1-27 Legislative tidbits

The Santa Fe New Mexican

Days remaining: 22

Investment panel to review contract:

The State Investment Council on Tuesday agreed to have a subcommittee review a multi-million dollar contract with the Paul, Hastings, Janofsky and Walker law firm.

As part of the contract, which is drawing scrutiny from state lawmakers this session, the firm is converting thousands of documents — subpoenaed by the FBI and Securities Exchange Commission — into an electronic database. That work could result in the state recovering money lost in bad investments and fees paid to third-party marketers, a State Investment Council lawyer has said.

“They need to make an assesment on how much more work needs to be done, what the costs might be and whether that’s a reason value for the costs involved,” State Investment Office spokesman Charles Wollmann said.

Health care spending reform:

Gov. Bill Richardson on Tuesday announced a plan he’s backing to save money and get greater efficiencies in state health care spending.

The package includes:

— SB 155, which would develop common health care packages for agencies including the General Services Department, the Retiree Health Care Authority, the Albuquerque Public Schools and the Public Schools Insurance Authority.

— HB 12, which requires an insurer to spend at least 85 percent of the premiums it collects on direct health care services.

— HB 32, which changes the definition of a small employer to include one to 50 employees, instead of two to 50 employees. The change would allow the self-employed to get coverage from a licensed insurer in the state.

— HB 96, which would prohibit companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.

“This package of legislation is more important now than ever before to find solutions for the many families who are struggling to pay the rising cost of their insurance and medical bills,” Richardson said in a statement.

Depredation bill moving along:

A bill that supporters say would prevent landowners from killing big animals that threaten their crops has been approved by the House Health and Government Affairs Committee.

The measure, HB 73, directs the Department of Game and Fish to work with landowners “to find sensible solutions to their depredation problems, including population reduction hunts, fencing and other forms of assistance,” according to a release from the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.

“I don’t think any of us want to read about another senseless slaughter of our wildlife,” Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement. “This bill provides a sensible and balanced approach to solving a problem that needs to be fixed.”

Treating, not jailing, offenders:

People with nonviolent drug possession arrests would get treatment instead of jail time under a measure (HB 178) introduced by Rep. Antonio Maestas, D-Albuquerque.

“The crime and punishment model is simply not suited to address the drug problem in our community,” Maestas said in a statement.

He said the measure would “alleviate an overburdened court system and produce true results to heal our families and communities.”

The state in 2007 spent $22 million to incarcerate or give probation sentences to nonviolent drug possession offenders, according to information provided by the Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico.

Former oil-and-gas lobbyist dies:

No date has been set yet for an informal memorial service in Santa Fe for Pete Hanagan, who served as chief legislative lobbyist for the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association from 1970-1985. The Roswell-born lawyer died Saturday of heart failure in Limerick, Ireland, at the age of 81.

After getting a law degree from George Washington University in 1957, he practiced and taught law, as well as founded a bi-weekly newspaper, in Washington, D.C. He moved to Santa Fe in 1970, where became spokesman for the oil-and-gas industry. He later also taught law at the University of Limerick, Ireland, and at the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara, Mexico.

Family members, who will announce details of the memorial service at a later date, said his ashes will be scattered off the west coast of Ireland in County Clare.

Looking ahead:

— Members of the Santa Fe Alliance today at 10 a.m. will rally at the Roundhouse in support of a measure (HB 66) by Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, that would take the state’s cash deposits out of the Bank of America and put them in smaller, New Mexico banks. Local business owners and members of the Santa Fe Area Home Builders Association are expected to attend. The bill is pending in the House Business and Industry Committee.

— The Senate Finance Committee today is expected to consider the budget for the Children Youth and Families Department at 1:30 in room 322. Advocates for early child education and developmental programs are expected to attend the meeting with the hopes of sending the message that early childhood programs are essential to the state’s economy. They said in a press release they worry that the department’s budget has already been cut too much.