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          Front Page


Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Communities May Benefit From Gaming

Staff and Wire
    SANTA FE Two New Mexico communities would be in line to get a share of gambling revenues from neighboring casinos under a pair of measures unanimously endorsed by the House on Monday.
    The gambling bills moved on to the Senate as the Legislature, with five days remaining before its noon Saturday adjournment of the 60-day session, acted on piles of legislation.
    One of the gambling measures calls for the community of Sunland Park to receive a percentage of the taxes that the Sunland Park horse track pays on the proceeds of slot machines at its casino.
    Rep. Mary Helen Garcia, D-Las Cruces, said the money would help fund infrastructure projects as well as police and fire protection in Sunland Park. Seven-tenths of 1 percent of Sunland Park track's taxes would be given to the community.
    Racetracks in Albuquerque, Farmington and Ruidoso would not be affected by the measure.
    The other measure calls for giving Española about 11 percent of net receipts from gambling revenues generated at San Juan Pueblo's casino. Rep. Nick Salazar, D-San Juan Pueblo, said it would mean an additional $161,000 for Española.
    In other legislative developments Monday and over the weekend:
   
  • Lawmakers sent Gov. Bill Richardson a tax change proposal to generate millions of dollars to help pay for the growing cost of Medicaid. The measure would eliminate an insurance premium tax exemption provided for state payments to Medicaid managed-care companies. The tax plan overall would generate about $30 million.
       
  • A bill (SB 756) that would have made federal workers criminally liable for problems caused by endangered Mexican gray wolves released into the wild was rejected by a Senate committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee tabled the bill, which also sought to allow New Mexicans to kill a wolf that left federal land or threatened, injured or killed people, pets or livestock.
       
  • The House unanimously endorsed a measure to let the state Children, Youth and Families Department do background checks on child-care workers, juvenile corrections employees and foster parents. The checks would include fingerprinting.
       
  • Companies that burn trees and other organic material to produce electricity would receive a tax credit under a measure endorsed by the House. State law currently affords such credits for renewable energy ventures that include solar and wind power. Biomass, which would be added to the list, includes residue from tree-thinning projects, manure and byproducts from a variety of agricultural processes. The Senate has passed a similar bill.
       
  • The House resurrected and approved a proposal to move away from a low-bid system for awarding public works contracts. The measure would allow a "best value" approach for selecting contractors for building projects for the state, cities, counties and school districts. Factors other than price could be considered in awarding a contract. It went to the Senate.
       
  • A proposal to earmark state bonding for water projects was approved by the House. Ten percent of the yearly severance tax bond financing would be available for water projects. House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, said the legislation would provide a stable source of revenue for projects to help meet New Mexico's water needs.
       
  • A measure to help preserve landscapes in New Mexico with historic or cultural significance was approved by the House. It would create a public nonprofit corporation, the Historic Landscape Trust, to identify the landscapes such as a park, plaza, garden or a building grounds that merit protection and preservation in the state. The bill moved on to the Senate.