New Mexico bills cover fuel tax, overweight zones, 'kill switches'

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Tuesday, January 06, 2015

New Mexico state lawmakers will soon open the 2015 regular session and among the bills that are expected to be considered are measures to increase fuel tax rates, extend ports of entry overweight zones, and require smartphone manufacturers to include a way to disable the phones when they’re lost or stolen.

Rep. Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales, D-Taos, chairman of the House Transportation and Public Works Committee, has filed a bill for consideration that would raise revenue for road work via a nickel increase in the state’s fuel tax rates.

Currently, the state’s excise tax on gas is 17 cents per gallon and the tax on diesel is 21 cents per gallon. The rates have remained unchanged since 1995.

Gonzales’ bill, HB58, would increase the tax rates by one penny per gallon annually over five years until the excise rates reach 22 and 26 cents, respectively.

The tax increases would raise about $70 million a year, according to state estimates.

A separate bill, SB52, would extend the overweight zone at the three ports of entry on the state’s border with Mexico. The ports are in Antelope Wells, Columbus and Santa Teresa.

Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, filed a bill that would extend the zone from six miles to 12 miles for loads with a gross weight up to 96,000 pounds.

Revenue from fees for special permits are routed to the state road fund.

Another bill would require smartphone manufacturers to add the capability of downloading a shut-off function, or “kill switch,” to all new devices sold in the state.

The kill switch function allows smartphone owners to remotely disable their devices if they are lost or stolen, rendering them useless to thieves. Owners can later reverse the function.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, about one-third of robberies in the U.S. involve phone theft. Lost and stolen mobile devices cost consumers more than $30 billion a year ago.

California and Minnesota have already adopted rules to mandate that smartphone manufacturers make the kill switch function available.

In New Mexico, the bill from Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Bernalillo, would apply to all new devices sold in the state starting in July 2016. SB67 would also prohibit retailers from paying cash for electronic devices.

The regular session is scheduled to begin on Jan. 20.

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