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Health insurance tax resurfaces in amended bill

The Roundhouse has been fenced off during the 2021 legislative session, and signs warn pedestrians against trespassing (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE — The state House early Friday morning voted to revive a proposal that had been stalled in the Senate by adding it as an amendment to a separate bill.

Republican legislators immediately accused the majority Democrats of manipulating the rules.

The debate initially centered on Senate Bill 317, which would prohibit copays and other cost sharing for people with insurance who seek behavioral health services.

The measure had already passed the Senate and was up in the House for final approval.

Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, proposed — and won approval for — an amendment that essentially added separate legislation to the bill.

Her proposed amendment is strikingly similar to another bill she had proposed, House Bill 122, which passed the House earlier this month but is now awaiting a committee hearing in the Senate.

The proposal would raise a state health insurance tax and dedicate much of the revenue to programs aimed at making health care more affordable. It would essentially replace a federal fee that was repealed.

Republicans protested, arguing the amendment would violate the state Constitution by tacking new legislation onto an existing bill.

But the House parliamentarian, Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Corrales, ruled that the amendment was permissible because it’s on the same topic — health insurance — as the original Senate bill.

The newly revised Senate bill won approval 43-26 and will head back to the Senate for consideration of the House changes.

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