March 5, 2009 Legislative tidbits

Days remaining in session: 16

Webcasting progress: The Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday approved SR3, which would allow webcasting from the Senate floor. The measure now goes to the Senate floor for debate.

Meanwhile, another lawmaker is webcasting from House committee meetings. Rep. Dennis Kintigh, R-Roswell, is sending out video of meetings at www.nmgov.tv

Fresh produce: A measure (SB264) approved by the Senate on Tuesday would help rural food outlet owners buy or lease energy-efficient refrigeration equipment so they can sell fresh produce.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis, said the measure aims to help people eat healthier.

“Some New Mexicans travel up to 140 miles round trip to their closest grocery store to buy fresh fruit and vegetables,” he said in a statement. “This assistance would make it easier for them to buy the fresh produce that is so critical to people’s nutrition and health.”

The bill now goes to the House.

Greenhouse gas: A bill (HB 653) that would allow the state Environment Improvement Board to establish rules for reducing greenhouse gas emissions was saved from the graveyard by a House floor vote.

The Energy and Natural Resources Committee gave the bill a thumbs down after a more than two-hour debate, but the House rejected the committee’s recommendation and voted to move the bill on to the House Judiciary Committee.

Eminent domain: The House on Wednesday approved a bill prohibiting municipalities from using eminent domain to acquire private water rights outside municipal boundaries. House Bill 40, sponsored by Rep. Paul C. Bandy, R-Aztec, as amended, would still allow a municipality to condemn water rights within its boundaries.

The New Mexico Municipal League has expressed reservations about the bill, claiming it could increase the cost of developing water facilities, purchasing water rights and meeting the requirements of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The bill goes next to the Senate where the ongoing support of Sen. Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, who sponsored a similar measure in 2007, is considered critical.

High-tech overseas voting: New Mexico voters who are overseas during an election would be able to cast absentee ballots electronically under a bill passed by the House on Wednesday. HB487, sponsored by Rep. Nathan Cote, D-Las Cruces, passed the House by a vote of 56 to 9.

“This bill would give voters living overseas the choice to mail in their absentee ballot or transmit their ballot by electronic transmission,” Cote said. “We want to make it as convenient as possible for our citizens to exercise their right to vote.”

Those voting electronically would have to sign a statement, under penalty of perjury, waiving their right to secrecy and transmit the statement with the ballot to the county clerk no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day

The bill heads to the Senate.

Looking Ahead: Today