Four Sandoval County lawmakers agree economic recovery is going to be a hot topic in this year’s legislative session.
The Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Rio Rancho Observer and hosted a virtual forum called “2021 Legislative Preview” Thursday night. The forum is on the chamber’s Facebook page.
State legislators Sen. Craig Brandt, District 40; Sen. Benny Shendo, District 22; Rep. Daymon Ely, District 23; and Rep. Joshua Hernandez, District 60, participated.

Daymon Ely

Ely stressed the importance of both parties working together, saying this is related to the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
“I do think it is our job as elected representatives and senators to try, as best we can, to turn down the toxic relationship between the parties,” he said.
Over 30,000 jobs have been lost in the restaurant industry, Hernandez said, and “we need to find a way to get people safely back to work.”
What the state is doing now is not working and is harming businesses, Brandt said. To help, he would like to reduce regulations.
“This is really interesting, so 33 states, without having to go to the legislature, their liquor divisions were able to say, ‘For this time being, under these emergency orders, we will let you do home delivery (of alcoholic beverages),’ but our state wouldn’t; not that they couldn’t, that they wouldn’t,” he said.
Ely said he would agree, except it is not a regulation; it is a law.
“We have a problem generally with our liquor licenses that we need to address; we created a monopoly that is just not sustainable,” he said.

Benny Shendo Jr.

Ely would also like to see recreational marijuana legalized, as Arizona and Colorado have done.
“We are spending a lot of money locking people up that go across the border to Colorado and now to Arizona, and (states) are making money and people can buy it legally and it is another thing we could do to kind of stop over-regulating, over-criminalizing things,” he said.

Local Economic Development Act
LEDA is an economic development program that helps fund infrastructure/improvement, job-creator and rural retail projects, according to the New Mexico Economic Development Department’s website.

In the 2021 legislative session, Shendo would like to see LEDA be fully funded and available to more small businesses. He said LEDA is being used for companies with high-paying jobs and rural areas are being overlooked.
“I think we have had enough years to figure out what things are working and we can tweak the program in a way that all of us can benefit,” he said,

Joshua Hernandez

 Anti-donation clause
The anti-donation clause in the New Mexico State Constitution prohibits the state from giving money directly to small businesses and other private entities.
To work around this clause in June, legislators took roughly $450 million out of the severance tax permanent fund and used about $400 million for a small-business loan with low interest rates.
“And it was used, but not as much as we thought. So what happened was, there is going to be about close to $350 million that is available to either continue the small-business loan or do other things that might help business, and remember as part of that small-business loan, one of the things that we passed was that business would not be charged an extra rate as people went on unemployment,” Ely said.
The legislature can waive unemployment fees for restaurants without violating the anti-donation clause, he said.
The 55th Legislature’s session will run Jan. 19-March 20.

Craig Brandt

Staff writer at Rio Rancho Observer