News from the Session: 2009 Legislative Session
Dear friends and neighbors,
With the 2009 Legislative Session coming to a close, I write to update you and review some of the work accomplished for District 25 and the State of New Mexico. While this was my first year in the state Senate, my prior four years of service in the state House gave me a significant head-start and I was able to get right to work. My committee assignments on the Judiciary Committee and as the Vice-Chair of the Rules Committee offered a platform to have real input on many of the key issues we addressed.
The focus of this session was unquestionably the serious budget situation facing our State. The economic declines seen at the national level coupled with very unstable oil and gas prices created significant budget shortfalls for 2009 and 2010. Fortunately, the federal stimulus package provided some one-time money to help balance these budgets. In future sessions, however, we will have to make some very difficult decisions after the federal money is spent.
I carried a broad range of legislation in 2009. The complete list, with action taken, can be found at www.nmlegis.gov. These bills are through the Senate and presently moving in the House or awaiting action by the Governor:
- Custody and Care of Mistreated Animals (SB 127): Gives animal shelters and local governments the right to make the person charged with animal cruelty pay for the care of their animal during the court case.
- Require Biannual Campaign Reports (SB 128): Requires public officials and candidates to file additional contribution and expenditure reports and, importantly, adds a report before early voting begins so voters know who is contributing and how money is being spent well before they go to the polls.
- Prescription Drug Price Disclosure (SB 129): Allows a consumer without health insurance to obtain drug prices from pharmacies to determine the lowest cost.
- Remove Dental Amalgam from Wastewater (SB 132): Requires dental offices working with amalgam fillings to install separators by 2010 so mercury does not enter our drinking supply.
- Revise Crime of Stalking (SB 166): Updates and expands the definition of stalking to give law enforcement a better tool to address the ever changing technology being used in this crime.
- Electronic Court Filings (SB 277): Permits electronic filing of pleadings increasing efficiency and transparency.
- Electronic Medical Records (SB 278): Clarifies New Mexico law on use of electronic medical records and adds privacy protections for patients.
- Securities Act Repeal and Reenactment (SB 362): Increases penalties for securities fraud against seniors and gives the New Mexico Securities Division additional enforcement authority to prosecute.
- Education Trust Fund Investment Recapture (SB 515): Allows parents with "529 Plans" creating college accounts for their kids to transfer these accounts to a different state without incurring penalties.
- Campaign Contributions in Certain Elections (SB 521): Places contribution limits of $2,300 per year on both statewide and non statewide candidates and limits political action committees to $5,000 per year. New Mexico is currently one of only five states without limits.
- Renewable Energy Financing District Act (SB 647): Allows local government to create a bonding district so residents who elect to install solar, wind or geothermal on their homes can obtain 0% interest financing on their investment and pay with a lien on their property.
Some of the bills I carried this session did not pass out of our Senate committees. Senate Bill 100 added protections to property owners in eminent domain cases. Senate Bill 331 would have put much needed interest rate caps on installment loans. Senate Bill 361 sought to expand the regulatory oversight of the Oil Conservation Division to balance new oil and gas drilling with public health, environmental and wildlife concerns. Senate Bills 389 and 648 could have closed corporate tax loopholes allowing multistate companies to pay less tax than their New Mexico competitors. I will continue to work in future sessions on these important issues.
Finally, I sponsored numerous capital outlay projects to bring much needed money to District 25. Again this year, a committee of constituents spent a day at the Capitol evaluating capital outlay projects and making funding recommendations to me. I am grateful to these citizen volunteers who make this a better process. In the end, however, the Senate and House decided to allocate the small amount of severance tax money used for capital projects to current statewide projects already under construction.
Your input is always vital to me, and I appreciate the calls, e-mails and letters many of you sent. Thank you again for granting me the privilege of representing you in the Legislature.
Senator Peter Wirth
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