March 21, 2009 Legislature Roundup

The Santa Fe New Mexican

Days remaining in session: Session ends at noon today

From the Roundhouse to the Coliseum: An international peace
organization has invited Gov. Bill Richardson to Rome to honor him for
signing House Bill 285, which abolishes the death penalty. In a letter
from Mario Marazziti, a spokesman for the Community of Sant’Egidio,
Richardson is invited to a ceremony in the Roman Coliseum.

“We are aware of how heavy a decision on this issue must be, and we
trust in you, in your foresight and in your moral and political
strength. We would like to express our solidarity and our availability
to make known to the whole world your decision, that we hope is a
positive one, regarding the abolition of the death penalty in New
Mexico.”

A spokesman for the governor said his office has yet to receive the
letter, which was dated March 16 — two days before he signed the bill.
Gilbert Gallegos said he doesn’t know if Richardson would be able to
attend.

Open records by e-mail: The Senate on Friday unanimously approved a
House measure (HB 534) that recognizes e-mails as official written
requests under the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act. A few
state agencies in the past have refused to recognize e-mails as written
requests.

I heard that lonesome whistle blow: The House has approved a
measure (SB653) that allows trains that are traveling in Santa Fe to
ring their warning bells for a shorter amount of time. Currently, the
bells — used instead of the train’s horn in quiet zones — must be
engaged when a train traveling slower than 40 mph is within 1,300 feet
of a crossing. The bill would change that to within 300 feet. The bill
goes to the governor for his signature.

Cleaner cars: Lawmakers are sending Gov. Bill Richardson SB548,
a proposal to delay tougher emission requirements for cleaner-burning
automobiles.

California-developed emission requirements are to start in New Mexico
with 2011 model cars, light trucks and sport utility vehicles. That
will be pushed back two years — to 2013 model vehicles — under a bill
that cleared the Legislature on Friday.

Supporters say the delay will give time for the federal government to
develop new national standards and help auto dealers, who worry their
business will be hurt if car prices go up because of the emission
limits and consumers buy new vehicles outside of New Mexico.

Richardson advocated the tougher emission requirements to help fight
global warming. The New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board adopted
the standards in 2007.

However, a Bush administration regulatory decision blocked California —
and other states — from setting their greenhouse gas limits on car
emissions. Obama administration regulators have been asked to reserve
the decision.

The House approved the bill 51-16 on Friday. It passed the Senate earlier in the session.

Insurance coverage for autism clears Legislature: Some New
Mexico families with autistic children will be able get insurance
coverage for autism if the governor signs a bill (SB39) the Legislature
approved Friday.

The measure requires private insurance policies to provide coverage for
treating and diagnosing autism. It excludes public employees and
companies with self-insured policies, such as some large corporations.

Rep. Joni Marie Gutierrez, D-Mesilla, estimated the coverage will cost
about $15 a month. About 20 percent of New Mexicans have private
insurance policies.

Opponents objected that not all insurance will be required to cover autism, but Gutierrez said “this is a start.”

“I think we will include this in our public policy very soon,” she said.

The House approved the Senate-passed bill on a 51-15 vote. The bill
goes to Gov. Richardson, who will have until early April to decide
whether to sign it.

Quote of the day:
“I’m just thinking about going home and getting to a matanza because I’m missing it.”
— Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen.