Friday, January 18, 2013

0 Legislative Briefs — Jan. 18

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Legislative Briefs — Jan. 18

  • Days remaining in session: 57
  • Marriage equality: New Mexico voters would decide whether same-sex couples could get married in the state if the Legislature approves a proposed constitutional amendment sponsored by state Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe.

“It’s time to recognize all the families in New Mexico who are headed by same-sex couples,” Egolf said Thursday.

The proposal probably won’t have an easy time in the Legislature. Lawmakers in recent years haven’t even been able to pass legislation calling for state-recognized domestic partnership agreements.

However, since the last attempt to pass such a bill here, measures have won approval in several states, including New York, in which the Legislature passed and the governor signed a marriage-equality bill, and in Maine, Maryland and Washington, where voters last year approved same-sex marriage referendums. Various public opinion polls have shown growing support for gay marriage in recent years.

Egolf’s House Joint Resolution 3 says, “The issuance of a marriage license shall not be denied on the basis that the sex of both applicants is the same. No church or religious institution shall be required to perform a marriage ceremony or recognize a marriage for religious purposes that conflicts with the church’s or religious institution’s beliefs.”

The measure, whose co-sponsors include Rep. Stephen Easley, D-Santa Fe, will first be heard in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee.

  • Feed the lawmakers: A measure to pay for operations of the Legislature is heading to Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

House Bill 1 provides $8.6 million for expenses of the legislative session — about 3 percent more than what was allocated for the last 60-day session in 2011. It’s about $2 million higher than what was actually spent two years ago.

Legislative sessions typically cost less than what is appropriated. Leftover money goes into a reserve account.

The measure provides $24 million for year-round operations of the Legislature, including permanent committees such as the Legislative Finance Committee. That’s up nearly $4 million from the current budget year. Lawmakers say the increase is for higher costs, such as health insurance and pension contributions.

The bill won final approval Thursday, when it passed the Senate unanimously.

  • Strengthening Amber: Police would be allowed to issue Amber Alerts when a child is abducted by a noncustodial family member under a bill sponsored by Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Belen.

“AMBER Alerts have undoubtedly saved the lives of many abducted children and resulted in their safe return to their families,” the bill states. “However, we have seen too many cases where children are unfortunately abducted by a family member and are considered in harm’s way. We simply must expand the AMBER Alert.”

House Bill 104 would strike a provision in state law that keeps an alert from being issued if the child is abducted by a relative.

Gov. Susana Martinez has expressed support for such a bill. Public Safety Secretary Gorden Eden Jr. is behind Fajardo’s bill.

  • Pearce speaks to Legislature: Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce says policymakers must work together in a bipartisan manner to cut federal spending and boost the economy.

In a speech to a joint session of the Legislature, Pearce warned Thursday that a failure to deal with the nation’s financial problems will transform the U.S. into a country like Argentina, which is struggling with rapidly rising inflation.

Pearce, a former state legislator from Hobbs, represents the 2nd Congressional District of Southern New Mexico.

He said lowering the federal corporate income-tax rate will help attract businesses and create jobs.

Pearce said Republicans and Democrats need to stop thinking of the other party as the enemy and set aside their partisan differences to work “for the future that I think we all want.”

Other members of the state’s congressional delegation are expected to address the Legislature as well.

Looking ahead

  • Both the House of Representatives and the Senate are in recess until Monday morning.
  • New Mexico supporters of Second Amendment rights plan to gather at noon Saturday at the Capitol in conjunction with a national “Guns Across America” rally at statehouses around the U.S.
  • In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, there will be speeches and presentations in the Capitol Rotunda beginning at noon Monday.
  • Roundhouse Comedy Revue is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, at Garrett’s Desert Inn, 311 Old Santa Fe Trail. This spoof on the Legislature and the governor is presented by a troupe of high-schoolers called Working Classroom. Tickets are $25.
  • The New Mexico State University Board of Regents plans to meet in Santa Fe at 9 a.m. Jan. 28 in the Sunset Room at the Eldorado Hotel and Spa. The meeting will be webcast at http://panopto.nmsu.edu/bor/.

Quote of the day: “China is everywhere.” — U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, talking to the Legislature about the influence of the Chinese government in various countries around the world.

 — Staff and wire reports

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