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2021 Law Changes Coming to New Mexico

gold statue of woman holding a sword and the legal scales

As a resident of New Mexico, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the state laws that could impact your life and well-being. At Buckingham & Vega Law Firm, we want to ensure all state residents understand their legal rights, options, and obligations. As a new year approaches, so do new laws. Let’s take a look at the 2021 law changes coming to New Mexico.

New Mexico’s Legislature

The New Mexico Legislature convenes in Santa Fe at noon on the third Tuesday in January of each year. The Legislature holds 60-day sessions in off-numbered years and 30-day sessions in even-numbered years. During the daily sessions, a roll call starts the session, and the session lasts until the immediate business is considered finished. Those sessions are when most of the law amendments and additions are made. The governor, however, can call the Legislature into a special session at any time. The Legislature also has the option of calling itself into an extraordinary session.

State Law Changes for the New Year

For a bill or potential amendment to come into law, there’s a specific process that takes place. First, the bill is introduced in the House of Representatives or Senate. It’s assigned a number, read twice, ordered, printed, and referred to the proper committee. Then, the committee can assign one of the following recommendations: Do Pass, Do Pass As Amended, Do Not Pass, Without Recommendation, or Without Recommendation As Amended.

When a favorable committee report is adopted, the bill is placed on the calendar and scheduled for a third reading. Following a debate, a final vote is recorded and the bill is sent to the other chamber—which repeats the process. After the bill is passed by both houses, it is sent to the governor, who has the ability to sign, veto, or partially veto the bill. The Legislature can override the governor’s veto by a two-thirds vote.

It’s important to note that not all bills go into effect at the same time. Some become law 90 days after the Legislature adjourns, while others take effect at the start of the next fiscal year or calendar year. There’s also an emergency clause that allows a law to become effective immediately.

Waiving Penalties for Withheld Taxes

In an effort to provide economic relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, New Mexico is waiving interest and penalties for withholding taxes due March to July 2020 until April of next year. As long as the taxes are paid by April 25, 2021, previously withheld tax payments will not result in interest or penalties. Several taxes apply to this waiver, including income, corporate, gross receipts, and employer withholding tax.

Taking a Look at Redistricting

Redistricting is the process of drawing new congressional and state legislative boundaries. Those boundaries form what are referred to as districts, which is where we get our three Unites States representatives and 112 state legislators. The House of Representatives is made up of 70 districts, while the State Senate is made up of 42 districts. New Mexico plans to draft and enact new district maps after the competition of the 2020 census.

According to federal law, districts must have nearly equal populations and must not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity. State statutes require that all districts be reasonably compact, not split votes, and attempt to preserve communities of interest and take into consideration political and geographic boundaries. Counts for redistricting will be released by April 1, 2021.

Legalizing Marijuana in 2021

Over the past two years, New Mexico has seen some major law changes in the way of marijuana. For example, in April 2019, SB 323 was signed by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, which decriminalized up to half an ounce of marijuana. The penalty for possessing up to half an ounce is a $50 civil fine, instead of potential jail time.

In addition to that, in June 2019, New Mexico was one of 33 states to remove criminal penalties for the use of medical marijuana and the state’s Department of Health added additional qualifying conditions to the state’s medical cannabis program, raising the total to 28.

While the legalization of marijuana was on the 2020 agenda, SB 115 was unable to make it through the legislature in its short 30-day session. The bill was approved by the Senate Public Affairs Committee but was tabled by the Senate Judiciary Committee just days before the 2020 session ended. Now, the focus will shift to legalizing marijuana in 2021. Polling suggests that the majority of state residents support legalizing, taxing, and regulating cannabis for adult use.

For more information on state laws, contact Buckingham & Vega Law Firm today.

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