Monday's Capitol Recap: Heading into 'final phase' of the Legislature

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Feb. 12—SANTA FE — Just days remain in the 2024 Legislature, so senators and representatives are pulling long hours to get bills passed through the chambers for a chance to become law.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said the parties need to work together to get through these last 3 1/2 days, the "final phase" of the Legislature.

The Senate passed four bills on Monday, including the budget and tax package.

The House passed five bills in its afternoon session before meeting again in the evening. Legislators had their heads in the clouds Monday evening as they debated a pilot program intended to increase precipitation around the state using a technology called "cloud seeding." After voting in favor the program, they launched into a debate on Senate amendments to the 7-day waiting period for firearm sales.

Additionally, lawmakers plan to try again with the controversial Strategic Water Supply that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is pushing, now via a dummy bill after it was cut from the capital outlay package. Announced during the floor session, the bill has to make it through the Senate Conservation and Senate Finance Committees to have a chance at the full floor and then the House side — all in less than three days.

Senate

Passed

HB2&3, General Appropriation Act of 2024, 31-10

This proposed $10.22 billion budget would set aside dollars for state government to operate in fiscal year 2025, including for education, public safety, the environment and health care. It's a $36.1 million increase from the House version of the budget.

HB252, Adjust Income Tax Brackets, 26-13

There are a slew of tax credits and changes included in this year's proposed tax package, including clean energy credits and reduced personal income tax. Notably, there is no increase to the alcohol excise tax included, despite legislation that would have done so having failed to move forward last week in the Roundhouse.

HB193, Law Enforcement Retention Disbursements, 38-0

This bill would change the Law Enforcement Retention Fund, aiming to better recruit and retain law enforcement officers. Lawmakers earlier in the session removed the $1 million appropriation originally included in the bill because it's part of the budget that passed on the floor on Monday.

Having passed the Senate side of the Roundhouse with no changes, it now goes to the governor.

SB146, Hospital Acceptance of Health Plans, 21-16

This bill would require county hospitals and contracting hospitals to provide affordable payment plans under certain circumstances, such as if a provider is the only one in the county who can provide life-saving treatment or if the patient is uninsured.

Bill sponsor Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, said about half the original bill was cut on the floor after working with lawmakers for a better chance to pass the legislation.

House

Passed

HB190, Public Private Partnership Agreements, 56-9

The bill would allow for public and private partnership agreements on certain infrastructure projects, including broadband, electric vehicle charging stations and road construction. Several representatives said the partnerships could fast-track work on construction projects.

Rep. Matthew McQueen, R-Galisteo, introduced two amendments. Although one failed, another, which would prohibit public officials who received campaign donations from a private company from participating in the process, was successful — avoiding a "pay to play" system, McQueen said.

HB165, Pharmacy Provider Reimbursement, 66-0

The bill would allow independent and local pharmacies to reap the same reimbursement rates as corporate pharmacies from Medicaid managed care organizations. Proponents say it would put small pharmacies on the same playing field as Walmart, CVS and other big box pharmacies. Several representatives shared stories about small pharmacies closing in their communities.

HB181, Life & Health Insurance Guaranty Act Changes, 61-1

This bill would expand the Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Association Act, which was intended to protect consumers if their insurance provider goes into debt. The changes would expand membership to include people using health maintenance organizations to cover their health care.

HB186, Car Crash Reporting Damage Amount, 62-0

Car accidents would only have to be reported to the New Mexico Department of Transportation if $1,000 worth of property damage occurred. Currently, the threshold for a written report, which was last changed in 1991, is $500.

HB239, Cannabis as Prison Contraband, 57-4

The bill would add cannabis to a list of prohibited contraband in correctional facilities. If cannabis is not prescription or isn't brought into the facility through "regular channels," it could be a felony crime to possess in New Mexico jails or prisons.

HB130, Cloud Seeding Pilot Program, 61-6

The bill would create a 3-year "cloud seeding" program — a weather modification program with the goal of increasing precipitation. The Department of Agriculture, in partnership with the Roosevelt Soil and Water Conservation District, would oversee the project, which aims to address drought, increase water supply and mitigate the effects of climate change in the state, according to the fiscal impact report.

The proposed budget, HB2, sets aside $1 million to the program.