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Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Around the Roundhouse

Staff and Wire Reports
    TIME SHORT FOR OPENING MEETINGS
    SANTA FE The Senate Rules Committee still plans to take up a bill to open legislative conference committee meetings to the public, but supporters are fearful.
    The bill (HCR 1) was approved by the House but has been awaiting consideration by the Senate committees on rules and the judiciary, with adjournment of this year's legislative session coming at noon Saturday.
    House Minority Floor Leader Ted Hobbs, R-Albuquerque, said he thinks the Senate intends to shelve the bill.
    "They killed it last time and they will kill it this time," Hobbs said.
    This is the 12th year supporters have pushed for the measure.
    Senate Rules Committee chairwoman Linda Lopez said she plans to hear the bill this week.
    "We're trying to make it through the calendar," she said. "I'm hoping we'll get to it by Thursday."
    Conference committees are used to negotiate and resolve differences on legislation between House and Senate versions.
   

    SENATE TO GET GREEN PARTY BILL
    SANTA FE Legislation making it tougher for the Green Party to remain a major party in New Mexico is headed for the Senate floor.
    The Rules Committee approved the bill Tuesday after altering it.
    As passed by the House, the bill sponsored by House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe required a major party to have a membership of not less than 10 percent of the registered voters in the state. The Rules Committee lowered the threshold to 4 percent.
    That would require the Greens to have between 38,000 and 40,000 members, according to party representatives. There are now about 11,500 registered Green voters.
    Greens say Democrats who regard them as "spoilers" taking away Democratic votes want to wipe them out as a major party.
    Under current law, a major political party must have a membership of one-third of 1 percent of registered voters and a candidate for governor or president who got at least 5 percent of the vote in the most recent general election.
    The Greens' gubernatorial candidate, David Bacon, got 5 percent of the vote in November.
    Panel OKs Limit
    On Duke City
    SANTA FE The House Government and Urban Affairs Committee has approved a measure that would reduce Albuquerque's zoning and annexation powers.
    The bill (SB 241) had been amended to apply to Santa Fe and Las Cruces but was amended again Tuesday to include only Albuquerque.
    The measure now goes to the House floor for consideration.
    Track Bill Shelved
    By Senate Panel
    SANTA FE A House-passed bill to expand slot operations at non-Indian horseracing tracks has been shelved by the Senate Judiciary Committee after fierce opposition by Indian casinos and gambling opponents.
    However, tribal representatives said Tuesday they expect racetrack proponents to try to blast the bill to the Senate floor before the Legislature adjourns at noon on Saturday. Such a move, if successful, would thwart the committee action, which voted 8-2 to table the bill.
    The bill would allow the state's four horseracing tracks each of which has a state-authorized casino with up to a maximum of 750 machines to extend the hours of their slot operations from 84 to 100 a week.