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New Mexico News Plus

March 3, 2017

New Mexico Senate wants lower marijuana-possession penaltiesLas Cruces Sun News

Criminal penalties in New Mexico for possession of small amounts of marijuana would be replaced with a $50 fine under SB 258 approved by the state Senate. The Senate voted Thursday to replace penalties including possible jail time for low-level marijuana possession violations with a purely monetary penalty. -- 3/3/2017


New Mexico Senate OKs bill that would raise tax on gasoline- Las Cruces Sun News

A clash about whether to increase taxes in New Mexico escalated Thursday as the Democratic-led state Senate pushed forward with a proposal to raise more money from taxes on gasoline, diesel and vehicle sales. Joined by three Republicans, Democratic senators approved SB 132 that would provide $183 million to shore up state general fund reserves and boost funding for road maintenance. -- 3/3/2017


NM Unit Fund legislative authorization bill clears Senate Conservation Committee – Las Cruces Sun News

A bipartisan bill to require legislatively approved budgets in Gila River diversion project planning cleared the Senate Conservation Committee on Tuesday. The bill moves to the Senate Finance Committee. Sponsored by Senator Howie Morales, D, District 28, Senator Sander Rue, R, District 23, and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D, District 25, Senate Bill 340 requires legislative oversight of the NM Unit Fund and forces the Interstate Stream Commission to report the details of its actual and planned uses of the fund. -- 3/3/2017

February 28, 2017

Senate passes bill to protect health providersLas Cruces Sun News

The New Mexico Senate passed legislation Monday to establish new procedures and protections for health care providers that are accused of fraud or overbilling. Senate Bill 217 will ensure that health care providers accused of fraud get the chance to review the allegations made against them in an administrative hearing, before action is taken against them. - - 2/28/2017


Lawmakers say NM could save millions on drugsLas Cruces Sun News

New Mexico could save $100 million a year in prescription drug costs by requiring all state agencies and benefit providers to negotiate for bulk purchasing discounts, according to Dr. Martin Hickey, CEO of New Mexico Health Connections. Hickey was speaking last week in favor of Senate Bill 354, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Steinborn and Rep. Joanne Ferrary, both D-Las Cruces that would create a new pharmaceuticals purchasing council to develop cost-cutting strategies for drug purchases. The council would be part of the General Services Department, and would include members from 11 state agencies and entities. - - 2/28/2017

March 1, 2017

Capital spending reform bill clears committeeLas Cruces Sun News

With business and union lobbyists backing it, a bill aimed at reforming the Legislature’s allocation of infrastructure money passed the Senate Rules Committee on Friday. After a 4-2 vote, Senate Bill 262 next goes to the Senate Finance Committee. Two Republicans, Sens. Cliff Pirtle, of Roswell, and Mark Moores, of Albuquerque, opposed the measure. - - 3/1/2017


Bill for solar panels on state buildings OK'd - Las Cruces Sun News

The New Mexico Senate approved legislation Monday that paves the way toward the installation of solar panels on every state building, despite the concerns of some senators as to what the bill might mean for our national symbol. During floor debate, Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, expressed concern for the whooping cranes that might be killed by all the new solar panels. When asked by Sen. Jeff Steinborn, Senate Bill 227 sponsor, if he was confusing solar powers for wind turbines, Muñoz insisted he was not. - - 3/1/2017


Bill to legalize marijuana dies in House committee - Las Cruces Sun News

The attempt to legalize marijuana in New Mexico died Monday evening in the House Business and Industry Committee. House Bill 89, which would have established a regulatory framework for the legal production, processing and sales of marijuana and industrial hemp, was tabled following a debate of about 2 ½ hours in committee. - - 3/1/2017


Bills to cap small loan interest rates stall - Las Cruces Sun News

A bill to cap small loan interest rates at 36 percent was tabled Monday in the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee. Senate Bill 15 was tabled 5-2, with Democrats Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, and Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, joining the effort to kill the bill, Soules said. Also Monday, a companion bill died in the House Business and Industry Committee, getting passed over without even a discussion. - - 3/1/2017


