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Air authority legislation signed by governor

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New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signs a bill Monday in Santa Fe. The governor signed 42 initiatives that were vetoed by her Republican predecessor in previous years that span issues from teacher pensions to child foster care and public disclosures by lobbyists. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

Legislation that could allow establishment of an independent air authority, to oversee the governance of the Roswell International Air Center and other nearby properties, was one of 42 bills signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham Monday.

Lujan Grisham was joined by lawmakers from both parties as she signed the 35 Senate bills and 17 House bills during a bill-signing ceremony in the Capitol Building in Santa Fe, according to a press release.

The bills were part of the “Rocket Docket,” a set of bills fast-tracked through the legislative process.

All legislation on the docket had passed both legislative houses during the previous two legislative sessions by lopsided margins, but was vetoed by then-Gov. Susana Martinez.

Rather than multiple committees, each piece of Rocket Docket legislation went through one committee in each legislative chamber this session before being voted on by the full House and Senate.

Among the bills signed that will have a major impact on the Roswell area is House Bill 229, the Regional Air Center Special Economic District.

The legislation, introduced by local State Reps. Candy Spence Ezzell, Greg Nibert and Phelps Anderson, would allow a city or county in which a former military airfield is located to form a district and appoint five to nine non-elected members to an authority to develop, manage and market a base and nearby properties.

The authority would have the power to issue revenue bonds, impose liens, hire employees and exercise eminent domain.

Ezzell said in an interview after the ceremony that the bill could apply to the Roswell International Air Center and the more than 500,000 acres that make up the former Walker Air Force Base that was decommissioned in 1967.

She said the legislation would enable communities to bring jobs and economic development to decommissioned military installations. She added it could also provide opportunities for Eastern New Mexico State University-Roswell’s aviation programs.

“Right now, we will see great success out there with jobs that will be held locally by the people who do live in that area,” she said.

Nibert also said in a text message Monday that he is pleased the bill was passed.

“It is out of our hands and now the city and county have the difficult task of seeing if such an authority is feasible in our community and negotiating an agreement to accomplish the formation of an authority,” he said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.