The Santa Fe New Mexican
Days remaining in session: Session ends at noon today
From the Roundhouse to the Coliseum: An international peace organization has invited Gov. Bill Richardson to Rome to honor him for signing House Bill 285, which abolishes the death penalty. In a letter from Mario Marazziti, a spokesman for the Community of Sant’Egidio, Richardson is invited to a ceremony in the Roman Coliseum.
“We are aware of how heavy a decision on this issue must be, and we trust in you, in your foresight and in your moral and political strength. We would like to express our solidarity and our availability to make known to the whole world your decision, that we hope is a positive one, regarding the abolition of the death penalty in New Mexico.”
A spokesman for the governor said his office has yet to receive the letter, which was dated March 16 — two days before he signed the bill. Gilbert Gallegos said he doesn’t know if Richardson would be able to attend.
Open records by e-mail: The Senate on Friday unanimously approved a House measure (HB 534) that recognizes e-mails as official written requests under the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act. A few state agencies in the past have refused to recognize e-mails as written requests.
I heard that lonesome whistle blow: The House has approved a measure (SB653) that allows 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 change that to within 300 feet. The bill goes to the governor for his signature.
Cleaner cars: Lawmakers are sending Gov. Bill Richardson SB548, a proposal to delay tougher emission requirements for cleaner-burning automobiles.
California-developed emission requirements are to start in New Mexico with 2011 model cars, light trucks and sport utility vehicles. That will be pushed back two years — to 2013 model vehicles — under a bill that cleared the Legislature on Friday.
Supporters say the delay will give time for the federal government to develop new national standards and help auto dealers, who worry their business will be hurt if car prices go up because of the emission limits and consumers buy new vehicles outside of New Mexico.
Richardson advocated the tougher emission requirements to help fight global warming. The New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board adopted the standards in 2007.
However, a Bush administration regulatory decision blocked California — and other states — from setting their greenhouse gas limits on car emissions. Obama administration regulators have been asked to reserve the decision.
The House approved the bill 51-16 on Friday. It passed the Senate earlier in the session.
Insurance coverage for autism clears Legislature: Some New Mexico families with autistic children will be able get insurance coverage for autism if the governor signs a bill (SB39) the Legislature approved Friday.
The measure requires private insurance policies to provide coverage for treating and diagnosing autism. It excludes public employees and companies with self-insured policies, such as some large corporations.
Rep. Joni Marie Gutierrez, D-Mesilla, estimated the coverage will cost about $15 a month. About 20 percent of New Mexicans have private insurance policies.
Opponents objected that not all insurance will be required to cover autism, but Gutierrez said “this is a start.”
“I think we will include this in our public policy very soon,” she said.
The House approved the Senate-passed bill on a 51-15 vote. The bill goes to Gov. Richardson, who will have until early April to decide whether to sign it.
Quote of the day: “I’m just thinking about going home and getting to a matanza because I’m missing it.”
— Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen.