With the start of the legislative session just more than a month away, several of the Chamber’s Sector Advocacy Teams (SATs) mobilized last week, meeting with industry experts and Chamber members to discuss the important issues likely to come up during the session.
The SATs will work to develop recommendations for the Chamber’s advocacy efforts better aligning and bringing together the Chamber’s public policy efforts with the specific needs of eight strategically identified industry sectors—construction/realtors/developers, entrepreneurism, manufacturing, healthcare, finance and financial services, professional services, hospitality/tourism and retail/services/business development.
Over two days late last week, the first four of eight meetings were held with a distinct goal—sharing and understanding legislative priorities and other issues facing the industry. And as the days unfolded, numerous legislative focuses and industry concerns emerged. Below are the highlights from each SAT meeting. The final four meetings will be held next week.
There were a number of speakers at this initial meeting including;Mike Puelle, Associated General Contractors, Lynne Anderson, NAIOP, Randy Traynor, Lobbyist NAIOP, Roxanne Rivera-Wiest, Associated Builders and Contractors, Dale Dekker, Home Builders Association and Cathy Colvin, Realtors Association of New Mexico.
CONTRACTORS/REALTORS/DEVELOPERS’ AREAS OF FOCUS/CONCERN/LEGISLATIVE WATCH:
P3 Legislation--would provide a clearer framework to getting more projects funded. Public-private partnerships allow local and state government to enter into long-term partnerships with private companies to build such things as schools, libraries, water projects, roads, government offices and recreation facilities.
Changing copper theft from a misdemeanor offense to a felony—for many in the construction business, a “minor” copper theft of $200 worth of material, can cost the contractor tens of thousands and in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs and delays.
Statute of repose—the statute would limit the amount of time contractors are responsible for construction defects.
Requiring home inspectors to be licensed—currently home inspectors in New Mexico are not subject to special licensing.
Subcontractor prequalification package—legislation that will make it easier to build. Subcontractors would be allowed to fill out a packet once per year rather than per job, eliminating duplicative financial and time requirements.
Preemption legislation— would provide for state government to be in charge of most labor decisions—such as paid sick leave and minimum wage—rather than individual municipalities, eliminating a “patchwork” of laws from one city to the next.
Industry experts who presented include: Mike Puelle, AGC; Lynne Anderson, NAIOP; Randy Traynor, Lobbyist for NAIOP; Roxanne Rivera-Wiest, ABC; Dale Dekker, Home Builders Association; Cathy Colvin, Realtors Association of NM.
Terri Cole, Becky Prescott, Tom Antram and Cindy McGill join in on a roundtable discussion for the Manufacturing SAT.
MANUFACTURING EXPERTS’ AREAS OF FOCUS/CONCERN/LEGISLATIVE WATCH:
Water—Water is often an issue of contention during a legislative session and always a consideration as it pertains to new companies moving to the state or existing companies expanding. Brian Burnett of Bohannan Huston explained that the business community often engages on water-related bills from a defensive strategy. He offered flag words that the group should be mindful of when considering support or opposition to water-related legislation. Among many others, these included: watershed restoration, public-private partnerships (P3), cost share, brackish water, senior water rights, and water infrastructure.
Workforce—according to Jennifer Sinsabaugh from the New Mexico MEP (Manufacturing Extension Partnership), the number one issue for manufacturers is the lack of a career-ready workforce. Employers statewide have jobs open but potential employees can’t pass basic math skills assessments, drug tests or felony background tests. Prospective employees also lack important soft- and problem-solving skills.
Jobs Training Incentive Program (JTIP) and Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) funds—according to many in the SAT group, companies are often discouraged from applying for these funds due to the amount of paperwork involved in the process. The group offered the need to simplify the process to encourage more companies to apply for the incentives.
Telecommunication Modernization—this legislation, endorsed by the Jobs Council, creates a regulatory environment where all telecom providers in the state are regulated in the same way. Cellular use in New Mexico surpassed POTS (plain old telephone service) users in 2013, but land line providers, like CenturyLink, are still governed by the 1985 Telecommunication Act.
