Senator Bill O’Neill Bill to “Ban the Box” Clears the Senate

Senator Bill O’Neill Bill to “Ban the Box” Clears the Senate

(Santa Fe, NM)— Today, The Senate passed Senator Bill O’Neill’s bill to “Ban the Box,” ensuring New Mexicans have adequate job opportunities despite what happened in their pasts.

Senate Bill 78 will prevent employers from including a question about prior convictions on job applications.

“People who have committed crimes deserve to be punished, but once they have completed their sentences, their ability to find jobs and be productive members of society is crucial,” said Senator O’Neill.

“Many people with convictions find it difficult to find a job; making the likelihood they will re-offend skyrocket. That’s the opposite of what we want,” Senator O’Neill continued.

This bill now goes to the House for consideration and if passed to the Governor, for her signature.

 

Senate Passes Bipartisan Funding Solution to Ensure Courts Can Pay Juries Through End of Fiscal Year

New Mexico Senate Democrats

For Immediate Release: February 20, 2017

Contact: Zach Marcus (505) 986-4882 Zachary.Marcus@nmlegis.gov

Senate Passes Bipartisan Funding Solution to Ensure Courts Can Pay Juries Through End of Fiscal Year

(Santa Fe, NM) Today the Senate overwhelmingly voted to provide the Judiciary with funding needed to pay juries through the end of the Fiscal Year. Previously, Governor Susana Martinez vetoed two different attempts to appropriate funding needed to prevent court closures, ensure court services continue, and fund jury trials.

House Bill 261 will provide the $1.6 million to the Administrative Offices of the Courts needed to keep the jury fund solvent through the end of the fiscal year and an additional $80 thousand for the New Mexico Supreme Court need to make up for a projected shortfall.

“The Legislature continues to recognize the crisis facing our courts. After two previous attempts, the legislature acted with one voice to ensure a coequal branch of Government has the money it needs to meet their constitutional obligations,” said Senator Majority Leader Wirth.

“Our courts are getting the funding they desperately need. I will work closely with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure this bill is signed into law, “said Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto who sponsored the legislation in the New Mexico Senate.

This bill now goes to the New Mexico House of Representatives for concurrence.

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Senator Bill O’Neill Bill to “Ban the Box” Heads to the Senate Floor

New Mexico Senate Democrats

For Immediate Release: February 7, 2017

Contact: Zach Marcus (505) 986-4882 Zachary.Marcus@nmlegis.gov

Senator Bill O’Neill Bill to “Ban the Box” Heads to the Senate Floor

(Santa Fe, NM) Senator Bill O’Neill today passed legislation through Senate Judiciary Committee to ensure New Mexicans have adequate job opportunities despite what happened in their pasts.

Senate Bill 78 will prevent employers from including a question about prior convictions on job applications.

“We want the goal of our prison system to be punishing offenders certainly, but we also want those offenders to serve their sentences and rejoin society,” said Senator O’Neill.

“If we prevent people who have committed a crime from being able to find a job when they come home, we only force them to return to a life of crime to feed their families. That is simply unacceptable,” said Senator O’Neill.

This Bill now goes to Senate Judiciary Committee and then to the Senate Floor.

 

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Senate Advances Legislation to Greatly Expand Voter Registration Time Period

SENATOR JEFF STEINBORN

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Senate Advances Senator Jeff Steinborn’s Legislation to Greatly Expand Voter Registration Time Period

(Santa Fe, NM) – A key Senate committee today approved Senator Jeff Steinborn’s (D – 36 – Dona Ana) bill to allow qualified New Mexico residents to register to vote up until 3 days prior to an election at certain locations.  Current law allows voter registration to occur only until 28 days preceding an election.   If enacted, SB 224 would enable the largest expansion of voter registration rights in many years in the state.

“It is long overdue that New Mexico update its antiquated 28-day cut off period for citizens to register to vote.  Clearly, we have the technology to safely enable citizens to register much closer to the election.  This bill is a great step forward to make that happen,” said Sen. Steinborn.

“We applaud Senator Steinborn for working to ensure all eligible New Mexicans are registered to vote. Democracy works best when the highest number of people participate in the process. Low voter turnout has been a problem in New Mexico, and registering through early voting is an effective way to boost voter turnout,” said Viki Harrison, Executive Director of New Mexico Common Cause.

