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Gov. Meets, Seeks Lawmakers' Support

By Kate Nash
Journal Capitol Bureau
    SANTA FE— Gov. Bill Richardson met privately with lawmakers Sunday evening at the Capitol as he prepared to call the Legislature into a special session today.
    Richardson, who will control the special session agenda, sought support for his plans to strengthen New Mexico's sex offender laws, adjust the tax code to help economic development and finance some $1.5 billion in transportation projects.
    The governor is expected to issue his formal proclamation for the special legislative session, and spell out his agenda, early today. The session itself was expected to begin at noon. Richardson cannot set the length of a special session, but the constitution limits them to 30 days.
    "I was encouraged," the Democratic governor said in an interview after meeting with legislators. "There were no compromises. I'm encouraged by my discussions with the Republicans and Democrats on moving ahead with an economic growth package, a sex offender package, a road initiative and we'll make some final decisions this (Monday) morning," he said.
    The greatest agreement so far is on the administration's sex offender package, Richardson said.
    The governor's plan would increase probation and parole times for offenders as well as create a Sex Offender Management Board to identify and track offenders. Other proposals would boost jail time for offenders. Richardson emphasized a plan to create a mandatory, three-year minimum sentence for second-degree criminal sexual penetration when the victim is between 13 and 18.
    "I think the sex offender (plan) is coming together," Richardson said. " The other package (economic stimulus) is going to be more complex, but we're making progress."
    The governor is at odds with the recommendations of a 23-member commission that studied New Mexico's tax system and recommended $152 million in net tax increases. Richardson reiterated Sunday that his agenda for the session will not include an increase in the state gasoline tax or a real estate transfer tax.
    Richardson also met with Cabinet members Sunday night and discussed what he said is a tax penalty for single parents.
    He said he would propose that 13,000 single-parent households get a $250 tax cut.