Thursday, March 02, 2023

Pace Quickens With Two Weeks To Go In '23 Legislative Session; Highlighting Some Of The Most Impactful Bills 

How about this incredible pic showing the impact of 90 mile per hour wind gusts down in Roswell last Sunday? That lady is hanging on for dear life, kind of like those freshman legislators in Santa Fe trying to get their first bills approved. 

Well, as the wind blows furiously across the state so goes the pace at the Roundhouse where only two weeks remain in the 60 day session so hold on to your hats--or gates--or whatever is handy. 

Here are some developments.

That below the radar battle over placing a high level nuclear waste site in SE NM and that could have consequences for many a year is doing well.

A House committee advanced a bill that would likely block a nuclear waste storage project proposed in SE NM, after the legislation passed the Senate and is getting closer to the governor’s desk. SB 53, sponsored Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-36), would require expressed consent from state leaders for any nuclear waste storage site. It would also require the federal government have a permanent repository for the waste before a temporary storage site can be built in New Mexico. Such a project was proposed by Holtec International at a remote area between Eddy and Lea counties, to hold up to 100,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel rods on an “interim” basis. A permanent disposal site does not exist in the U.S.

NM already has the low level WIPP storage site near Carlsbad plus an oil boom in the Permian Basin there. That ought to hold them if Holtec gets hamstrung. And it will if the bill to block the site makes it to MLG. She is one of those state leaders who would have to sign off on the project and has vowed not to do so. 

The Guv is threatening to call a special session if she doesn't get a couple of gun control bills passed, probably the last thing lawmakers want to hear as they immerse themselves in the final legislative push. Her ban on assault weapons is dead. The proposal to raise the age to buy certain guns to 21 and a 14 day waiting period before a gun can be purchased are both on life support, so much so that the liberal House has yet to hold floor votes on them. A special session over guns would not excite the hometown crowd and would be exceptionally divisive, but nationally it would be popular with progressives and the donor base. Maybe that's where she's aiming her messaging. The measure to hold parents responsible for gun storage is the one major gun bill that is actually doing well and may make it upstairs for her signature. 

It appears the Guv may take a hit over one of her banner proposals--$200 million for the Rural Delivery Health Care Act. The Senate has approved the bill (SB 7)) but the $200 million appropriation the Governor is asking for appears headed lower. The measure would allow certain private hospitals and rural healthcare providers "to apply to receive grants from the fund to construct facilities or defray the costs of healthcare services." 

A senate spokesman says:

The Senate did not ‘decimate’ SB7. When bills with appropriations pass through Senate Finance the appropriations typically get stripped out to later be integrated into the budget bill. Such was the case with SB7. House Bill 2 came over with $40 million dedicated to the fund, but that’s certainly not the final number. Senate Finance is still in the process of making adjustments to House Bill 2 and the Rural Health Care Delivery Fund is a high priority. 


The mostly highly watched and most impactful CYFD reform bill is on the move, winning nearly unanimous approval (9 to 1) from the House health committee Wednesday, despite the Governor's stated opposition:

HB 11 would create the Office of the Child Advocate, otherwise known as an ombudsman. The office would review CYFD services and operations, investigate and review complaints, subpoena witnesses, operate a toll-free hotline, and make recommendations to the department. It is also tasked with compiling all of those findings into an annual report.

Over in the Senate this succinct summation of CYFD:

“They cannot fix themselves,” GOP Sen. Crystal Diamond said. “They cannot monitor themselves and they’re not putting children first. We need to have outside eyes, to come in here and really examine how we are going to restructure and redefine. The entire agency needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.” 

That's succinct enough for a telegraph. The address is: Fourth Floor, Roundhouse, Santa Fe, NM. We talk about that and more with Santa Fe radio host Richard Eeds at KTRC. Audio here

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