With just over 18 days left in the 2023 New Mexico Legislative Session, things are moving slowly but in traditional fashion expected to start speeding up with marathon sessions taking place in both houses as the days start to dwindle.
To date, there are no bills on the Governor’s desk but 20 have passed both houses and are waiting nearby.
“Given that there are only a few weeks left in the 60-day session, Things seem to be moving unusually slow with many bills stuck in committees,” said Othiamba Umi, Advocacy Director for AARP New Mexico. “Two of our priority bills on financial exploitation of elders and supported decision making, an alternative to guardianship, cleared their first committee in late January but are still waiting for a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.”
“Paid Family Medical Leave is on the Senate Floor. The bill is controversial, and a lengthy debate is expected. Once passed, it will head to the House. With less than three weeks left, it will be a difficult lift to get it through, but we are hopeful,” Umi said.
“As we know, things tend to advance faster in the last two weeks and a lot of work will get done. I am still optimistic that some of our priority issues will start gathering momentum and move quickly through the process,’ he said.
Here is a status on AARP New Mexico’s priority issues:
Senate Bill 118 and Senate Bill 119 – Financial Crimes Against the Vulnerable, sponsored by Sen. Michael Padilla, Sen. Peter Wirth and Rep. Marian Matthews; and the Financial Exploitation Act, sponsored by Sen. Kathy Duhigg, Sen. Peter Wirth and Rep. Christine Chandler.
Senate Bills 118 and 119 criminalize the use of power of attorney to intentionally and unlawfully deprive an elder of their property or financial resources and provide new civil remedies to victims of financial exploitation. These important bills improve protections for families against the devastating problem of financial exploitation of elders in New Mexico.
Both bills passed Senate Health and Public Affairs Jan. 31 and are awaiting a hearing in Senate Judiciary. SB 118 is also scheduled to be heard in Senate Finance.
Senate Bill 89 – Supported Decision Making, sponsored by Sen. Siah Correa Hemphill, Rep. Joanne Ferrary and Sen. Linda Lopez
SB 89 would formalize supported decision-making agreements as a less restrictive alternative to guardianship in New Mexico which is an important step to reduce the restrictions on choice and rights that are the outcomes of unnecessary guardianships. When New Mexico’s seniors get to a point where they may need help making vital decisions, they should have access to the option that best meets their specific needs. The bill passed the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee and is now sitting in Senate Judiciary.
Senate Bill 11 – Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, sponsored by Sen. Mimi Stewart.
The Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML) would allow up to 12 weeks of paid time off to care for a seriously ill family member or a worker’s own serious health condition. By passing a PFML program, we can keep workers who are caring for their loved ones on the job longer, preventing the loss of work.
The bill is on the Senate floor awaiting action before being sent over to the House. There is much support and opposition of the legislation, so the floor vote is expected to have a lengthy debate, once scheduled.
Senate Bill 194 and House Bill 166 – Requires Employers to Participate in the New Mexico Work and Save Program, sponsored by Sen. Bill Tallman and Rep. Tara Lujan.
AARP supports legislation that would increase the impact of the program by changing the program to autoenrollment with an employee option to opt-out. Switching from voluntary to auto-enrollment is vital to reduce costs and ensure the program’s long-term success and viability, ultimately leading to employees taking control of their financial futures by saving for retirement and allowing employers to attract and retain valuable employees.
HB 166 received a due pass by the House Labor, Veterans and Military Committee on Feb. 3. It was referred to House Appropriations and Finance, which tabled the bill on Feb. 22 for further discussion.
SB 194 was heard by the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee on Feb. 24 and was reported out without a recommendation. This means the bill can move on to the Senate Finance Committee, which would need to pass it before it can go to the Senate Floor for a vote.
House Bill 51 – Prescription Drug Affordability Board Act, sponsored by Rep. Pamelya Herndon, Sen. Bill Tallman and Sen. Jeff Steinborn
The Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB) would evaluate drug prices and make recommendations for lowering the high costs of prescription medications.
The Health and Human Services Committee passed the bill as amended on Feb. 14. It now awaits a hearing in House Appropriations and Finance before advancing to the House floor.
High Speed Internet – House Bills 160, 206, 213, 262, and Senate Bills 97 and 155 – Broadband Infrastructure.
There are six bills addressing Broadband that AARP New Mexico is supporting. The bills increase access for broadband infrastructure and facilitate its deployment and help reduce costs.
To date no legislation has been introduced to reinstate the gross receipts tax on food. However, AARP New Mexico is supporting several bills that address senior hunger.
There are five food bills that support funding for various senior food assistance: Senate Bills 352, 353, 354, 355 and 356. Since all bills include an appropriation of funds, they would be evaluated for possible inclusion in the overall state budget.