Legislative roundup, Feb. 14, 2018

2018-02-14 | The Santa Fe New Mexican

Feb. 14--Days remaining in the session: 2

Out front: Call that first vote a false start. A state House of Representatives vote Tuesday to require front-end license plates on vehicles registered in New Mexico came just a few days after the chamber rejected the very same bill.

Rep. Patricio Ruiloba, a Democrat and former Albuquerque Police Department officer, had presented House Bill 158 as a public safety measure. He said requiring two license plates on each vehicle would help law enforcement identify vehicles involved in crimes.

But the issue -- which would raise the annual vehicle registration fee by $2 -- proved to be a lightning rod, with some House members reporting that they had received more emails from constituents on this bill than on any other.

The House voted down the bill on Saturday, and when members moved to bring it back up again, the House also voted down changes presented as something of a compromise.

The ensuing debate again proved to be one of the most impassioned of the session, with some arguing the measure is effectively a tax increase or at the very least an affront to the car culture of a state that is one of just 19 not to require front-end license plates.

Others countered it was common sense, especially as New Mexico notches the highest rate of automobile theft in the country.

On its second try, the bill passed 36-32 and goes next to the state Senate. But time is running out: The session ends at noon Thursday.

Veto override: A state senator wants to override the governor's veto last year of a bill that would have made it easier for transgender people to change the sex listed on their birth certificates.

"Members of this community do not have the luxury of waiting for their civil rights," said Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez pocket vetoed Candelaria's Senate Bill 120 last year. That means she let it die by never signing it.

The bill picked up some Republican support, passing the state Senate by a vote of 28-10 and the House of Representatives, 36-26.

But in the House, it also drew scorn from conservatives, who at times mocked the very notion that a person would consider himself or herself a different sex from that assigned at birth.

Current state law says that anyone wishing to change the sex on their birth certificate must get a statement signed by a physician attesting that the person has undergone a sex change operation. Candelaria's bill would have loosened that requirement, mandating only that a health care provider vouch that a patient's sex designation should be changed.

The senator asked the chamber's clerk to place the bill on the agenda, though it is not clear if or when it might get a vote.

Overriding a veto requires a two-thirds vote of each chamber.

Survivors' scholarship: The Senate on Tuesday night approved a bill to expand a scholarship that benefits surviving family members of New Mexico police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty.

House Bill 55 by Rep. Tim Lewis, R-Rio Rancho, would allow for the scholarship program to cover costs related to room, board, books and tuition.

The bill now goes to Gov. Susana Martinez for her consideration.

Pecan protection: State senators voted 37-0 Tuesday for a bill to license pecan purchasers as a means of protecting farmers.

Senate Bill 216 allows the state Department of Agriculture or any state peace officer to inspect any pecan purchase location and its documents. The bill also allows officers to seize pecans that were obtained or sold unlawfully.

The sponsor, Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, said the bill would prevent theft of pecans and lessen pecan weevil infestation.

Pirtle's proposal goes to the House of Representatives, though only two days remain in the session.

Quote of the day: "I actually read the bills before we vote on them. I realize that's a novel concept." -- Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, complaining about receiving the voluminous state budget bill on Tuesday morning, just before the measure was called for debate.

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