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Capitol Notebook: House Tax and Rev chairman out of action for 2 weeks, maybe more

SANTA FE – Rep. Jim Trujillo, a Santa Fe Democrat, has missed the past two weeks of this year’s 60-day legislative session due to a heart condition that required an emergency medical procedure.

But Trujillo, who chairs the House Taxation and Revenue Committee, has returned to Santa Fe from Denver and is convalescing and “doing better,” his wife said Tuesday.

The absence of the longtime lawmaker – Trujillo has been a member of the House since 2003 – has forced his nephew, Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, to serve as acting chairman of the House tax panel.

It’s also meant Democrats have had one fewer vote on the House floor, where they outnumber Republicans by a 38-32 margin with all members present.

It’s unclear when, or whether, Jim Trujillo will make it back to the Capitol during this year’s session, as his wife told the Journal she was unsure about his return. The 60-day session ends March 18.

TRAPPING DELAY : A bill that would outlaw the trapping of wildlife on public land in New Mexico is being rewritten in response to criticism at a legislative hearing.

Democratic Sen. Pete Campos of Las Vegas withdrew the initiative Tuesday and said it was unlikely to move through the Legislature this year as he seeks out compromises between supporters and critics.

The proposal is generating intense public interest. Crowds carried props, including stuffed animals and a steel trap, as lawmakers discussed whether to adopt misdemeanor and felony penalties for using traps and snares. Exceptions included scientific research and traps used to protect crops and livestock.

Campos says revisions are likely to include more specific identification of recreational areas where trapping would be prohibited. He wants to consult with state game and fish regulators.

BUSY DAY : New Mexico senators had a busy floor session Tuesday.

Senators voted 28-10 to approve a bill aimed at making it easier for people to change the gender marked on their birth certificate, sending it on to the House.

Senate Bill 120, sponsored by Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, allows people to apply to change the gender marked on their vital records with a signed statement from their health care provider, rather than having to undergo reassignment surgery.

They also voted 34-2 in favor of Senate Bill 78, a proposal to prohibit private employers from asking job seekers on an initial application about their history of criminal convictions. The employer still would be allowed to screen for criminal history later in the application process.

That bill is sponsored by Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas.

But senators narrowly rejected a proposal that would have granted extra flexibility to high-performing schools and districts, based on the state’s grading system.

Senate Bill 140, sponsored by Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, failed on a 19-22 vote. Opponents of the proposal, largely Democrats, questioned whether the state’s “A-F” grading system was a valid way to determine which schools get extra flexibility to shorten school days and make other changes.

COURTS: The House late Tuesday approved a bill that would provide $1.6 million in emergency funding to pay for jury trials through the end of the fiscal year. On a voice vote, House members approved the Senate’s version of the bill, and it now heads to Gov. Susana Martinez.