Legislative roundup — Feb. 6
Days remaining in session: 14
New regent, new rules: State senators voted 34-0 Wednesday to confirm Kevin F. Powers as a regent of Northern New Mexico College.
Powers, 57, of Albuquerque is a retired investment banker. His clients included cities, counties, school districts and The University of New Mexico. He grew up in Maryland and graduated from Juniata College with a bachelor’s degree in economics.
Meanwhile, a proposal to change the way regents are picked to oversee the state’s universities cleared the House Education Committee. House Joint Resolution 7, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, proposes a constitutional amendment allowing voters to establish bipartisan nominating committees to recommend candidates to the governor for consideration.
Currently, regents aren’t required to have any set qualifications, a news release from House Democrats said. “They are considered political plum assignments often given to good supporters of the sitting governor.”
The resolution heads to the House Voters and Election Committee.
Rooting out child sex abuse: A bill that requires all school employees to be trained in detecting and reporting child sexual abuse and assault unanimously passed the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.
Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque, sponsor of Senate Bill 97, said it covers “things we don’t like to talk about.” He said that as a former executive director of a juvenile parole board, he encountered many young women who had been sexually abused as children.
He and lobbyist Julianna Koob told the committee that 97 percent of those who abuse children are known to their victims, and that New Mexico ranks above other states when it comes to the number of children being abused.
Almost everyone in the committee room voiced support for the bill, with Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, asking, “Who can not be in favor of this?”
E-cig restrictions: While the city of Santa Fe considers proposals to put the same restrictions on electronic cigarettes as those imposed on regular cigarettes, Sen. John Ryan, R-Albuquerque, is sponsoring a bill that would impose a statewide ban on sales of e-cigarettes to minors and prohibit minors from possessing or using the nicotine delivery devices.
Ryan said in a news release that 23 states and the city of Albuquerque already have prohibited sales of such vapor devices to minors.
He said his SB 232 would prohibit minors from possessing or using these products on school premises or vehicles and at off-campus, school-sponsored events. In addition to banning sales to minors, the bill seeks to ban e-cigarette advertising and free samples.
Devastating concoctions: A bill that would add several new, synthetic “designer” drugs to the list of illegal drugs in the state has passed the Senate Public Affairs Committee and is heading to the Judiciary Committee.
SB 127, sponsored by Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort, R-Sandia Park, includes synthetic marijuana, as well as drugs that mimic cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamines. Republicans are calling it the “devastating concoctions” bill.
Three years ago, the Legislature made 26 types of commercially sold synthetic drugs illegal. But new formulas for making people high sprung up, requiring more than 100 compounds to be added to the list of controlled substances.
But Beffort said in a news release, “As soon as a formula for synthetic marijuana, cocaine, or ecstasy hits the illegal control substance list, a new formula is created to evade the law. The designer drug industry has proven highly adaptive, with new drugs appearing on a regular basis.”
Looking ahead: A bill to increase the requirements for removal of an ignition interlock device before reinstatement of a license and mandating home Breathalyzer devices for offenders under house arrest is scheduled to be heard in the House Transportation and Public Works Committee at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. A similar bill that passed the House in the last session was never voted on by the full Senate. The bill, HB 10, sponsored by Rep. Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson, D-Albuquerque, has bipartisan support.
Quote of the day: “I said to her, ‘Good morning, governor.’” — Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, during a committee discussion on a proposal to ban guns in the Senate. Ivey-Soto said he was fairly certain he recently was on an elevator with someone who has a permit to carry a concealed handgun.
— The Santa Fe New Mexican