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Monday, December 22, 2014

Session to debate complex issues

news@dailylobo.com
@JCTyczkowski

Benjamin Franklin once said that the only certainties in life are death and taxes. An addition to that should probably be legislation.

Tuesday marked the beginning of the 2014 New Mexico Legislative Session, which will last until Feb. 20. Over the next month, state lawmakers will meet at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe to debate legislation on topics ranging from gun control to the Lottery Scholarship.

Here’s a look at a few bills of interest introduced this first week for both the UNM and Albuquerque communities, as well as all those living in New Mexico.

House Bill 44 – Firearm Transfer Act

During the 2013 legislative session, Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, first introduced the Firearm Transfer Act, but it was fraught with problems, being referred to as “overly broad” and “excessively restrictive” in a fiscal impact report. A revised version introduced later in the 2013 session narrowed the bill’s focus to gun shows, and scrapped New Mexico-specific laws in favor of using the federal Brady Act, but still failed to pass.

The 2014 version of the bill includes the same language regarding regulating gun show sales and using federal background check standards. However, according to the bill, it introduces a mental health standard which would deny individuals “adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution” the right to “receive or possess any firearm or ammunition.”

At the same time, the bill states that it provides for the individual to be able to “seek a redetermination of mental condition and restoration of the right to receive or possess a firearm or ammunition.”

The Firearms Transfer Act has not yet been introduced into any House committee as of press time.

House Bill 145 – Lottery Scholarship Changes

Rep. Thomas C. Taylor (R-Farmington) has introduced a bill that seeks to expand Lottery Scholarship eligibility.

According to the bill, if passed, it would apply Lottery Scholarship payments to full-time resident students who joined the armed forces within 120 days of receiving a graduate equivalent diploma or who attend a community college within one year of honorable or medical discharge from the armed forces.

In addition, the bill also provides specific definitions for GEDs, which include a diploma of excellence earned from a public high school, a diploma earned from a private high school and a GED certificate.

According to the bill, there are also provisions for out-of-state degrees, such as a diploma earned from an out-of-state high school paid for by the state of New Mexico “if adequate schooling facilities were not reasonably available” in the student’s school district, or a diploma earned from an out-of-state high school if the student pays New Mexico income taxes and is a live-in dependent of a New Mexico resident in the armed forces stationed outside of the state.

The bill is still in House pre-file legislation as of press time.

Senate Bill 8 – Entrepreneurial International Student Tuition Act

This bill seeks to grant resident tuition and fee rates at certain state universities to international undergraduate students of certain majors.

Senate Bill 8, sponsored by Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, and Rep. Dennis J. Roch, R-Logan, would allow international students attending a New Mexico university and studying science, computer science, information technology, engineering, mathematics and business to pay in-state tuition and fees.

Requirements include living in New Mexico during degree pursuit, maintaining certain academic requirements and signing a statement indicating an interest to stay in New Mexico and work at or start a business in the state after graduation, according to the bill.

The bill would appropriate $5 million to the higher education department in order to provide for this resident tuition program at UNM, NMSU, Western New Mexico State University, Eastern New Mexico State University, New Mexico Highlands University and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

As of press time, the bill is up for debate in the Senate Committees Committee.

Senate Bill 79 – Prohibit Online Promotion of Prostitution
Another repeat bill from the 2013 session, Senate Bill 79, introduced by Rep. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Tim D. Lewis, R-Rio Rancho, seeks to criminalize online and electronic solicitation of prostitution.

The bill states that using electronic and online forums and websites to solicit and promote prostitution would become a crime, and that “a place where prostitution is practiced, encouraged or allowed” would be expanded to include computers, web sites and electronic and online forums in addition to physical locations.

The bill failed to pass last year, as it was tabled in the Senate after passing the House.

Senate Bill 79 is located in Senate pre-file legislation as of press time.