March 2, 2017

Bill to expand voter registration clears SenateLas Cruces Sun News

The New Mexico Senate passed legislation Wednesday that would allow residents to register to vote up to three days before the start of an election, and then cast a ballot that same day. Current law requires voters to be registered at least 28 days before an election to be eligible. Senate Bill 224, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, passed the Senate on a 19-11 vote. Several members of the Senate Finance Committee were in committee at the time of the vote, and were marked as “excused.” - - 3/2/2017


New Mexico Senate OKs minimum wage hike- Las Cruces Sun News

A Democrat-led push to raise New Mexico's minimum wage for the first time since 2009 cleared the state Senate on Wednesday, with limited resistance from Republican lawmakers. The Senate-approved Bill 386 would raise the pay floor from $7.50 an hour to $9. In a compromise between labor and business interests, the proposal includes an $8 hourly training wage for the first two months of employment and leave out any future adjustments for inflation. - - 3/2/2017


Bill demonstrates healthcare challenge for NM - Las Cruces Sun News

Sponsored by Republican Rep. Paul Bandy of Aztec and supported by GOP Gov. Susana Martinez,  House Bill 316 seeks to reduce state spending on Medicaid by pushing hundreds of people off a little-known state program – the New Mexico Medical Insurance Pool, also called the “high-risk pool” — and onto the state’s health insurance exchange. The high-risk pool currently offers health coverage for the sickest of the sick, more than 2,700 people who suffer from heart disease, cancer, Hepatitis C, neurological disorders and HIV/AIDS. - - 3/2/2017

February 24, 2017

NM panel backs special chile pepper license plateLas Cruces Sun News

With red and green chile saturating nearly every facet of life in New Mexico, a legislative panel on Thursday put its support behind a measure that calls for the creation of a special license plate adorned with the hot peppers. The House Transportation and Public Works Committee gave a favorable recommendation for HB 393 sponsored by Republican Rep. Cathrynn Brown of Carlsbad. -- 2/24/2017


Bill to consolidate early ed programs stalls - Las Cruces Sun News

While legislators debate how to fund early childhood education programs, some think more efficiency and better services can be achieved by consolidating early childhood programs. Senate Bill 106 would create a cabinet-level Early Childhood Services Department with oversight of existing programs like home visiting and pre-kindergarten that are currently scattered through various state agencies. -- 2/24/2017


Bill could reduce JMA's funding - Las Cruces Sun News

A bill currently awaiting a hearing with the Senate Finance Committee could reduce program funding for some charter schools if passed, including Carlsbad's Jefferson Montessori Academy. According to the SB 30 Legislative Education Study Committee Bill Analysis, SB 30 would make changes to the New Mexico Public Education Department's public school funding formula. The changes would result in a reduction in the number of program units each charter school and school district receive. The reduction would take place over a five-year period. -- 2/24/2017


New Mexico lawmakers seek new powers for oil regulators - Las Cruces Sun News

New Mexico would restore one agency's authority to impose administrative penalties against oil and natural gas well operators in connection with petroleum and wastewater spills, under Senate Bill 307 endorsed by a Senate panel on Thursday. -- 2/24/2017


Lawmakers tackle payday lendingLas Cruces Sun News

For the past several years efforts have been made at the State Legislature to cap interest rates imposed by New Mexico’s small-loan industry, alternately called storefront lenders or payday lenders. The lenders make loans of $2,500 or less, with often extremely high interest rates and short pay-back periods. And typically their customers are low-income New Mexicans who need quick cash to help pay bills. “It would help my constituency because they would no longer have those predatory lenders,” Lundstrom said of House Bill 347. “We’d be eliminating a lot of those predatory lenders.” -- 2/24/2017


NM Democrats block booze ban for DWI convicts - Las Cruces Sun News

A Democratic-control House committee blocked a proposal Thursday that would have banned alcohol for New Mexico’s repeat drunken drivers and created one of the most restrictive DWI laws in the country. By a 3-2 vote along party lines, The House Consumer and Public Affairs tabled HB 271 that would have mandated a lifetime alcohol ban for those convicted of a third drunken driving conviction. -- 2/24/2017