Universal Service Fund Accountability Bill—would allow the Universal Service Fund to be used for broadband networks. Currently, the fee is 4.5%, applied to phone bills, and generates about $23-$24 million per year. Only rural telecommunication providers can access the Universal Service Fund, but there is no accountability to ensure its being used as intended. The legislation would vastly improve broadband access in the state.
Open trenching—New Mexico does not currently participate in open trenching unlike nearby states. This legislation would amend a section of the Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) to allow for broadband infrastructure development in areas with “open trenches” due to construction or road projects, for example. A broadband provider would be allowed to come in and pull fiber through conduit that the government entity would purchase. Government-purchased conduit could conflict with New Mexico’s anti-donation clause, so this bill would serve as enabling legislation.
Industry experts who presented include: Brian Burnett, Bohannan Huston; Jennifer Sinsabaugh, New Mexico MEP; Katherine Martinez, CenturyLink.
Farron Sneed, CEO of Lovelace and SAT chair for our Healthcare industry, directed the conversation last week.
HEALTHCARE EXPERTS’ AREAS OF FOCUS/CONCERN/LEGISLATIVE WATCH:
Financing—previous reduction in funding to Medicaid programs resulting in cuts in payments to hospitals. $80m impact in payments to hospitals.
Medicaid—with the expansion of Medicaid, 400,000 people are on the rolls. Currently, about 1 in 3 New Mexicans is on Medicaid. By mid-year next year, that number could be 1 in 2 according to industry experts. Without adequate Medicaid funding, there will be a cost shift to the private sector, and if hospitals can’t adjust their costs to fit their reimbursements, they will be in jeopardy of closing.
Safe staffing act—there is concern that this legislation would be introduced during the session. According to Jeff Dye with the NM Hospital Association, the Act is a way to mandate certain staffing levels as a staff nurse majority would decide staffing levels allowing for management to be usurped.
Tort Reform—would limit the ability of those with a medical claim to “shop” for a venue where they may receive a more favorable opinion. Cases would be limited to the location where care took place or where individual lived.
Legislative Health Human Services bills—the LHHS has endorsed 14 bills including such proposals to care out behavioral health from Medicaid to having a school nurse in each district. Healthcare experts are currently reviewing the legislation.
New Administration—industry experts are keeping a watchful eye on the transitioning Administration with regard to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Industry experts who presented include: Jeff Dye, New Mexico Hospital Association; Dan Weaks, Lobbyist; Dr. Paul Roth, UNM HSC; Sandy Podley, Presbyterian.
Gary Oppedahl, Economic Development, Debbie Johnson, CNM, Stu Rose, BioScience Center discuss the entrepreneurial environment.
ENTREPRENEURIAL EXPERTS’ AREAS OF FOCUS/CONCERN:
Severance Tax Fund—currently the State Investment Council invests about 5% of the allowable 9% of the Severance Tax Fund into differential rate investments.
Catalyst Fund—this fund is made up of $10 million dollars from the SIC, $5 million dollars of federal money that has been converted from an equity fund to a loan fund, and 5 million of private funds. The Catalyst Fund will make investments in other funding organizations that will make investments in companies that will encourage entrepreneurial activities. The challenge is getting approval. It is a matching fund and the organization will need to put up the same amount of money as the Catalyst Fund.
Remote/solo workers—think-tank data show that by 2025-2030, 52% of all work will be done by remote workers. New Mexico can be a very attractive place for remote employees who are interested in relocating for quality of life. Broadband is necessary statewide for employees of the new age.
Industry expert who presented: Harold Lavender, State Investment Council.
Join the Chamber’s Sector Advocacy Teams and influence the business landscape in New Mexico. More meetings will be held next week and then on a recurring basis. The Chamber will consider the industry information presented during the first SAT meetings as it prepares its legislative agenda.
For more information or to sign up, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 505-764-3731.