March 4, 2009 Legislative tidbits

Days remaining in session: 17

Media literacy: Students in sixth through twelfth grades could chose to take a media literacy class under a House-approved measure (HB342).

The bill gives schools the options to offer students the class as an elective. Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, is sponsoring the bill, which now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Media literacy is intended to help students understand, analyze and use various types of information media.

Taxing smokes: The House Taxation and Revenue Committee has temporarily tabled a bill that would increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1.

A committee substitute is being floated that would reduce the proposed tax to 50 cents a pack.

HB742 is sponsored by Rep. Bobby Gonzales, D-Taos. State analysts expect the original bill could generate $26.9 million for the general fund.

Currently, cigarette tax revenue goes to the Department of Health facilities, cancer research and treatment at The University of New Mexico, cities, counties and the UNM Health Sciences Center. The bill would maintain funding levels for those beneficiaries, and money left after that would go to the state’s general fund.

Budget transparency: A measure by Rep. Dennis Kintigh, R-Roswell, to post the state budget online and make it searchable was tabled in the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.

Concerns about HB452 included the work that would be involved with posting the budget online and the cost. Kintigh said he will turn the bill into a memorial so the idea can be studied. The measure is similar to what President Obama is proposing for the federal budget.

Looking Ahead: The Senate Rules Committee is scheduled today to hear several ethics bills, including those that would create a state ethics commission and those that would create campaign contribution limits. However, these bills have been on the committee’s agenda for more than two weeks, so there’s no guarantee they will be discussed today. The meeting is scheduled for 8 a.m. in Room 320.

Quote of the day: “You have to know what you don’t know in order to ask the right questions.”

– Sen. Dede Feldman, D-Albuquerque, during Senate floor debate on a measure that aimed to give consumers more information on health insurance costs.