to the bill’s fiscal impact report.

The Feed Bill  further contains funding for committee staff at the Legislative Finance Committee and Legislative Education Study Committees, including money for the interim period between sessions.

Chasey said this interim session would be focused on studying each chamber’s staffing methodology for “funding various levels of staff,” to prevent each chamber from poaching from one another.

Staff are leaving for higher-paying jobs, Chasey said.

“There’s been a lot of concern that people we’ve really relied on and we trust and who’s advice we follow, can’t afford to pass up a significant pay differential,” Chasey said.

Other issues include a rapidly growing budget and staff issues. Since 2019, only three positions were added to the Legislative Finance Committee, a group with a heavy workload that includes an independent analysis of any state budget requests.

There were no amendments or substitutions added from the floor or in committees, according to the legislature’s website. Rep. Rod Montoya (R-Farmington) voted against the proposal in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.

“The concern I have is the dramatic increase to the LFC budget increase,” he said, saying the committee requested a 5% increase, but the bill increase is 25%.

Chasey said during the floor debate on Tuesday that rapid growth in state and federal dollars outstripped staffing in oversight positions at the Roundhouse. Chasey said the funds used could increase the number of positions or raise salaries.

The law passed last week and was signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Monday, Jan. 22.

Since it has an emergency clause, it is entered into law immediately.

There were no line-item vetoes by the governor in the final bill.

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Danielle Prokop
Danielle Prokop

Danielle Prokop covers the environment and local government in Southern New Mexico for Source NM. Her coverage has delved into climate crisis on the Rio Grande, water litigation and health impacts from pollution. She is based in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

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