Feb. 11, 2009 Legislative tidbits

Days remaining in session: 38

Go hemp

A measure introduced by Rep. Ray Begaye, D-Shiprock, would set up guidelines for the “growing, licensing, selling and processing of industrial hemp in the State of New Mexico.” House Bill 403 would spend $150,000. Of that, $100,000 would go to New Mexico State University to set up a seed bank and a seed certification so the program would meet the Industrial Hemp Farming Act. The other $50,000 would go to the Department of Public Safety to set up a program related to the growth and sale of industrial hemp. The bill is before the House Business and Industry Committee.

Hispanic Affairs would be its own department

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, is sponsoring a measure (Senate Bill 21) to set up an Hispanic Affairs Department. The measure appropriates $700,000 and would set up a 10-member Hispanic Affairs Commission. The measure, which has been introduced in the past, is pending in the Senate Finance Committee. Tuesday was Hispanic Culture Day at the Roundhouse.

Looking Ahead:

• A measure that would enhance the felony sentences of public officials is set to be considered this morning by the Senate Rules Committee.

The bill (SB 141) would ramp up the penalties for public officials convicted of wrongdoing.

“Public officials who violate the public trust while receiving a salary from taxpayers should receive a greater punishment than just the basic sentence,” said Senate Minority Whip Bill Payne, R-Albuquerque. “Being fined the amount of their salary and benefits might make these corrupt officials think twice about violating corruption laws.”

According to the measure, a guilty elected official’s sentence may be increased by an additional fine that could be as much as the salary and benefits paid to the offender.

• If you’ve been following your local lawmakers but want to hear from the state’s Congressional delegation, stay tuned. Sen. Jeff Bingaman will address the House and Senate on Feb. 20 while Rep. Ben Ray Lujan will be in Santa Fe