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Sunday, March 23, 2003

The Legislative Session at a Glance

Here is a summary of the Legislature's actions on key issues during the regular 60-day session that ended Saturday. Gov. Bill Richardson has a deadline of April 11 to act on bills sent to him by the House and Senate.

BUDGET
PASSED: $4.1 billion budget, providing a 4.9 percent increase overall for public schools, teacher pay raises, higher education and other ongoing government operations (governor line-item vetoed $2.1 million); nearly $150 million in statewide public works capital outlay package; diversion of New Mexico's share of a multistate settlement with tobacco companies to the state's general fund for the next four years.
FAILED: Governor's proposal to shift 5 percent of school districts' budgets from administration to classrooms and use nearly $36 million of districts' cash reserves.

TAXES/ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
PASSED: Reducing state taxes on income and capital gains (governor signed); raising cigarette tax by 70 cents a pack; creating Tax Reform Commission to make recommendations on reforming New Mexico's tax laws; providing in-plant training funding (governor signed), creating New Mexico-Chihuahua Commission for international trade (governor signed).
FAILED: Raising state gasoline tax 5 cents a gallon; eliminating the state's portion of the gross receipts tax on groceries; eliminating gross receipts tax on medical services.

DWI
PASSED: Increase penalties and require treatment for repeat DWI offenders; create a new license for people with suspended licenses to drive only cars equipped with ignition interlocks.
FAILED: Seizing vehicles of certain DWI offenders.

SCHOOLS
PASSED: Proposed constitutional amendment creating a governor-appointed secretary of public education; proposed constitutional amendment increasing income distribution from a permanent fund to pay for school reforms; school reform legislation, including three-level teacher licensing with minimum salaries; allowing voters to decide whether to make Albuquerque Public Schools an "urban district," freeing it from some state regulations and making it report to the Legislature.
FAILED: Lowering college standards in New Mexico so they aren't more stringent than those of other colleges in the same athletic divisions; changing some high school graduation requirements.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE/CRIMES
PASSED: Allowing immigrants to get a driver's license with a tax identification number instead of a Social Security number (governor signed); requiring crime victims to be notified when a perpetrator is released; allowing DWI grant fund to be used for domestic violence offenders who also are alcoholics; strengthening domestic violence protection orders; banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation; creating penalties for hate crimes; codifying Amber Alert system to help locate missing children; making fleeing police a fourth-degree felony; making boating while intoxicated a crime.
FAILED: Abolishing death penalty; increasing methods of death penalty; expanding death penalty to apply to those who murder children under age 11.

OPEN GOVERNMENT
PASSED: Nearly doubling the cost of copying certain records at the Secretary of State's Office.
FAILED: Opening legislative conference committees to the public; increasing costs of electronic copies at the Motor Vehicle Division; keeping information about crime victims secret.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT
PASSED: Transferring extraterritorial zoning and annexation authority from the city of Albuquerque to Bernalillo County; setting up a joint city-county water authority to oversee Albuquerque's $5 billion water and waste water authority; allowing public improvement districts to become law within 90 days if cities or counties don't act on them .
FAILED: Requiring two votes instead of one in the upcoming election on whether to unify the city of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County; giving municipalities the option of enacting a curfew.

HEALTH CARE
PASSED: New premium tax on HMOs with state Medicaid contracts; changes in Medicaid operations estimated to save about $22 million when implemented; a variety of Medicaid studies aimed at finding savings in the future.
FAILED: Requiring minors to notify parents before getting an abortion; tax credits for purchasers of long-term health care insurance; adding immunizations for children.

ELECTIONS/POLITICS
PASSED: Pilot project for public financing of campaigns using state Public Regulation Commission as test group in 2006 (governor signed); require candidates to file campaign finance statements electronically as of 2006 (governor signed); comply with new federal voting rules to enable New Mexico to receive $22 million in federal money for new voting machines, poll worker training and voter education; proposed constitutional amendment to allow municipalities to hold runoff elections.
FAILED: Reopen congressional redistricting, using 2000 Census; reopen state Senate redistricting, using 2000 Census; tougher requirements for minor political parties like Greens to become major parties; requiring voters to show identification at the polls.

WATER/ENVIRONMENT
PASSED: Statewide water plan (governor signed); allow residential gray water use (governor signed); allow the Game Commission to require bear-proof garbage cans in some areas; expedite water marketing and leasing by the state engineer (governor signed).
FAILED: Ease environmental restrictions in the Mining Act; make federal workers responsible for reintroduced wolves; domestic well limits; funding for water rights adjudications.

MISCELLANEOUS
PASSED: Beefing up legislative retirement benefits by tapping uncollected taxes on nonresidents who receive royalties on gas and oil interests in New Mexico (law will take affect without governor's signature); racetracks and veterans and fraternal clubs could increase payout from slot machines; allowing residents to carry concealed weapons; collective bargaining for public employees (governor signed); creating new state symbols, including the Sandia hairstreak as the state butterfly.
FAILED: Ban on cockfighting; allowing racetracks to extend hours of slot machine operations; requiring licenses for "body art" facilities, providing piercing and tattoos; divert percentage of taxes racetracks pay the state on gambling revenues to several municipalities; allowing the use of medical marijuana.