Insurance handout is coming, say backers of health fund bill that stalled

New Mexico legislators are giving a handout to insurance companies, say backers of a bill designed to create a fund for the uninsured. 

The bill passed the House floor 41 to 25 earlier this week but failed to make it to the Senate Finance Committee agenda by Wednesday evening. It has to go through that committee before reaching the Senate floor. The legislative session ends at noon on Thursday. Adriann Barboa, spokesperson for a coalition of nonprofits serving the vulnerable called New Mexico Together for Health Care, called  HB 278 a “one-time opportunity” for New Mexicans to get nearly everyone in the state insured. The federal government made a change to give a tax rebate to insurance companies this year.

House GOP unveil budget proposal which would divert money from Legislature’s retirement

State House Republicans unveiled a spending plan for the upcoming special legislative session that would transfer $12.5 million from the state Legislative Retirement Fund to the general fund to solve the New Mexico’s budget shortfall. Martinez announced the special session will begin Wednesday, May 24. GOP House leaders announced the plan publicly in a press release Tuesday, touting it as a solution to fix the state’s budget issues without raising taxes. “This plan covers New Mexico’s budget needs for the upcoming fiscal year and increases funding for cancer care as well as support for students working to obtain a college degree,” state Rep. Larry Larrañaga, R-Albuquerque, said in a statement. “I urge my colleagues in the Legislature to adopt these proposals so we can resolve this budget impasse fairly and for the benefit of all New Mexicans.”

But the ranking lawmaker in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee questioned whether the Legislature could legally transfer money already invested the retirement fund.

House, Senate tensions remain high

Two press conferences on Wednesday at the midpoint of the session showed deep divides between leadership in the House and Senate haven’t gone away. A top state senator said all the House GOP tough on crime bills passed could cost between $3 million and $5 million if they become law. But John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, added that he doesn’t yet have an empirical number and his estimates were based on talks with judges and court officials. “We do know there is a cost,” Smith said in a Senate Democratic press conference Wednesday morning. Smith, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, mentioned a DWI reform bill that passed both chambers and became law years ago that was promised not to cost any extra money.

Report: NM fourth-most dangerous state in the U.S.

New Mexico is once again the fourth-most dangerous state in the country, at least according to the latest yearly survey of violent crime by 24/7 Wall Street. The annual survey from the financial news website is based mainly from violent crime rates from the FBI 2014 Uniform Crime Report, which is the most comprehensive look at crime in the nation. It will be sure to fuel the effort from New Mexico Republican legislative leadership and Gov. Susana Martinez to pass “tough on crime” bills this upcoming legislative session. Republicans this session are supporting a tougher state “three strikes” law against violent repeat offenders, adding law enforcement officers as a protected class in the state’s Human Rights Act and increasing their pay. “The data clearly shows that violent crime in New Mexico is too high, and we need to do something about it,” State Rep. Larry Larrañaga, R-Albuquerque, said in a prepared statement from House Republicans.