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Thursday, March 20, 2003

Around the Roundhouse

The Associated Press
    LAWMAKERS PASS FILM MEASURE
    SANTA FE Movie production companies would be eligible for in-plant training funds under a bill lawmakers have sent Gov. Bill Richardson.
    Under the Industrial Development Training Program commonly called in-plant training the state reimburses employers of new or expanding businesses for part of the salaries of their trainees.
    The legislation, sponsored by House Speaker Ben Lujan, D-Santa Fe, authorizes film and multimedia companies such as television and cable production firms to be reimbursed for half the salaries of their New Mexico trainees.
    The measure, which had earlier passed the House, was approved 29-4 by the Senate, sending it to the governor.
    Opponents said the Economic Development Department's in-plant training program was meant to assist employers who would stay in the state.
    "This opens it up for outside employers to come in the state, use the employees, and leave the state," said Sen. Leonard Lee Rawson, R-Las Cruces.
   

    HOUSE APPROVES DRIVING RULES
    SANTA FE A measure toughening the laws regulating commercial vehicle drivers was unanimously approved by the House, sending it to Gov. Bill Richardson's desk.
    The bill sponsored by Sen. Lidio Rainaldi, D-Gallup, brings the state in line with federal law regarding both the prohibited blood-alcohol level for commercial drivers and railroad-highway grade crossing violations.
    The proposal sets the legal blood-alcohol limit for drivers of commercial vehicles at 0.04. New Mexico's legal limit for other drivers is 0.08.
    The state could also disqualify a person from driving a commercial vehicle if the driver had been convicted of a railroad crossing violation or was temporarily ordered by law enforcement not to drive.
   

    ART, INSTRUMENT BILL ENDORSED
    SANTA FE A bill that allows up to 3 percent of the state's Severance Tax Permanent Fund to be invested in fine art and old musical instruments is headed to the governor.
    A divided House approved the legislation 36-26. The Senate had passed it earlier.
    The investments could be made in fine art worth up to $6.5 million and fine musical instruments worth up to $8 million. Supporters said such investments can yield up to 12 percent a year. Critics said there were not sufficient safeguards in the legislation to prevent the state from losing money.
    Critics also said there were no guidelines for how the State Investment Council which has no expertise in the field should make the proposed investments.
    "We will be buying the real stuff. And I think it will appreciate well, and I think it's a worthwhile investment," said Appropriations and Finance Chairman Max Coll, D-Santa Fe.