New Mexico reins in payday loans

The Associated Press
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New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is flanked by advocates as she talks about opioid and heroin overdoses in New Mexico during a bill signing ceremony at a substance abuse treatment center in Albuquerque, N.M., on Thursday, April 6, 2017. Among other things, the bill signed by Martinez requires all state and local law enforcement officers to be equipped with an overdose antidote kit.

SANTA FE — New Mexico is reining in high-interest loans from the storefront lending industry under a bill signed by Gov. Susana Martinez.

Signed on Thursday, the legislation effectively eliminates payday loans by definition and caps interest rates at 175 percent. Small loans that have terms less than 120 days are banned.

Consumer advocates have pushed unsuccessfully to cap interest rates at 36 percent, as a dozen of other states have. Industry lobbyists have voiced concerns about double-digit rates putting storefront lenders out of business.

Data from New Mexico regulation and licensing officials show interest rates on title loans currently range from an average of 238 percent to more than 450 percent. Installment loans can go much higher.


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A proposal to raise New Mexico’s statewide minimum wage to $9.25 an hour from $7.50 has been vetoed.

Gov. Martinez said in a veto message Thursday that small business in rural areas cannot sustain the proposed increase and criticized the Legislature for proposing tax increases at the same time.

Martinez has said she would support a smaller minimum wage increase than those proposed by the Legislature.

The vetoed bill also would have prohibited local ordinances that require advance notice for employee scheduling. Martinez highlighted opposition to that provision from the business community.

The state’s three largest urban areas — Santa Fe, Las Cruces and Albuquerque — already have local minimums. The highest is $11.09 in Santa Fe.


A bill to spur the installation of solar panels on New Mexico state buildings has been vetoed.

Gov. Martinez said in a veto message Thursday the legislation would have required additional agency staff without providing the necessary financial resources. The bill from Democratic Rep. Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces would have directed the New Mexico General Services Department to pursue contracts with solar providers that save the state money on electricity costs over time with no up-front public investment. The General Services Department oversees 750 state buildings.

The environmental group Conservation Voters New Mexico says concerns raised by the Republican governor were addressed in the bill through increased savings on electricity and other measures.


Gov. Martinez has vetoed a bill that would have expanded financial disclosure requirements for lobbyists.

Martinez on Thursday rejected new requirements that lobbyists report expenses under $100 that are spent on lawmakers and other public officials.

In a veto message, Martinez says she supports the intent of the bill but fears it would have several unintended consequences, without further explanation.

Republican and Democratic sponsors of the measure sought to close a loophole in legislation approved last year that otherwise increased reporting requirements for lobbyists. Expenses over $100 including meals must currently be reported periodically to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office.


Gov. Martinez says she vetoed a bill designed to curb the use of solitary confinement in jails and prisons because it could have endangered the lives of inmates and guards. Martinez on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have banned the placement of pregnant women and juveniles in solitary confinement. The bill also would have limited the use of solitary confinement on inmates suffering from mental illness.

The Republican governor and former district attorney says in a veto message that the bill misconstrues isolated confinement and would eliminate needed flexibility for corrections officials. She describes a situation in which a youthful offender might be sentenced to an adult detention facility — posing a danger to the juvenile or other inmates without the flexibility to use restricted housing.


Gov. Martinez has signed at least 65 bills and vetoed more than a dozen more as a deadline approaches for acting on legislation.

The Republican governor on Thursday vetoed a measure aimed at curbing the use of solitary confinement in jails and prisons across New Mexico, while signing a wide variety of legislation from the Democrat-controlled Legislature.

Approved bills are designed to spur investment in high-speed internet access, allow liquor sales when New Year’s Eve falls on a Sunday and give local government new control over curfews and liquor taxes — to describe just a few.

Martinez has until noon Friday to act on a $6.1 billion spending bill and related tax measures. She is promising to veto proposed tax increases.

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