By Marisa Demarco
— My colleague Margaret Wright and I will be heading to Santa Fe to scope legislative happenings. Tune in to the Compass Twitter feed today for updates.
New faces will be seen around the Roundhouse, as efforts by Gov. Susana Martinez and co. during the 2012 election cycle ousted some longtime players. State Republicans weren’t able to wrest control of the House or Senate from the Democrats, but power dynamics may shift.
Here’s a look at a couple of the measures that were filed early. [And here's a few more that I wrote about when the session opened on Tuesday.] More will be introduced as the session wears on, and the action will ramp up as the closing date nears.
Food Mutants—Sen. Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe) is sponsoring a measure that would require labeling human food or commercial animal feed that contains genetically modified material. California voters shot down a proposition along similar lines in November. The Grocery Manufacturing Association estimates 70 percent of American groceries contain ingredients that were engineered in laboratories. Concerns have been raised about those foods’ impact on the environment and possible risks for people who eat them. Proponents argue GM foods are more resistant to disease, drought and pests, and can be grown more quickly.
PRC Standards—Jerome Block Jr. will go down in New Mexico history not just as a shameful example of a politician gone wrong but as a warning shot for all of the state’s agencies. In the last election, New Mexico voters favored three constitutional amendments that would bring change to the Public Regulation Commission. Among them, voters want to see requirements for commissioners, who are paid $90,000 a year. Sen. Tim Keller (D-Albuquerque) and Rep. Paul Bandy (R-Aztec) teamed up on a bill that would create those standards. Under their measure, commissioners would have to have a bachelor’s degree or better and seven years of experience in a related field. Rep. Thomas Taylor (R-Farmington) proposed another bill that requires the same standards, plus specifications for candidates to prove their qualifications, as well as 80 hours of continuing education every year in office. Taylor is also sponsoring bills that would take insurance and corporation regulation out of the PRC.
And that’s just the beginning. Other hot topics for the 2013 session include: texting while driving, gun control, classroom sizes, the State Fair, teen pregnancy, super PACs and, of course, driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. Check back with Local iQ for coverage in each issue by the New Mexico Compass.