State Rep. Joshua Hernandez was impressed by the bipartisanship of the 2023 New Mexico legislative session, he said during a Legislative Conversation roundup Friday.
The Republican representing District 60 who just finished his third session said this year was “different, in a good way … I feel like there was a lot more willingness to work across the aisle, there was a lot more, kind of a push for bipartisanship,” he said, adding that the leadership this year worked really well together, changing the dynamic for the positive.
“I think when you look at some of the bills that got through, it’s clearly evident that it was better for the New Mexico people as well,” Hernandez said.
However, when it came to the bills themselves, there were mixed results in his mind.
- Health care: Hernandez was happy with several health care bills that passed this session. “You know, we had problems that were facing every health care provider in our state, regardless of size or location. The biggest thing I think that got through this year was the med mal fix … to kind of fix the biggest problem facing health care.”
He also noted a bill he sponsored that fixed credentialing loopholes. He said sometimes providers were waiting more than 200 days for reimbursement, and his bill closed that time to 30 days. “That should help keep health care providers in the state because now they’re not having to way, you know, over six months in some cases to be able to see patients or be reimbursed to see patients,” he said.
Another health care issue he was happy with was a plan that allows professionals in the field to get help on their student loans. “Some other states are doing that too, but we’re hoping that the changes that we made will kind of take us up on the priority list for doctors,” Hernandez said.
- Tax package: Hernandez was pleased to see that the percentage required in each tax bracket was lowered this session, saying that everybody’s going to get a small tax cut. He also noted the $500 checks residents will be getting, and again noted the bipartisanship in the package’s development “to really make good tax changes that will affect everyday New Mexicans.”
- Economic development: Hernandez said this was one of his big pushes, citing the creation of the Office of Entrepreneurship within the Economic Development Department. “That should help small, young businesses really be able to navigate this system that right now there’s not enough help for, so I’m hoping that that will help businesses not only be able to open but be able to survive those first crucial years as well,” he said.
- Crime: “Crime was one of the biggest things that people were concerned about, and it’s a growing problem,” Hernandez said. “We, the Legislature, really only passed one comprehensive crime bill, which was the organized retail crime, which was desperately needed, but you know, there was another bill that I sponsored to try to help combat the catalytic converter theft that is becoming a huge problem here. But that’s really about it that passed through the Legislature, so you know, there was a good amount of crime bills, and they were just getting tabled one after another with no real talk on how we kind of make crime less of an issue. That, to me, just shows that the Legislature or members of the Legislature are not taking crime seriously.”
- CYFD: Hernandez was also disappointed more bills regarding transparency at Children, Youth and Families Department did not go through. “You know, children are dying in CYFD custody, and there was some really good ideas out there, and I don’t know that a single meaningful CYFD bill actually passed, and we have to do something,” he said.
- Education: While Hernandez was happy about “taking care of our teachers and teachers’ assistants,” he is still disappointed with the state’s ranking. “We’re still 51st in the nation, and we as a state Legislature — that’s the Executive, that’s the school boards — we need to take a real hard, deep look into why we’re 51st, and there was some bills for education; not a lot passed.”
- Public safety: He was also disappointed that a bill streamlining communications for first responders didn’t pass, saying it’s something he will continue to work on in upcoming sessions. “That’s a responsibility of all of us is to make sure that everyone has access to public safety, and this bill would have made that more of a reality,” he said.
- Public safety: “I will continue to support public safety,” Hernandez said. “It’s kind of an ever-evolving thing that we need to always kind to stay up on.”
- Economic development: Hernandez said this topic includes a lot of areas but stressed that the state needs to work on diversifying the economy and site readiness so “when a company is ready to come here, we have a site that they can build on or that they can move into and get going as fast and easy as possible,” he said, noting that workforce development will play a “huge part of that.”
And that’s where, he said, community colleges and Career Technical Education (CTE) will come in. “There’s a lot of kids that college is not the right move for them. We need to support as many of these students being successful when they get out of either high school or college as possible,” he said.
- Infrastructure and energy: “We have a lot of infrastructure here that needs help, whether that’s roads or rail or you know, any of that, water, electricity,” Hernandez said. “One of the other things that we need to be focusing on — I didn’t realize how bad I was until some conversations I had this year — is our energy sources, so I’m supportive of any energy sources that we can get our hands on, whether that’s oil and gas, renewable or nuclear or geothermal or any of he new advanced energy stuff that’s coming up.
“Our energy sources are in bad shape, and we really need to look at a long-term plan for what energy looks like in our state. We’re unique in the fact that we have over 300 days of sunshine, we have certain areas that are very windy,” he continued.
But he said that state needs to also look at alternative styles of energy such as small modular nuclear reactors and geothermal and anything else that may come up on the horizon. “We can really start looking into a lot of this stuff as our kind of energy future, and that may not just include providing energy for New Mexico,” Hernandez said. “If we dot it right, we could provide energy outside of our local grids and really help the Southwest in energy production, and that could be something really good for our state.”