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79 new laws from 2015 session take effect today

SANTA FE – Seventy-nine new laws hit the books in New Mexico today, ranging from Medicaid services for prison inmates to the sale of distilled spirits in state museums and on municipal golf courses.

The new laws, some of which will be only partly implemented today and fully enacted later, also include a ban on the sale of electronic cigarettes – or e-cigarettes – to minors.

In addition, more lobbyist information must be posted and readily retrievable online from Secretary of State Dianna Duran’s office.

Ken Ortiz, the secretary of state’s chief of staff, said that the office’s current website complies with the new requirement but that the lobbyist index will be refined and improved by an outside vendor within the next year.

The new law specifically requires that lobbyist registrations and expenditure reports be available in “searchable and downloadable” formats on the secretary of state’s website.

The 79 new laws stem from bills approved during this year’s 60-day legislative session and signed into law by Gov. Susana Martinez. More new laws will take effect July 1, the start of the state’s new budget year, and at the start of 2016.

A few bills, such as the measure that pays for legislative session costs, take effect immediately upon signing.

Of the laws taking effect today, the statute that will allow thousands of inmates to apply for Medicaid coverage during their incarceration and be eligible for services upon release could have one of the biggest impacts.

Advocates have said the law could curb recidivism levels, because many released inmates will now be able to receive medical services and behavioral health treatment immediately after they leave prison.

The Human Services Department has not previously accepted applications from inmates for the joint federal-state health care program.

HSD, however, has been working for several years with corrections officials on helping inmates to apply, or reapply, for Medicaid once they’re released, agency spokesman Matt Kennicott said.

“We will continue to train as many staff at the 10 correctional facilities, 13 juvenile detention centers, and 29 county jails as are needed and requested,” Kennicott said Thursday.

Under the new law, Medicaid can also now be used to cover inpatient hospital stays for eligible inmates.

But basic health care costs will still not be covered. Such care is typically paid for by local counties or municipalities.

The number of New Mexicans enrolled in Medicaid has swelled since the state opted to expand its Medicaid ranks starting in January 2014.

As of May 31, there were 798,397 New Mexicans – or more than one-third of the state’s population – enrolled in Medicaid, according to HSD.

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