“Senator Steinborn’s bill greatly expands civic engagement and participation.  Many young would-be voters have been shut out of voting because they do not realize that there is a 28-day deadline. The three-day application allows for ample time for voter registrations to be processed.  We appreciate Sen. Steinborn’s efforts to promote democracy through this common sense legislation,” said Meredith Machen, President of the New Mexico League of Women Voters.

SB 224 would change current law to allow qualified citizens to register at any early voting center or a county clerk’s office until three days before a primary and a general election.  The bill would increase the length of time during which voters may register by 25 days, while putting in place safeguards to maintain the security of the state’s voter registration system.

Steinborn’s bill is supported by good government groups including the League of Women Voters, and New Mexico Common Cause, and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver.

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Legislation to Add Solar Power on State Buildings Passes Key Senate Committee

NEW MEXICO STATE SENATOR JEFF STEINBORN

Legislation to Add Solar Power on State Buildings Passes Key Senate Committee

Bill Would Save State Millions on Utility Bills, Create Jobs

(Santa Fe, NM) –  The Senate Conservation Committee today voted unanimously to pass Senate Bill 227, a bill that would require the State to utilize solar power on its 750 buildings so long as it would “provide a net savings on utility costs and not require any upfront costs.”  Senator Jeff Steinborn (D- 36-Dona Ana), the sponsor of SB 227, said the move would be a huge win-win opportunity for the state of New Mexico.

“By harnessing our abundant solar resources on state buildings, we would not only save taxpayers potentially millions of dollars of utility costs over time, but also create needed good jobs in New Mexico in the process.  The state of New Mexico owns over 750 buildings and currently only has solar power on two of them,” said Sen. Steinborn.

The General Services Department (GSD) is the central clearinghouse for state government, providing office space, state vehicles, health care policies, and more to state agencies and staff.  GSD owns over 750 State Buildings and leases another 2,000,000 square feet of office space.

SB 227 would enable the State to take advantage of modern solar power financing techniques called “power purchase agreements.” Through the agreements, a private solar provider invests all of the upfront costs involved in setting up a solar system, and in return collects a portion of the utility bill for a set period of time.  The State government would pay no up-front costs, and save on its reduced energy costs over time.

According to the Solar Foundation, the solar industry employs 1,600 people in New Mexico.

Matthew Davis, past President of the New Mexico Association of Energy Engineers supports the new energy efficiency legislation.  “The state is lagging behind some of our counties and cities as many of them are already pursuing energy efficiency and renewable resources in their facilities. This has the potential to save many millions of dollars in the long run, and alleviate some of the stress on our aging utility grid,” he said.

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Senate Passes Bipartisan Medical Canabis Reform, SB 177, for Patients

NEW MEXICO STATE SENATOR CISCO McSORLEY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Senate Passes Bipartisan Medical Canabis Reform, SB 177, for Patients

(Santa Fe, NM) – With solid bipartisan support, the Senate today passed by a vote of 29 – 11 legislation that strongly reforms New Mexico’s medical cannabis laws for the first time in ten years.  The bill was sponsored by Senator Cisco McSorley (D-16-Bernalillo), who also was the sponsor of the original medical cannabis law in New Mexico.  Last-minute changes to SB 177 were made on the Senate floor including requiring that veterans be diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition to enroll in the program, like any other patient or applicant, and mandating that patient renewals occur annually, albeit in a streamlined fashion thereafter.

“I am proud of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle in the Senate for passing this bill to lighten the regulatory burden on patients, many of whom are facing life-or-death situations daily.  It is compassionate, patient-focused legislation. It contains strong checks and balances. We listened carefully to patients across our state, and to our constituents.  This legislation will lead to more people getting access to medical cannabis treatment in New Mexico, which has proven to be extremely successful,” said Sen. McSorley.

Changes to the state’s medical cannabis rules under the McSorley bill include:

  • Allows patients to have 5 ounces of medical cannabis.
  • Cannabis producers are permitted to grow as many as 450 plants, and that will not change until the number of patients increases.
  • Puts into statute all existing, qualifying medical conditions for the program currently listed in state Health Department regulations.
  • Adds the term “substance abuse disorder” for those undergoing treatment for addiction. Cannabis has been proven effective in treating opioid, methamphetamine and alcohol addiction.

Changes to New Mexico’s medical cannabis laws contained in SB 177 are the result of listening to hundreds of patients over the past months, the latest medical research, and surveys of current best practices in other states and internationally.  The bill addresses many of the key issues patients raised.

