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Capitol Notebook: Lawmakers approve adding peppers to license plates

SANTA FE – With red and green chile saturating nearly every facet of life in New Mexico, a legislative panel is supporting a measure to adorn special license plates with the hot peppers.

The House Transportation and Public Works Committee on Thursday gave a favorable recommendation to the legislation sponsored by Republican Rep. Cathrynn Brown of Carlsbad.

Brown says most New Mexicans can’t go a day without enjoying chile and a new license plate would recognize the popular peppers.

Researchers say New Mexico’s soil and weather combine to give peppers grown in the state a unique flavor and character.

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Under the bill, vehicle owners would pay an annual $35 fee for the plate. Some of the revenue would go toward manufacturing costs, while most would be used for educational programs at the state Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum.

TABLED: A bill seeking to increase New Mexico’s voter rolls by tying driver’s licenses to voter registration was derailed Thursday in a House committee.

Two Democratic lawmakers – Reps. Debbie Rodella of Espanola and Daymon Ely of Corrales – joined with GOP members of the House Local Government, Elections, Land Grants and Cultural Affairs Committee in voting to table the bill.

The sponsor of House Bill 28, Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-Albuquerque, had described the automatic voter registration measure as seeking to “modernize” the state’s voter registration system.

It called for all New Mexicans with driver’s licenses to be added to the state’s voter rolls, provided they were eligible to vote. Those wishing not to be registered would have had to opt out.

The bill was supported by Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, but critics pointed out that New Mexicans can already register to vote at Motor Vehicle Division offices statewide.

Prescriptions: A proposal aimed at harnessing the state government’s purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices won a bipartisan endorsement Thursday from the Senate Public Affairs Committee.

In a written statement, Sen. Jeff Steinborn, sponsor of Senate Bill 354, said that “negotiating for lower drug prices is just common sense, and urgent. By doing so, we could literally save the state millions of dollars every year.”

The proposal would establish an Interagency Pharmaceutical Purchasing Council to help negotiate bulk purchases.

It won a recommendation of passage on a 7-0 vote and now heads to the Judiciary Committee. If passed there, it would head to the Senate floor.

Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, is co-sponsoring the bill.

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