Legslative roundup: Human Services secretary unveils health-care plans

New Mexican staff

Days remaining in session: 53

If at first you don’t succeed…

Human Services Secretary Pam Hyde on Monday unveiled her department’s health-care reform plans for this session.

The 10-point plan includes an electronic medical records act, a requirement that insurance companies spend 85 percent of premiums on direct services to client, and a requirement that insurance companies offer coverage to anyone who requests it. The package of bills also would streamline other health care-related agencies in the state.

It would also require private commercial insurance carriers to offer health coverage for small employers who want to offer such coverage to their employers.

Several of the proposals were introduced last year but never gained traction.

Hyde said the will still exists to reduce the number of people without insurance in New Mexico: “I think the Legislature is as interested as we are in trying to get more people covered.”

Killing the death penalty: Rep. Gail Chasey, D- Albuquerque, on Monday introduced her bill to repeal the death penalty.

House Bill 285 could be heard in Chasey’s Consumer and Public Affairs Committee as early as Thursday, abolition advocates said Monday.

In past sessions, identical bills have cleared the House of Representatives but died in the Senate. This year, with additional Democrats in the Senate, advocates are more optimistic. However, Gov. Bill Richardson, who would have to sign the bill into law, has said in the past he favors keeping capital punishment.

Talk about perks

In addition to free flu shots, goody bags and free meals in a variety of swanky Santa Fe restaurants, legislators have another big perk. Unlike other residents, they can get their Motor Vehicle Division paperwork handled at the Capitol this week.

However, although they get a $145 per diem allowance, New Mexico’s 112 legislators still don’t get paid.

Looking Ahead:

• The first hearing for the Domestic Partner Rights & Responsibilities Act (Senate Bill 12) is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday at a joint hearing of the Senate’s Public Affairs and Judiciary committees. The proposed meeting would be Wednesday afternoon following the Senate floor session. The estimated start time is about 2:30 p.m. but could be later if the floor session runs late.

• A bipartisan group of senators led by Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis, plans a 10 a.m. news conference today to discuss bills sponsored by Harden that deal with autism. The conference will be held at room 326 at the Capitol. Senate Bill 39 — Insurance Coverage for Autism Treatment — contains a health insurance mandate to cover autism treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder through high school.

• The Baptist Convention of New Mexico is sponsoring a legislative breakfast Friday that will feature the music of The New Mexico Singing Churchmen. After the breakfast, which begins at 7 a.m. at the Santa Fe Hilton, the Singing Churchmen are scheduled to perform on the steps on the west side of the Capitol about 10 a.m. Those interested in attending the breakfast should call 1-800-898-8544 ext. 311, or e-mail bnm@bcnm.co.

Quote of the day:
“I watched the State of the State address on my computer. The mouth of the governor was moving around … It just wasn’t a pretty picture.”
• Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, commenting Monday at a committee meeting about technical problems with the webcast of the State of the State address last week.

On our Web site: Follow legislative coverage at www.santafenewmexican.com.

Read Kate Nash’s blog, www.greenchilechatter.com and Steve Terrell’s blog, www.roundhouseroundup.com.

Subscribe to our updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/thenewmexican