March 17, 2009 Legislative tidbits

Days remaining in session: four

Electronic medical records bill heads to governor

The House has approved a measure that would allow patients and doctors to chose to use electronic medical records.

Under the measure (SB 278), which is now headed to Gov. Bill Richardson’s desk, patients would re-consent annually to have their information available electronically. In an emergency, a doctor would have access to records, similar to what is allowed with traditional records.

The measure is a key part of Richardson’s health care package this session — a package that diminished greatly from last year, when the governor pushed a slew of bills aimed at reforming the health care industry.

Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, is carrying the bill. He and other supporters say the measure could save millions of dollars by helping avoid unneeded and duplicate medical tests.

Drivers could get 400th Santa Fe anniversary license plates

Drivers could request 400th anniversary of Santa Fe license plates under a measure (SB 361) introduced by Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose. The yearly fee for the special plate would be $35, in addition to the regular fees for motor vehicle registration. The measure was pending in the Senate Monday.

Identity theft measure passes Senate

The Senate on Monday approved a bill (HB 279) that requires copies of police reports on identity theft cases be filed with the Attorney General’s Office

The measure, which goes to the governor, also would extend the statute of limitations for the prosecution of identity theft to up to 5 years after the theft is discovered.

Rep. Tom Anderson, R-Albuquerque, is carrying the measure and urged Richardson to sign it.

“Thousands of people in the state are affected by this crime every year and we must take the necessary steps to teach people how avoid becoming victims and to crack down on those who commit identity theft.”

State Parks Division could take over Pecos Canyon

The Senate has passed a memorial asking the State Parks Division of the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to establish Pecos Canyon State Park on State Game Commission land.

The measure (SJM16) now goes to the House for consideration. Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose, is carrying the measure.

Changes for charter school athletes

Charter school students will face limits on where they can participate in school sports programs or other extracurricular activities under a proposal that won final legislative approval on Monday.

Supporters say the measure is to stop charter school students from jumping from public school to public school in search of the best sports team in which to join.

Under the legislation (HB626), a student attending a charter school will have to participate in activities at the public school in the “attendance zone” in which they live.

Rep. Thomas Garcia, D-Ocate, said the current system created problems because some charter school students go “from district to district simply because of a coaching situation or another team has a better opportunity to be state champion.”

The bill heads to Gov. Bill Richardson.

Webcasting goes live

New Mexicans can finally tune in to listen and watch proceedings of the state Senate.

Audio and video webcasts of Senate floor sessions started Monday. A link for the webcasts can be found at the Legislature’s Web site.

The House began audio streaming floor proceedings last month.

The Senate approved a change in rules last week to authorize webcasting of its proceedings.

The Senate webcasts come as lawmakers scramble to finish their business. The Legislature’s 60-day session ends at noon on Saturday.

Lawmakers have sent the governor a bill that could result in some teenage murderers being treated as juveniles, rather than adults, if an evaluation showed they would be amenable to treatment.

Under current law, teens age 15-17 who are convicted of first-degree murder are sentenced under adult guidelines, which unlike juvenile sentencing guidelines do not include an evaluation for treatment options.

The bill (SB7), which narrowly passed its final legislative hurdle Monday with a 35-31 vote in the House, requires that those teens undergo an evaluation and a hearing on their amenability to treatment before an adult sentence could be imposed.

“Nothing prohibits the judge from sentencing to the max under the adult code,” said Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque.

If a judge did feel the teen could benefit from treatment, the teen would then be treated like a juvenile until the age of 21, at which time he or she could be transferred to adult prison if so ordered.

Current law prevents teens convicted of first-degree murder from being housed with other juveniles.

According to an analysis of the bill done for lawmakers, there are currently only a handful of teens serving sentences for first-degree murder.

Quote of the day: “This does create the impression out there that all senators are bald except those in the front row.”

— Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, commenting on the Senate’s new webcast, which only shows a handful of senators in the chambers, two of whom have bald spots.