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February 8, 2016

Legislative Roundup 2/6/2016Las Cruces Sun News

Qualified sheriffs: County sheriffs in New Mexico would have to have a minimum of seven years of law enforcement experience if a bill introduced by Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, becomes law. Senate Bill 203 also would require that sheriffs be at least 21 years old, be a resident of the county and not be a convicted felon. Anyone who had been recalled from a public office also would not be qualified. – 2/8/2016

Lobbyist disclosure: Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, has been trying for two years to pass a bill to require legislative lobbyists to disclose more information about themselves. On Saturday, the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee voted to move his House Bill 137 onto its next committee with no recommendation. This bill, one of three lobbyist bills sponsored by Steinborn this year, would require lobbyists to list each legislator who receives a gift, meal or other expenditure from them. – 2/8/2016

Anti-abortion bill defeated:The House Health Committee voted 6-4 Saturday to block Bill 275 that would have required state workers to inspect abortion clinics to determine if infants "born alive" after abortion attempts were then being killed by medical professionals. – 2/8/2016

Brittany Alert: The Senate on Friday unanimously passed a bill that would create a law enforcement notification system for when someone with severe physical, mental or developmental disabilities is reported missing. Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, said SB 21 is named for Brittany Redford-Gonzales -- a developmentally disabled 25-year-old Edgewood woman with the intellectual capacity of an 11-year-old who went missing for 18 days. She was 200 miles from home with an ex-boyfriend when authorities discovered her location. Police couldn't issue an Amber Alert because Redford-Gonzales was too old. – 2/8/2016

February 4, 2016

Legislative RoundupLas Cruces Sun News

Hemp Bills:

Legislators in both parties were excited last year about a bill they overwhelmingly approved to authorize research of industrial hemp. They said it eventually would invigorate farms and commercial businesses. But Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the hemp bill of 2015, and she has not authorized similar measures for consideration in this year's short legislative session.

Rep. Bealquin "Bill" Gomez, D-La Mesa sponsoring HB 148, and Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque sponsoring SB 3, say they are frustrated that the hemp bills they filed this year are going nowhere. – 2/4/2016

Voter ID:

            Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell, is running for secretary of state, and now she is co-sponsoring a bill to require most people to have photo identification to vote in person. Exceptions would exist for members of tribes and pueblos. Espinoza and Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Carlsbad, introduced HB 312 legislation Tuesday. – 2/4/2016

Teacher pay:

The Senate Education Committee gave a do-pass to an amended bill sponsored by Sen. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, that would provide a one-time $2,000 starting salary for teachers and principals. Senate Bill 14 initially was intended to phase in salary increases over several years, but Stewart told the committee she changed that plan due to the economic realities facing New Mexico. "Everybody in the state is going to have to tighten their belts and this [amendment] reflects that austerity," Stewart told the committee. – 2/4/2016


Senate Bill 114 sponsored by Sen. Ron Griggs, R-Alamogordo, that would create adjunct teaching licenses so experts can teach part-time in grades 7-12 passed the Senate Education Committee by a 5-4 vote. Griggs says his bill would alleviate teacher shortages while giving students the benefit of learning from business and industry experts. – 2/4/2016

February 2, 2016

Legislature Roundup: Feb. 2Las Cruces Sun News

Bail reform:The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday evening voted 7-2 for a proposed constitutional amendment for HJR 13 expressly allowing judges to release nonviolent, indigent defendants to be released from jail without bail. A second component of the measure would permit judges to deny bail to defendants who they believe to be violent. – 2/2/2016

New license bill: Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, and Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, who last year co-sponsored a bill to create a two-tiered driver's license system, introduced a new version Monday. Senate Bill 256 differs from the bill they carried last year. It would give U.S. citizens who reside in New Mexico the option to choose a driving privilege card or a license that complies with the REAL ID Act, a national identification system. Undocumented immigrants would be eligible for a privilege card. – 2/2/2016

Jayden's Law: HB 72 meant to ensure that judges have a complete view of a violent criminal's prior record, including juvenile records, passed the House Monday by a 65-0 vote. – 2/2/2016

January 28, 2016

GOP-controlled NM House passes REAL ID bill- Las Cruces Sun News

A Republican-sponsored bill aimed at putting New Mexico in compliance with the federal REAL ID Act passed in the House on Wednesday despite objections from immigrant advocates and an uncertain future in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The proposal was approved by a largely 39-30 party vote after moving through two committees in the first week of the 30-day legislative session, highlighting anxieties lawmakers have about the future of the state's driver's licenses.

Under the proposal sponsored by Republican Albuquerque Rep. Paul Pacheco, New Mexico would begin to issue REAL ID-compliant licenses and end the practice of granting state driver's licenses to immigrants in the country illegally. Instead, the bill would allow such immigrants to obtain "driver's permit cards." -- 1/28/2016


Bill to cut taxes for oil, gas clears hurdleLas Cruces Sun News

House Bill 107 that would offer a tax break to what one lawmaker calls the "little guys" of the oil and gas industry cleared its first hurdle Wednesday when the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee voted 6-5 in favor of it, with Republicans saying the measure could help save small wells and environmentalists decrying it as a bailout. The bill proposes cuts to some state taxes for aging wells that generate under 10 barrels of oil per day. -- 1/28/2016

January 27, 2016

House panel endorses adding cops to hate-crimes- Las Cruces Sun News

House Bill 95 to add police officers as a protected class under New Mexico's hate crimes law cleared a Republican-controlled House committee Tuesday after a debate about whether attacks against law-enforcement professionals should be included in a law meant to apply to inherent characteristics such as race.

