Legislative Roundup: 32 Days Remain In 2023 Session

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich honors former longtime state Rep. J. Paul Taylor, who recently died at age 102, at the start of his address to a joint session of the New Mexico Legislature on Monday at the Roundhouse. Heinrich urged lawmakers to make long-term investments with new revenue this year and the billions of dollars in federal funds. ‘What you do with these resources during this legislative session will be measured over the lifetime of a child, not an election cycle,’ Heinrich said. Matt Dahlseid/The Santa Fe New Mexican

Legislative Roundup
The Santa Fe New Mexican

Cutting drug prices: Members of the House Health and Human Services Committee voted 7-3 Monday to pass House Bill 51, which would create a five-member prescription drug affordability board to look for ways to lower the costs of medications, among other measures.

The bill includes a one-time, $750,000 allocation to get the board going.

A fiscal impact report says New Mexico and the rest of the country “suffer from very high drug costs related to the rest of the developed world.”

Citing a study by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, the report says drug prices in the U.S.  “are more than 2.5 times more expensive than [in] other high-income countries.”

Additionally, the report said, “a small survey of 1,170 New Mexico residents found 33 percent cut pills in half, skipped doses of medicine or did not fill a prescription to due cost.”

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham established a Prescription Drug Task Force in the summer to find ways to reduce prescription drug costs. Some who spoke in opposition to HB 51 said lawmakers should wait to consider it until the task force issues recommendations later this week.

Catalytic converters: Secondhand metal dealers would be required to record transactions of catalytic converters, including a copy of the seller’s ID and documenting the license plate and identification number of the vehicle used to transport the device, under a bill the Senate unanimously approved Monday.

Senate Bill 133 is designed to crack down on the theft of catalytic converters, which contain valuable metals like platinum, palladium and rhodium.

“We’re seeing a huge problem with this issue in our state and nationwide,” said the sponsor, Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque. “Over 50,000 catalytic converters were stolen in the U.S. in ‘21, up from 15,000 in ‘20 and 4,000 in ‘19.”

Stewart said the devices, which convert toxic gases from a vehicle’s exhaust system into less toxic pollutants, are easy to steal from a vehicle’s underbelly. A thief can make a quick $300, “but it’s $2,000 to $3,000 to fix your car,” Stewart said.

Deadline approaching: Thursday is the last day for lawmakers to introduce new bills for consideration during this year’s 60-day legislative session.

As of Monday, there were about 900 bills, memorials and resolutions filed.

Smokey license plate?: The House Taxation and Revenue Committee will hear a bill that would require the state Motor Vehicle Division to apply for a long-term license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to use the name and image of Smokey Bear on license plates to raise awareness of fire prevention.

House Bill 363 would allow motorists to pay $50 more than regular motor vehicle registration fees to get one of the plates. Renewal rates for the plate would be $40.

Many people believe Smokey Bear is based on a bear cub that survived a fire in the Capitan Mountains in 1950. According to the Department of Agriculture’s website, however, Smokey Bear was “born on Aug. 9, 1944, when the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council agreed that a fictional bear would be the symbol for their joint effort to promote forest fire prevention.”

Artist Albert Staehle painted the first poster of Smokey Bear pouring a bucket of water on a campfire, the website says.

“Smokey Bear soon became very popular as his image appeared on a variety of forest fire prevention materials. In 1947, his slogan became the familiar. ‘Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires!’”

Investing in the future: Three members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation — Sen. Martin Heinrich and Reps. Teresa Leger Fernández and Gabe Vasquez — delivered remarks Monday at the state Capitol during a joint session of the Legislature.

Heinrich urged lawmakers to make long-term investments with new revenue this year and the billions of dollars in federal funds heading to the state under the Inflation Reduction Act and other measures.

“This is not a moment for half-measures or the way we have always done things,” Heinrich said. “What you do with these resources during this legislative session will be measured over the lifetime of a child, not an election cycle.”

Quote of the day: Former state Sen. Jacob Candelaria shared a story in which he is quoted as saying: “Having served in the Legislature for 10 years, if the Ethics Commission wanted to punish every single person who used cocaine at any point in the prior six years, a good majority of the Legislature would be subject to discipline.” Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, responded in a tweet: “You’re full of [expletive] Jacob!”


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