House passes bill to expand contraception access

The state House of Representatives approved a bill to preserve contraception coverage put in place as part of the federal Affordable Care Act and expand some access on a mostly party-line vote Monday evening. Three Republicans—state Reps. Sarah Maestas Barnes and Nate Gentry of Albuquerque and Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences—joined ranks with Democrats to approve the bill. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, would expand access to contraceptives by requiring health insurance plans to allow women to obtain up to 12 months of their birth control prescription at one time. The bill would expand the types of contraceptives available over the counter and include condoms and vasectomies in health insurance plans.

NRA tops lobbyist spending with $44K online ad

No issue in the 2017 New Mexico Legislature has drawn citizens to the Roundhouse like the push to expand mandatory background checks on gun sales. People on both sides of the issue have shown up in droves to committee hearings in both the House and Senate to testify about two bills that would require more gun buyers to go through background checks. And lobbyists for out-of-state organizations on both sides of the issue have spent thousands of dollars to push their positions. In fact, according to lobbyist expense reports filed with the Secretary of State’s Office, the biggest expenditure since the session began in mid-January was $44,377 spent by Tara Reilly-Mica, the Texas-based lobbyist for the National Rifle Association. Reilly-Mica’s report, filed Feb.

Dems name Wirth new Senate Majority Leader

Democrats have made their decision on who will take over as Senate Majority Leader next year after Michael Sanchez lost his reelection bid. The Belen Democrat will be replaced by Peter Wirth, a Democrat from Santa Fe. The Senate Democrats announced the news in a press release Saturday, saying he was elected by acclamation by the caucus. “I am humbled to be elected Majority Leader by my colleagues. Democrats in the Senate are united,” Wirth said in a statement.

Public works wage rate change passes House

A bill that would change the rate of pay for some state funded public works projects passed the House on a 35-32 vote on Tuesday night after a three hour debate. The bill’s sponsor Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell, said her bill would save the state money by allowing the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions to determine wages for publicly funded school and highway construction projects . House Democrats took most of the allotted debate time to speak out against the bill, citing lower wages if the bill becomes law. Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, said the cost saving would come at the cost of lower wages for workers. “One thing is going to happen if this bill is passed,” McCamley said.

Bill to preempt local government on labor decisions advances

A House panel wants the state government to be in charge of most labor decisions. The House Business and Employment Committee advanced a controversial bill that would take power away from local governments when it comes to scheduling employees and on requiring certain levels of benefits. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, advanced on an 11-2 vote, with only two Democrats voting against the legislation. Harper introduced a relatively major change since the last committee hearing; the new version of the legislation no longer included the portion of the bill that would have barred counties and municipalities from raising the minimum wage. Instead, the bill focused on other employment issues, including not allowing local governments to require private employers to provide paid sick leave or a minimum notice for setting employees’ schedules.

‘Three Strikes Law’ expansion passes first committee on party line vote

A high profile bill aimed at expanding New Mexico’s three strikes law passed through its first committee Thursday on party lines. The House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee passed HB 56 4-3. The sponsor of HB 56, Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, told the panel that he was inspired to introduce legislation after a string of violent crimes in Albuquerque last summer. He said he saw it as his duty as a lawmaker to address the issue of repeat offenders. “We are sent here by our constituents first and foremost to protect the citizens of the state of New Mexico,” Pacheco said.

Hemp bill heads to governor’s desk

A bill that would allow research into the growth of industrial hemp passed the House and is now headed to the governor’s desk. The House passed the bill on wide bipartisan vote, 54-12. There was very little debate on the bill that would allow New Mexico State University and the state Department of Agriculture to grow hemp for research purposes. Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, carried the bill on the floor. He had carried a similar bill on the House side.

House committee passes hemp growth legislation

A bill that would allow the growth of industrial hemp for research purposes passed unanimously through a House committee on Wednesday morning. The House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committee committee, made up of mostly Republicans and moderate Democrats, heard Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, present his case for SB 94. The bill would allow New Mexico State University and the state Department of Agriculture to study the viability and logistics of growing industrial hemp. Republican members voiced their reluctance to vote for the bill. McSorley told the committee that it his bill is important to New Mexico and the agricultural industry in order to stay competitive in many markets.

Lobbyist ‘cool-down’ bill clears House floor

A bill that would prohibit lawmakers from becoming lobbyists for two years after leaving their respective position passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 57 to 10. Eight Republican and two Democratic members voted against the bill. HB 241, sponsored by Reps. Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, and Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, would require lawmakers leaving their positions to wait two years before accepting compensation for lobbying services. Of the ten legislators who voted against the bill, only one asked the sponsor questions.

Memorial to denounce wolf recovery plan heads to House floor

A House memorial that would seek to put Mexican Wolf populations under the control of the state instead of the federal government is headed to the House floor. The House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committee voted in favor of HM 117 by a vote of 7 to 2. The memorial, sponsored by Rep. Andy Núñez, R-Hatch, calls on Governor Susana Martinez to denounce the federal Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan and for the state to take over the wolf recovery programs.

The Department of Game and Fish acknowledged in the memorial’s Fiscal Impact Report that the Department of the Interior would be very unlikely to relinquish control of the program to the state. Since the legislation is a memorial, it would only request action by Martinez, not require any action. According to the U.S Fish and Wildlife service, the Mexican Wolf population was almost nonexistent by 1977.