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Governor Says No Special Session If Health Plan Modified

By Barry Massey/
Associated Press
      
    SANTA FE — Gov. Bill Richardson said Tuesday he may call a special session of the Legislature unless lawmakers make a change in a health care proposal.
    The legislation, which is pending in the Senate, is a weakened version of the governor's plan for expanding health coverage in the state.
    The governor flatly said he would not call lawmakers back to work in a special session if they revised the House-passed health care measure. He described the bill as a "reasonable compromise.''
    He said he would accept the measure if lawmakers revise a provision to allow the governor to appoint the executive director of a proposed health care authority.
    Currently, the bill calls for the 11 voting board members of the authority to hire the executive director. The governor would appoint five members of the board and the Legislature would name five. The state insurance superintendent, who works for the independent Public Regulation Commission, also would serve as a voting member.
    The Legislature adjourns Thursday.
    Richardson said much of the authority's duties are executive branch functions and the governor should name its top staffer.
    The authority would develop a plan and recommendations by July 2010 for expanding health care coverage. The governor's initial plan would have given the authority broad powers to set policies for expanding health care to all New Mexicans, but the House-passed bill doesn't provide the rule-making power.
    "It's time for the Legislature to compromise,'' said Richardson, who maintained he has "compromised significantly.''
    Many lawmakers are troubled about the potential costs of a universal health care plan as advocated by the governor. The House-passed measure lacks key provisions sought by Richardson to require individuals to obtain insurance coverage through private insurance or enrollment in a taxpayer-subsidized program and to mandate businesses to contribute to a fund if they didn't offer insurance to their workers.
    Richardson said he would press the Legislature in 2009 to address the employer payment mandate and insurance requirement if lawmakers approve an acceptable health care bill this session.
    The governor hinted that he would call a special session if lawmakers fail to make he change he wants for the appointment of the authority's executive director.
    "I don't pose veiled threats. I've had special sessions before,'' Richardson said. " And I'd say the odds are, if there is insufficient action on health care reform, there will be a special session.''


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