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March 8, 2017

House passes measure to reinstate solar tax creditLas Cruces Sun News

A bipartisan measure that would reinstate a tax credit aimed at boosting roof-top solar installations in New Mexico has cleared one legislative chamber. The House voted 36-31 Monday evening in favor of the HB 61, which would renew the state's solar market development tax credit for another eight years. It would set a cap of $5 million for solar thermal and solar photovoltaic systems. -- 3/8/2017


A hot race: NM works to beat out Colo. for 'chile' license plate -- Las Cruces Sun News

New Mexico legislators are racing against time — and Colorado — to have the first specialty license plate featuring chiles. House Bill 393 was amended to include an emergency clause to ensure that the plates are available to New Mexicans before being produced in neighboring Colorado. An emergency clause means that the bill will become effective immediately after it is signed by Gov. Susana Martinez. - - 3/8/17


NM lawmakers debate naming ‘official state dance’Las Cruces Sun News

New Mexico Senate Democrats are debating SB 449 to name an official state dance despite a deadline to pass more pressing bills. The Democratic-controlled Senate Rules Committee on Monday approved a measure to identify “La Marcha de los Novios” as the state’s official dance number. - - 3/8/17


Raising cigarette taxes will help classroomsLas Cruces Sun News

New Mexico has a unique opportunity to accomplish two important goals for our state by simply raising taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products. First, we can substantially strengthen our children’s classrooms, which have been hit with cuts worth tens of millions of dollars since 2008. Second, we can make sure that more than 11,000 additional kids never even become smokers, and more than 10,000 current adult smokers will quit, significantly lowering overall health costs. Senate Bill 231, would increase the tax on cigarettes by $1.50 per pack, with an equivalent increase in other tobacco products including e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco. The tax on a pack of cigarettes would increase from $1.66 to $3.16. It will produce new revenues of $89 million annually for our state. -- 3/8/2017

March 7, 2017

Bill to protect teacher absences on to governorLas Cruces Sun News

Legislation to protect teachers from being penalized for using their sick leave days is now on its way to the desk of Gov. Susana Martinez. HB 241, known as the “Teachers Are Human Too” bill, passed unanimously in the Senate after originally clearing the House on a 64-3 vote. The bill will add language to the School Personnel Act that would prevent teacher sick or personal leave days from negatively affecting their annual performance evaluations. -- 3/7/2017


Ethics commission proposal advances in New MexicoLas Cruces Sun News

A proposed constitutional amendment HJR 8, to create an independent ethics commission in New Mexico picked up endorsements from top legislative leaders on Monday as it moves toward the House floor for a vote. Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf promised to expedite a House vote to ensure time for Senate consideration before the Legislature adjourns March 18, as the House Judiciary Committee unanimously endorsed the plan. -- 3/7/2017


Local lawmakers seek to aid outdoor recreationLas Cruces Sun News

Legislators Rep. Nathan Small and Sen. Jeff Steinborn are part of a bipartisan effort to create a new state office dedicated to outdoor recreation. Small, D-Las Cruces, is joining with Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, in sponsoring House Memorial 91; and Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, is joining with Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, in sponsoring Senate Memorial 130. Both measures call for a study regarding a new Office of Outdoor Recreation. -- 3/7/2017


Abortion restriction bills fall in committee – Las Cruces Sun News

Two bills that would have placed additional restrictions or qualifications on abortions were both killed Sunday in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee, according to a press release from House Democrats. House Bill 220 would have prohibited abortions following the 20th week of pregnancy. House Bill 221 would have required a parent or legal guardian to be notified at least 48 hours before an abortion is performed on a minor age 17 or younger. An exception would have been granted in cases of rape or incest, or if notification would have endangered the life or health of the mother. -- 3/7/2017

March 6, 2017

New Mexico lawmakers push for rural broadband expansionLas Cruces Sun News

Legislation designed to expand broadband internet access to the farthest reaches of New Mexico was sent to the governor for consideration on Friday. The state Senate approved a trio of bills including SB 308 designed to accelerate expansion of broadband infrastructure. One bill sent to Republican Gov. Susana Martinez would ensure an opportunity to insert broadband conduit underground any time trenches are dug to access utility lines. -- 3/6/2017


Democrats push assisted suicide proposal in New MexicoLas Cruces Sun News

Democrats are pushing a proposal that would allow terminally ill patients in New Mexico to end their lives with help from doctors regarding SB 252. The measure — opposed the Catholic Church and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez — would prevent New Mexico doctors from facing prosecution in such cases. In June, the New Mexico Supreme Court refused to overturn the state's existing assisted suicide law, meaning that aiding such deaths remains a fourth-degree felony. -- 3/6/2017


Senate approves New Mexico bill on guns, domestic violenceLas Cruces Sun News

The New Mexico Senate has approved Senate Bill 259 to require people involved in domestic violence situations to surrender their guns and prohibit them from buying guns while a protective order is in effect. The Senate's 25-15 vote Saturday sends the bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces to the House for consideration. -- 3/6/2017


New Mexico House OKs minimum wage hike to $9.25Las Cruces Sun News

The New Mexico House of Representatives has endorsed a proposal to increase the statewide minimum wage to $9.25 an hour from $7.50. The House endorsed the increase on Friday, days after the Senate voted for SB 36 to raise the base wage to $9. The Legislature has until the end of the session on March 18 to come up with a compromise. -- 3/6/2017


Realtors closely watching legislative activitiesLas Cruces Sun News

The Realtors Association of New Mexico has its collective eye focused on upwards of 140 bills that are winding their way through the current legislative session in Santa Fe.

Among the bills on the association’s radar is SB387, which would increase the number of years of experience required to become a Qualifying Broker from two to four and imposes additional education requirements on applicants.

 SB244 and HB374, which amend disclosure requirements, provide alternative dispute resolution methods, and cap fees that HOAs may charge for issuing financial disclosure documents to prospective purchasers.

SB343 Provisions include reducing the corporate income tax, increasing tax credits for working families, reinstating gross receipts taxes on food and healthcare practitioner services, and instituting a transfer tax on the sale of real property.

Senate Bill 125 would exempt auctioneers who auction real property from working under the control of a licensed real estate broker, eliminating the need for auctioneers to be licensed brokers.

House Bill 199 and Senate Bill 210 provide for additional disclosures to property owners who purchase or finance solar panels.

HB146, will makes it a crime to exploit vulnerable adults by misappropriating, misusing, transferring or selling their property.

HB205 alters building code rules to allow occupancy of vacant commercial buildings by small businesses, reduces compliance costs, encourages rural economic development, and prohibits municipalities from enacting contrary ordinances.

HB362, would require the licensing of home inspectors. New Mexico is one of only 11 states that do not license home inspectors, according to the National Association of Home Inspectors. -- 3/6/2017


Abortion restriction bills fall in committeeLas Cruces Sun News

Two bills that would have placed additional restrictions or qualifications on abortions were both killed Sunday in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee, according to a press release from House Democrats. House Bill 220 would have prohibited abortions following the 20th week of pregnancy. House Bill 221 would have required a parent or legal guardian to be notified at least 48 hours before an abortion is performed on a minor age 17 or younger. An exception would have been granted in cases of rape or incest, or if notification would have endangered the life or health of the mother. -- 3/6/2017


Latest try to bring back death penalty stallsLas Cruces Sun News

The latest effort to revive the death penalty in New Mexico (HB 7) was tabled Sunday in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee on a 3-2 vote. The New Mexico Legislature abolished the death penalty in 2009. -- 3/6/2017

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 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

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