Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Winding Up or Winding Down?

We have two weeks to go and a great deal of work left to do but here are a few of the things that happened this past week.

How the Process Alters a Bill

HB 572 “Solar Energy Improvement Special Assessments Act” was passed by of the House on Thursday on a vote of 55-7. We now wait for its first Senate hearing to be scheduled in the Judiciary Committee.

There were a few subtle changes to the bill during its progress through the House. The Business and Industry Committee submitted a substitute for the original bill, which added a stipulation to limit the bill to counties with populations between 135,000 and 450,000. It also specified a 10% maximum amount to be attached to the assessment to cover the county’s administrative costs. Language was added in the committee substitute to make it explicit that the county did not become liable in any way for the debt of the property owner.

Then the Taxation and Revenue Committee also amended the bill to strike the language limiting the eligibility to residential property owners and instead opening eligibility to all private landowners. They further amended the bill by adding a provision to limit the lien amount to no more than the amount of the Solar Energy Improvement Special Assessment.

When HB 572 came to the House floor on Thursday, I introduced an amendment, which effectively removed the county-size specification, opening participation to all counties. The amendment was adopted and the bill passed with minimal debate.

My thanks to all of you who attended hearings and showed your support on behalf of this important bill. I will try to keep you informed about committee hearings in the Senate as we try to move this bill as quickly as possible.

Childhood Cancer Therapy

While HB 365, the Insurance for Cancer Therapy for Children Bill, passed the Health & Government Affairs Committee a few weeks ago, it was unfortunately tabled in Business & Industry Committee over the weekend. I will continue to advocate for our children in the future and find ways to support the healthcare coverage for our most vulnerable populations, especially for children fighting cancer.

Surface Owners Notice Bill

While I am unhappy that the Free Market in Energy Restoration Act (HB 219) died in the House Judiciary Committee this week, I feel that we did a great deal to further the issue this session. We fought hard for surface owners and I view this as a temporary setback. I will continue to work with community organizations to address the split estate problem both here in New Mexico and across the West. I also plan to reintroduce this legislation at a future legislative session.

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