There are approximately 30,000 patients using medical cannabis in the state.  Based on other states’ statutes and experiences, New Mexico probably should have approximately 60,000 patients.  SB 177’s reforms will allow that to occur.  The state’s groundbreaking 2007 medical cannabis law was one of the first such laws passed in in the Unites States.  SB 177 is endorsed by the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce.

SB 177 will be taken up next by the House of Representatives.

 

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Sen. Joseph Cervantes Pushes Legislation for Competitive Procurement for Electricity Supply, More Competition, Transparency, and Consumer Savings in NM’s Energy Markets

For Immediate Release

Sen. Joseph Cervantes Pushes Legislation for Competitive Procurement for Electricity Supply, More Competition, Transparency, and Consumer Savings in NM’s Energy Markets

 (Sante Fe, NM) – New legislation introduced by Senator Joseph Cervantes (D-31- Doña Ana) would require electric distribution utilities to employ a competitive procurement process when purchasing power for their retail customers. The legislation, ‘Investor-Owned Utility Procurement Process’, SB 360, mandates that utilities perform a request for competitive proposals, subject to scrutiny by an independent evaluator, for the procurement of a supply-side electric energy or capacity resource.

“Market competition is an effective way to ensure the highest quality resources at the lowest cost to customers and businesses alike – we need that same assurance for the selection of our electricity supplies. Competitive procurement processes ensure a fair shake for all competitors – from the selection of secretarial services to janitorial supplies.  Public agencies use competition to obtain the best possible product, and our electricity sector should welcome competition on behalf of its customers,” said Sen. Cervantes.

Under the Cervantes bill, the procurement process will be reformed to permit an objective evaluation of a utility’s expected direct costs, as well as the financial and operational risks associated with fuel price volatility, resource reliability, credit worthiness associated with potential suppliers, and environmental regulations.

If passed, the legislation will put New Mexico among many other states that have already adopted this industry standard, including our neighbors  Colorado, Arizona, and Utah.  By opening utility resource choices to competitive bidding, the bill will lower rates charged of customers, increase transparency, and reduce litigation.

The bill will protect the public interest and ensure compliance with state law that requires utilities to select the least-cost solutions to energy resource demands, with preference for the least environmentally damaging resource. Across the country states have recognized that not having RFP requirements artificially limits choice of resources, ownership of resources, and limits the availability of low-cost options.  Practitioners and regulators in most states understand that, due to rate base regulation and emphasis on ‘earnings growth,’ most Investor-Owned-Utilities (IOUs) prefer to own new supply-side resources, even where the long-term costs may be greater than available power purchase alternatives.

Given recent controversy over ratemaking and resource replacement cases, this legislation will help to ensure that an unbiased evaluation of all resources is conducted and that it is informed by competitive market bids solicited through a transparent Request for Proposal (RFP) process.

Not only does the bill increase competition, save ratepayers money, promote efficiency, transparency, and accountability, in states where competitive procurement for electricity supply has been adopted, the process has also proven to stimulate the economy.

“What they are realizing in our neighboring states as a result of the RFP and bidding process is that they are ushering in a rapid transition to renewables, lowering the cost for generation, and ratepayers are reaping the savings from a diversified energy portfolio. These wind and solar resources are now under construction. This is a win for good government, good jobs, and responsibility to our children,” said Sen. Cervantes

The same effect has been seen in New Mexico. When Southwestern Public Service (SPS) voluntarily issued an RFP it resulted in 140 MW of solar at a cost of 4.2¢/kWh that will save consumers $84 million net present value (NPV) over the life of the project.  As a result of another RFP, SPS had 700 MW of wind approved as a system resource by the New Mexico PRC at cost of 2.3¢/kWh, that will save ratepayers $590 million NPV.

The idea is to standardize this practice because we know it works. Competitive procurement processes are a win-win for consumers and for the electricity market, so it’s not surprising that they are the norm, not the exception.  New Mexico’s electric supply procurement should conform with this standard.

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Legislation to Require State Government to Negotiate Prescription Drug Prices

SENATOR JEFF STEINBORN

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Legislation to Require State Government to Negotiate Prescription Drug Prices

“Pharmaceuticals Purchasing Council” Could Save State Budget Millions

(Santa Fe, NM) – New Mexico State Senator Jeff Steinborn, Democrat from Las Cruces, and State Representative Joanne Ferrary today introduced legislation that could save taxpayers millions of dollars.  Senate Bill 354, ‘Interagency Pharmaceutical Purchasing Council’, would require that all state agencies and state benefit providers who purchase prescription drugs to work together to negotiate the price of prescription drugs.  In fiscal year 2016 the combined state agencies spent over $670 million on prescription drugs, a staggering 54% increase in two years. Steinborn’s bill would leverage taxpayer-funded health agencies in New Mexico including the Departments of Health, Human Services, Corrections, Medicaid, retired State government workers’ benefits, UNM, and other organizations, to negotiate lower drug prices.

