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Legislative roundup: 3-15-2019

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The New Mexican

Days left in session: 1

Recreational marijuana unlikely: The likelihood that New Mexicans will be able to access legal recreational cannabis is fading away.

On Friday, Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas, D-Albuquerque, said he thought the bill "probably will not get heard" in the Senate Finance Committee, where it's been sitting since the House of Representatives voted 36-34 to approve the proposal.

Friday is the last full day of the session and the last planned meeting of the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming.

An amended version of House Bill 356, had it become law, would have allowed residents 21 years or older to buy cannabis at state-run stories, and it would have created a state oversight commission. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has said she favors legalizing recreational marijuana if proper safeguards are in place.

Driver ID bill approved: The House of Representatives on Thursday voted 50-16 for a bill that would help streamline the process of applying for and obtaining a standard non-REAL ID driver's license and identification card for New Mexico residents.

SB 278, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, and Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque, would do away with fingerprinting requirement for applicants who do not prove lawful immigration status, allow license holders to renew every four or eight years, ensure the standard license is accepted on par with the REAL ID license within New Mexico, and changing the name of the non-REAL ID license from "Driving Authorization Card" to "New Mexico Driver's License."

The Senate approved the bill to 31-9, which means it is now on its way to the governor's desk.

Early childhood department: The governor on Thursday signed the bill creating an Early Childhood Education and Care Department.

"This will make sure that resources for our children are aligned," the governor said at a news conference Thursday. "This new department clarifies the focal point for getting it right for kids."

The measure, Senate Bill 22, combines several state agencies that serve prekindergarten children with education programming, home visits and child care under one roof.

The signing of the bill was a foregone conclusion, given that the governor had executive influence behind it.

The new department will be led by a Cabinet secretary. The governor said she has not yet started a search for that person.

Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Linda Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, sponsored the bill.

Voter registration: The House of Representatives voted 45-22 for a bill that would allow qualified electors to register to vote during early voting periods, right up to Election Day.

Senate Bill 672 survived the addition of six approved floor amendments, one of which ensured that those voters would have photo identification when registering.

The Center for Civic Policy praised the decision.

Because of the new amendments, the bill heads back to the Senate for a vote of concurrence.

NBA breakthrough: State senators on Thursday honored the National Basketball Association's first Hispanic full-time head coach, Albuquerque native James Borrego.

A graduate of Albuquerque Academy, Borrego coaches the Charlotte Hornets, owned by Michael Jordan.

Borrego, 41, was raised by his single mother, Lydia. She sat quietly in the Senate chamber as the memorial was read into the record.

In part, it reads: "James has said that growing up in the Southwest he rarely dealt with any type of exclusion because of his background, and did not feel like opportunities were limited because of it. James credits basketball with helping him connect with kids from other cultures."

Once the reader had finished the memorial, the Senate broke into applause for Lydia.

Quote of the day:"I would rather have a political flack from New Mexico over a political flack from Florida." -- Rep. Eliseo Alcon, D-Milan, in a discussion about the governor having the power to name members to the Public Regulation Commission. Alcon was referring to controversial former Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera, who worked for the Florida Public Education Department before former Gov. Susana Martinez hired her.