The legislation comes against a background of public outcry over recent high-profile fatal attacks on police officers in New Mexico and elsewhere. While national data show a general decline over the past decade in the number of officers killed by gunfire in the line of duty, law enforcement officials say they increasingly fear they are being targeted because they wear a uniform. -- 1/27/2016


'Three strikes bill' heads for House floor vote- Las Cruces Sun News

A bill to expand New Mexico's "three strikes" law to send more repeat criminals to prison for life terms cleared the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday in a 7-4 party-line vote. Democrats opposed House Bill 56 by Republican Rep. Paul Pacheco, a retired Albuquerque police officer. Their main criticisms were that the measure would further clog an underfunded court system as more defendants seek trials, and that it could inadvertently ensnare some nonviolent criminals who need not occupy a prison cell for decades. -- 1/27/2016


Bill would ban solitary confinement for youth- Las Cruces Sun News

Even before President Barack Obama on Tuesday barred federal prisons from putting juveniles in solitary confinement, two state legislators had filed bills to create similar restrictions in New Mexico. Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, and Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas, D-Albuquerque, want to prohibit New Mexico jails and prisons from placing inmates 18 and younger in solitary confinement. They also are proposing other restrictions, including banning jails and prisons from holding inmates with "a serious mental illness" in isolation.

Both proposals to reduce the use of solitary confinement are long shots to clear the Legislature in a 30-day session, especially because bills on crime and harsher punishment are a dominant theme in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. -- 1/27/2016


House bill to hold back poor readers advances- Las Cruces Sun News

House Bill 67  that calls for holding back some third-grade students who don't show proficiency in reading at their grade level cleared its first hurdle Tuesday after the House Education Committee recommended approval of the measure in a 6-4 vote along party lines.

This followed a 6-6 vote that momentarily stalled the bill. Both times, Republicans voted to move the bill forward, and Democrats voted to kill it. According to a witness, two Democrats left the room after the initial vote and were not present for the second round. -- 1/27/2016

January 22, 2016

House driver's license bill clears committeeLas Cruces Sun News

A Republican-majority House committee approved a bill Thursday that would make New Mexico driver's licenses compliant with the federal Real ID Act and allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driving privilege card.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, and Andy Nuñez, R-Hatch, passed its first hurdle with a 4-3 vote in the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee after a nearly three-hour debate. It now goes to the House Judiciary Committee.

Both supporters and opponents of the bill spoke passionately about its potential impact during the hearing. Republicans argued it will make licenses compliant with federal requirements and still allow undocumented immigrants to legally drive. Meanwhile, Democrats blamed Republicans for targeting undocumented immigrants while trying to use the pretext that they are simply trying to comply with federal regulations. -- 1/22/2016


New Mexico legislative session costs $5.4 millionLas Cruces Sun News

New Mexico lawmakers have approved funding for the ongoing 30-day legislative session with a slight increase in spending. The $5.4 million appropriations bill was approved unanimously Thursday by the House and Senate and awaits the governor’s signature.

The measure is known as the “feed bill” and traditionally is the first piece of legislation approved during annual legislative sessions. It increases spending by about 1 percent over the previous 30-day session in 2014. That includes salaries for staff and expenses for legislators. Legislators don’t receive an annual salary but are reimbursed for expenses. Last year’s 60-day session cost nearly $9.4 million. -- 1/22/2016


Legislative Roundup: Jan. 22Las Cruces Sun News

House Republicans closed ranks Thursday to advance one of their crime-and-punishment bills, a measure that would add 11 felonies to the "Three Strikes" law for imposing life prison sentences. All four Republicans on the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee voted for the bill by Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque. The three Democrats on the panel voted against it.

Pacheco says the existing Three Strikes law doesn't adequately punish repeat offenders. So his bill would increase the number of crimes that would count as a "strike." They would include voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, aggravated arson and aggravated burglary. Pacheco's bill moves next to the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque, also has introduced a bill to add more crimes to the existing Three Strikes law. -- 1/22/2016

January 21, 2016

For Isleta Pueblo, New Land Means New Opportunities -- KUNM

Across the country, Native American tribes are regaining parts of their ancestral land. It’s part of a push by the Obama administration to return half a million acres of territory to tribes.

Isleta Pueblo’s territory just grew by 50 percent as part of that initiative, and leaders there are looking at new ways to use their land as an economic engine. -- 1/21/2016


Plan calls for operations to resume at WIPP in 2016 -- Santa Fe New Mexican

Some operations at the federal government's troubled nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico could resume by the end of 2016 under a plan approved by U.S. Department of Energy officials, but critics voiced concerns Thursday about whether the facility would be ready to safely reopen.

The plan approved by the DOE's field office in Carlsbad, New Mexico, addresses recovery activities at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, day-to-day operations and maintenance as well as the installation of a ventilation system needed before the underground facility resumes work related to the long-term storage of radioactive waste. -- 1/21/2016