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Panel abaondons year-round daylight saving time

SANTA FE – Time appears to have run out on a bill that would have saved New Mexicans from changing their clocks twice a year.

Under last-minute pressure on lawmakers to convene on the House floor to complete a state budget, the daylight saving time bill withered in the House Judiciary Committee on Friday morning. The bill had already passed the Senate.

Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, chairwoman of the committee, said Friday in a brief morning committee meeting that Senate Bill 239 would require a long discussion that the committee wasn’t likely to have time for.

She said measures to change the state’s Electoral College system and the state Livestock Board enforcement process also were not likely to be heard because they would require lengthy debate.

This year’s bid to keep the state on daylight saving time year-round made it deeper into the session than similar attempts in previous years.

— Maggie Shepard,

ELECTIONS: Voters would head to the polls on the same day every two years to pick school board members and city councilors under a proposal endorsed by the state Senate on Friday.

Supporters say it would boost turnout because people would have one Election Day to keep track of instead of heading to the polls several times over the course of a year for separate elections for schools, cities and other nonpartisan agencies.

The election would be held in November of odd-numbered years. General elections – in which voters fill state and federal offices – would remain in even years.

The bill, however, allows cities to opt out if they still want to hold separate elections.

Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, said the consolidation of elections would reduce costs and confusion. School elections draw as little as 2 percent turnout, he said.

“This is a good deal for the voters,” Ivey-Soto said.

The proposal won approval on a 28-10 vote. The measure now goes to the governor.

— Dan McKay,

SOLITARY: New limits on the use of solitary confinement in New Mexico prisons and jail are headed to the governor’s desk this year.

The Senate on Friday voted 29-3 in favor of a bill that would prohibit solitary confinement for inmates who are pregnant, under 18 years old or struggling with a serious mental illnesses, with just a few exceptions.

The proposal, sponsored by Democratic Reps. Antonio “Moe” Maestas of Albuquerque and Patricia Lundstrom of Gallup, had already cleared the House.

The Senate made a minor change to the bill, but the House quickly agreed late Friday. It’s labeled House Bill 175.

Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, said government agencies in New Mexico have spent $26 million as a result of litigation over solitary confinement – evidence of the need for a new law.

“This is about humane treatment for people who are in our prison system,” Papen said.

— Dan McKay

VETOES: The state House joined the Senate early Friday by announcing that two of its bills are law, despite the governor’s veto.

House Majority Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, said the governor’s vetoes of two House bills came too late to block the legislation.

The bills in questions are House Bills 126, which centers on medical student loans, and 144, which focuses on industrial hemp.

Gov. Susana Martinez, of course, says her vetoes are legally valid.

— Dan McKay