Roundhouse Roundup, Feb. 6

New Mexican staff
Posted 2/6/20

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Roundhouse Roundup, Feb. 6

Posted

Days remaining in session: 15

The bill, please: One thing state lawmakers love to do is introduce legislation. Wednesday, the midway point for this year's 30-day session, also was the last day for legislators to file bills for consideration.

As of 5 p.m., they had filed over 725 bills, memorials and resolutions — many of which are unlikely to make it to a committee hearing, let alone pass through both chambers of the Legislature. The session ends at noon Feb. 20.

Makes census to me: The House of Representatives voted 68-0 Wednesday to approve Senate Bill 4, which appropriates a one-time expense of $8 million to ensure New Mexico conducts an accurate statewide census count for 2020. The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 39-0 in late January.

Rep. Susan Herrera, D-Embudo, one of four sponsors of the bipartisan bill, said the money will help fund efforts to ensure people are aware of the census and understand the need to take part. The state's share of federal funding from several programs is based on the 10-year count.  

According to Sen. Bill Burt, R-Alamogordo, a bill co-sponsor, every 1 percent of people in the state who aren’t counted would lead to a loss of $50 million. 

Here's a fun fact: not only is April 1 known as April Fool's Day but also as Census Day, when every household in the country receives an invitation to take part in the census  — no foolin'!

Buzz on beWellnm: Under a bill headed to the full House, the board that oversees the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange, also known as beWellnm, would have a bigger role in determining what types of health plans are offered through the network.

The goal of House Bill 100, which passed the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, is to help make care more affordable, said Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, a sponsor of the measure.

The state's online exchange, launched in response to the federal Affordable Care Act in 2013, is where where self-employed workers and others who don't receive employment-based coverage can choose individual plans and qualify for federal subsidies. It currently operates through a federal site.

HB 100 comes as the state is working to roll out its own online platform for the exchange by the end of 2021. Advocates said this would ensure the network continues to operate even if the federal health law is repealed.

More than 42,000 New Mexico residents now receive health coverage through the exchange, according to healthinsurance.org, down from a peak of nearly 55,000 in 2016, when insurance was mandatory under federal law.

While HB 100 received wide support from Democrats on the committee and a range of stakeholders in the health insurance industry, it drew pushback from Republicans and a couple of brokers.

Anne Sperling, speaking on behalf of Independent Insurance Agents of New Mexico, raised a number of concerns. "We see this as a Trojan horse" that could lead to a single-payer health system, Sperling said.

Police chief confirmed: The Senate unanimously confirmed the appointment of Tim Johnson as chief of the New Mexico State Police on Wednesday. 

“Chief Johnson has been a steady and stabilizing force at the Department of Public Safety," Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. "I am glad to see senators endorse him and by extension his officers and the work they do every single day to keep New Mexico communities and roadways safe."

Looking ahead: From 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Friday, the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department hosts American Indian Day at the Roundhouse, with exhibits, presentations and other activities.

From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 480 hosts Film and Television Day at the Roundhouse.

Quote of the day: "I know nothing! Nothing!" — Reps. Doreen Gallegos, D-Las Cruces, and Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, almost in unison in response to a question about whether the House plans to hold a floor session Saturday. As the session moves into its second half, weekend committee hearings and floor sessions are more likely.

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