NM Legislative Roundup February 25th

18 February 2009

NM Legislative Roundup February 25th

Days remaining in session: 24


Convicted officials:
The full Senate is set to consider a measure (SB141) that would ramp up the penalties for public officials convicted of wrongdoing.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill Monday.

If it becomes law, a guilty elected official’s sentence could be increased by an additional fine that could be as much as the salary and benefits paid to the offender.

Senate Minority Whip Payne, R-Albuquerque, is carrying the bill.

Hold the pork:
In light of the state’s financial crisis, Payne says he’s decided he won’t request any capital-outlay money this session.

In a letter to Senate Finance Committee chairman John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, Payne explained his decision.

“One result of this challenge is that New Mexico’s severance tax bonding capacity is a relatively low $135 million, and, as you know, there have been serious discussions about forgoing any capital-outlay funding this year. As the lone member of the Legislature who has introduced no requests to fund capital projects this year, I certainly support that proposal,” he said.

Payne said he wants projects that are funded this year to be related to education.

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, said that’s an idea being considered on his side of the aisle as well.

Same-day registration:
The House Voters and Elections Committee has signed off on a bill (HB52) that would allow same-day voter registration at polling locations for early voting.

“I’m pleased that the committee supported this bill to include more New Mexicans in the electoral process,” Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, said in a statement.

The bill, approved on a 6-5 vote, now goes to the House floor for consideration.

Fighting TB: The House on Tuesday approved a measure that would let the state Department of Health go to court when tuberculosis patients don’t follow treatment guidelines and risk transmitting the disease.

The bill would allow the state agency, which prescribes and administers drugs for TB and monitors patients, to petition a court to require therapy under observation, isolate the patient or both. The proposal requires regular court review of cases and gives patients the right to an attorney. It does not allow forcible administration of medications.

Health Secretary Dr. Alfredo Vigil said after the House passage that the measure gives the state “the authority we need to enforce tuberculosis treatment and protect public safety by preventing the spread of an infectious disease.”

Twenty-nine states have similar laws, one of the measure’s sponsors, Rep. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, told his colleagues in a brief floor discussion.

Car emissions:
The House approved a proposal (HB291) Tuesday to help enforce tougher vehicle-emissions standards the state plans for new cars, light trucks and sport utility vehicles.

The legislation would allow the Motor Vehicle Division to refuse to register a vehicle that doesn’t comply with emission requirements, which are to apply starting with 2011 model cars. Those will become available to consumers next year.

The New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board adopted the standards in 2007 to mandate cleaner-burning cars and trucks to help fight global warming. The emissions requirements were first developed by California. However, the standards are on hold – along with plans by New Mexico and a dozen other states to use the same requirements – while California waits for a federal waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Without the proposed enforcement legislation, New Mexicans could buy a car in another state without the tougher emissions standards and register it New Mexico, said Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, a sponsor of the measure.

Looking ahead:
Today is Film and Digital Media Day at the Roundhouse. Representatives of the industry will have green-screen technology available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the east side of the Capitol. Other representatives will be available to talk about different aspects of the industry.

The annual House-Senate basketball game is set for March 6 at the New Mexico School for the Deaf. The game will be at 7 p.m. in the Larson Gym, 1060 Cerrillos Road. Proceeds go to the UNM Cancer Center.