March 13, 2009 legislative tidbits

Days remaining in session: 8

The living daylights: The Senate Public Affairs Committee voted 7-1 on Thursday in favor of a bill to abolish daylight saving time in New Mexico.

In a news release, bill sponsor Sen. Mary Jane Garcia, D-Dona Ana, said “There are so many reasons for New Mexico to exempt itself from this archaic policy. Health issues include increased numbers of heart attacks for the three days following the switch, and sleep deprivation that affects concentration, mood and motor skills. Professional and social schedules are disrupted: hasn’t every one of us at some point in our lives missed an appointment because we forgot to change the clocks? Doing this would align us with Arizona, which doesn’t observe daylight saving time, and would relieve the Navajo Nation from their current bizarre situation of operating within two different time zones.”

Senate Bill 716 now goes before the full Senate for consideration.

Alcohol in gift shops: Sen. Carlos R. Cisneros, D-Questa, is carrying a proposal (SB403) that creates a special license so gift shops can sell New Mexico-made wine and beer.

The Senate approved the measure Thursday on a 33-6 vote.

A local option district would have to approve the licenses before they are issued. The cost of applying for the license is $200; the license itself costs $1,300.

The bill now goes to the House.

Salvia and minors: The House on Thursday approved a measure (HB144) that makes it a misdemeanor to sell or give salvia divinorum, a plant with psychoactive powers, to a minor. It also makes it illegal for a anyone under 18 to procure the plant, which is said to be gaining in popularity with teenagers. The plant’s nicknames include Diviner’s Mint, Sally-D, Ska Pastora and Lady Salvia.

Train bells: The Senate on Thursday unanimously approved a measure (HB782) that would allow trains that are traveling in Santa Fe to ring their warning bells for a shorter amount of time. Currently, the bells — used instead of the train’s horn in quiet zones — must be engaged when a train traveling slower than 40 mph is within 1,300 feet of a crossing. The bill would apply that to train that are within 300 feet.

Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales, is carrying the proposal and Rep. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque, has a similar measure in the House.

Gorge Bridge: A bill to study the feasibility of building a suicide barrier on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge unanimously passed the House on Thursday.

Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, introduced Senate Joint Memorial 18 saying the 650-foot-high span near Taos accounts for more than half of the Taos County area’s suicides.

The bill, which has already passed the Senate, seeks no funding and asks the departments of Transportation an Public Safety to study cost and construction issues.

Corporate taxes: The Senate Corporations Committee on Wednesday tabled a measure by Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, that was aimed at reforming the state’s corporate tax structure.

Wirth’s bill (SB648) would have eliminated corporate income tax for many corporations and would lower rates for others, according to an outline of the bill. It also would have increased taxes for about 1,000 very large companies, including so-called big-box retailers.

Wirth had said his measure would cut taxes for more than 7,000 small businesses in the state.

Sex-offender registration: The House has signed off on a proposal (HB433 and 24) that requires a sex offender to register with their local sheriff all online names they use.

“Sex offenders are known to use the Internet to attract new victims,” said the sponsor, Rep. Rhonda King, D-Stanley. “Law enforcement needs to know the names they use in communicating with others on the Internet so they can monitor those communications, if necessary.”

The bill now goes before the Senate.

Renewable energy: SJM33 seeks $21 billion in federal stimulus funds to move New Mexico onto center stage for renewable energy research, development and policy.

The bill asks New Mexico’s congressional delegation to support $7 billion each to Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories to boost their ongoing work in energy storage and renewable energy technologies. It asks the delegates to seek another $7 billion to establish a Renewable Energy Administration, a new cabinet office distinct from the Department of Energy, and base it in Santa Fe.

The measure passed unanimously in the Senate, and on Wednesday won approval from the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee. It goes now to the House floor.

Dangerous dogs: The House rejected a proposal Thursday that would have required owners of dangerous dogs to obtain liability insurance to cover damages or injuries caused by the animals.

The legislation would have updated a law enacted in 2005 to protect New Mexicans from dogs determined to be dangerous or potentially dangerous.

Opponents objected to a proposal that would have forced owners of dangerous dogs to have $100,000 worth of liability insurance. They expressed doubts that some owners would buy the insurance coverage.

Rep. Don Tripp, R-Socorro, said the owners of dangerous dogs were the problem. “Maybe we should put some of them on a leash. I think that it would be more effective,” said Tripp.

Supporters said dog owners should be held liable for the actions of their animals. Rep. Kathy McCoy, R-Cedar Crest, said the legislation would “send a message to irresponsible animal owners that they must take responsible for these dangerous dogs.”

The bill failed 34-31.

Looking ahead: The House and Senate are both likely to meet this weekend, which is the last full weekend of this session. Check for updated calendars at www.nmlegis.gov. The session ends March 21 at noon. Lawmakers, however, could be back soon for a special session to deal with financial matters.

Quote of the day: “I ask unanimous consent to fly our airplanes.”

– Sen. Clinton Harden, R-Clovis, during Senate floor session Thursday.

Staff and wire reports

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