Legislative roundup, March 11, 2017

March 11, 2017 GMT

Days remaining in session: 8

Taxi deregulation: State senators voted 39-0 Friday for a bill to deregulate taxi cabs.

Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, said he introduced the measure to give cab companies equal footing with ride-booking services such as Uber, which are not bound by a regulatory structure the way taxis are. McSorley said his Senate Bill 480 also would treat limousine services similarly to Uber in terms of deregulation.

Senators approved the taxi deregulation bill four days after Albuquerque Cab Co. closed after 43 years in business. It employed 70 people. Other cab companies, shuttle services and ride-booking businesses continue operating in Albuquerque.

McSorley’s bill now goes to the House of Representatives.

Medical marijuana: Just before midnight Friday, the state House of Representatives voted 45-16 to set in law the medical conditions that make a patient eligible to obtain medical marijuana in New Mexico. These conditions are now listed in rules issued by the state Health Department.

House Bill 527, sponsored by House Minority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, also would allow patients to renew their medical marijuana card every two years instead of annually.

Gentry’s bill now goes to the Senate.

His proposal is similar to Senate Bill 177, sponsored by Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, which cleared the Senate last month and is awaiting hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.

But McSorley’s bill also would allow patients with a substance abuse disorder to be admitted into the medical marijuana program. In addition, the bill would increase the amount of marijuana that patients legally could possess to 5 ounces, and allow producers to increase the number of plants they grow as the number of patients enrolled in the program increases. Cannabis producers currently can grow up to 450 plants.

Looking ahead: The House Judiciary Committee, which is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Saturday in Room 309 of the Capitol, is likely to take up a bill to require background checks for firearm sales at gun shows. Gun-control groups such as Everytown for Gun Safety argue the measure would close a loophole that allows just about anyone to acquire a gun without a background check. But critics such as the National Rifle Association argue that it would burden law-abiding gun owners while doing nothing to prevent crime. Both sides have poured money into the debate. A similar bill, sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos, made it through the committee process on party lines but never got a floor vote.

Quote of the day: “I’ve never heard of fortified wine but it sounds awful.” — Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, discussing a proposal to raise taxes on alcohol. Sponsored by Rep. Joanne Ferrary, D-Las Cruces, the measure would have boosted New Mexico’s taxes on beer and wine to the highest rate in country. But Chasey and every other member of the House Health and Human Services Committee except for Ferrary voted to table the measure.


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