“Given the astronomical and rising costs our state pays for prescription drugs, it’s absolutely critical to maximize our purchasing power to get the very best deal we can for taxpayers,” said legislation sponsor Senator Jeff Steinborn.  “By requiring state agencies to work together to aggressively negotiate better prescription prices and improve health care utilization, we could literally save the state millions of dollars” said Senator Steinborn.

Legislation co-sponsor Rep. Joanne Ferrary, Democrat from Las Cruces, added “We owe it to New Mexicans to do everything we can to lower the cost of prescription drugs and save our state money. This is critically needed reform that our state can’t afford not to do.  It would be irresponsible for us not to explore every opportunity to save funds that we need to move New Mexico forward.”

New Mexico is currently negotiating prescription drug costs on a limited basis.

SB 354 would greatly expand the prescription drug purchasing currently being negotiated by state government by creating an ‘Interagency Pharmaceuticals Purchasing Council.’  The Council would be headed by the State Secretary of General Services, and include all state government purchasers of pharmaceuticals.

The Council would evaluate a range of cost containment strategies including partnering with states who already conduct bulk purchasing that realize billions in savings for state budgets, and lower prices for consumers.  According to the National Council of State Legislatures, Maryland – one example among many – reported that its Medicaid program alone saved $19 million in 2006 because of its similar purchasing pool.

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Senator Bill O’Neill bill to “Ban the Box” moves forward with Bipartisan Support

For Immediate Release:

Senator Bill O’Neill bill to “Ban the Box” moves forward with Bipartisan Support

(Santa Fe, NM) Senator Bill O’Neill today passed legislation through Senate Public Affairs Committee to ensure New Mexicans have adequate job opportunities despite what happened in their pasts.

Senate Bill 78 will prevent employers from including a question about prior convictions on job applications.

“Once people have served their sentences and paid their debt to society we shouldn’t continue to punish them,” said Senator O’Neill.

“We need to make sure they are able to return to being productive members of society.  If we prevent people from restarting their lives when they return from prison we only make the likelihood they’ll be reincarcerated.  That doesn’t make sense,” said Senator O’Neill.

This Bill now goes to Senate Judiciary Committee and then to the Senate Floor.

 

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Senator Howie Morales Pushes Creation of Early Childhood Services Department

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Senator Howie Morales Pushes Creation of Early Childhood Services Department

Bill passes Education Committee, All Democrats Supporting

(Santa Fe, NM) – Pointing to the huge need to improve the lives of at-risk children in New Mexico, Democratic Senator Howie Morales (D-28-Catron, Grant and Socorro) today called for the creation a state agency solely focused on promoting and administering all early childhood services.  Morales’ Senate Bill 106 passed the key Senate Education Committee, and if enacted, would consolidate the funding streams, programs and personnel of numerous early childhood services currently dispersed across the Departments of Education; Children Youth and Families; and Health.

“Research shows that an intense focus on children from birth to five can significantly improve life-long outcomes. By creating an Early Childhood Services Department, we can reduce the fragmentation, the uneven quality and the inequity in our programs and services.  We spend close to $250 million annually on several agencies to serve between 50 – 70 thousand children and families.  This legislation will go a long way to help us get it right.  It is critical that we ensure every child in New Mexico is given the best opportunity at the earliest age for success in school, career and life,” said Sen. Morales.

The legislation represents the most comprehensive effort to coordinate and improve the full range of services necessary to support young children between the ages of 0 to 5 in their development to be introduced in the session. It would provide expectant parents and families needed resources and skills to raise children who are healthy and ready to learn; promote safe, stable and nurturing environments for all children and families; help families achieve their goals; deliver services to help children develop emotionally and socially, and get assistance for nutrition, education, child care and health care.

Sen. Morales called for urgent action on his bill, observing that New Mexico ranks 49th in children’s well-being, has the highest rate of children living in poverty in the nation, that 59% of 3 and 4 year olds are not enrolled in pre-school, that more than 70% of children are not proficient in reading by the 4th grade, and that 41% of children in our state are raised in single-parent families.

SB 106 is supported by advocates for public school classrooms and children including NM-AFT, NM-NEA, United Way of Santa Fe, and others.

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