AARP Priority Bills Off to Slow Start as Second Half of Legislative Session Begins

Posted on 02/23/21

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With the 2021 New Mexico Legislative Session just past the halfway point, a number of AARP New Mexico’s priority bills still have a way to go in order to end up on the Governor’ s Desk.

This Session seems to be moving slower than year’s past with only three of the 904 bills introduced making it through both houses, as of Tuesday, Feb. 23. Still it is not unusual for things to start moving quickly in the second half of the Session.

“It’s not uncommon for things to take a few weeks to really start moving in any Legislative Session, but this Session had the added challenges of switching to an all virtual operation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ” said DeAnza Valencia, AARP New Mexico Associate State Director for Advocacy.

“All things considered, it’s going fairly smooth. So AARP New Mexico is not daunted by the fact that some of the bills are taking a bit longer to get some momentum going. We suspect, as in most Legislative Sessions, the pace will continue to increase as we head into March,” Valencia said.

The new format of having to watch and testify in a virtual world has not stopped AARP New Mexico’s 30-some volunteer advocates from participating in the process.

“Our volunteers are still highly visible at committee hearings and they are making sure Legislators know where AARP stands on a variety of bills,” Valencia said. 

In any Legislative Session, AARP New Mexico is tracking close to a 100 bills that fall into the categories of utilities, consumer and health issues.

This year lowering prescription drugs costs, repealing the tax on Social Security, increasing access to reliable and affordable broadband, protecting individuals from unfair loan practices, and paid sick leave, among others, are all on AARP New Mexico’s list of priorities.

 Here is a look at some of AARP New Mexico’s priority bills and where they stand at the half-way point:

Lowering Prescription Drug Costs

House Bill 154, the Prescription Drug Affordability Act, sponsored by Rep. Angelica Rubio, would create a board to oversee and regulate the cost of some prescription drugs. The bill received a Do Pass by the House Health and Human Services Committee and now goes to the House State Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee.

Removing the Tax on Social Security

House Bill 49 – Tax Exemption for Social Security Income, sponsored by Representatives  Rebecca Dow, Gail Armstrong, Randal Pettigrew, and Candy Spence Ezzell, would allow exemptions from state income tax on Social Security benefits includable in adjusted gross income. Passed House Labor, Veterans’ and Military Affairs and now goes to House Taxation and Revenue.

Senate Bill 78 – Tax Exemption for Social Security Income, sponsored by Senators Michael Padilla and Liz Stefanics would allow exemptions from state income tax on Social Security benefits includable in adjusted gross income. Assigned to Senate Tax, Business and Transportation; and Senate Finance. Is still awaiting a first hearing.

Work and Save

Senate Bill 129, the Work and Save Act Expansion, sponsored by Sen. Bill Tallman. Last year, AARP New Mexico was pivotal is passing the New Mexico Saves Act, House Bill 44, which the Governor Signed into law. The bill sets up a retirement savings program for those individuals who don’t have access to a savings program through their work. SB129 directs the program’s board to establish a retirement plan website as well allows for more time to set up the program. The bill passed the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee and now heads to Senate Finance.

Paid Sick Leave

House Bill 38, related to HB20, Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, sponsored by Representatives Christine Chandler, Patricia Roybal Caballero and Linda Serrato, would allow employees to take paid leave to bond with a child or provide care for themselves or a family member experiencing a serious health condition. Received a Do Pass by House Commerce and Economic Development Committee and heads to House Judiciary.

House Bill 20, Health Workplaces Act – Employee Sick Leave, sponsored by Representatives Christine Chandler, Daymon Ely, Mimi Stewart and Angelica Rubio, requires all employers to provide a minimum amount of earned sick leave to all employees, including part-time and temporary workers and protects employees from retaliation for using that sick leave.  Substitute passed Labor, Veterans’ and Military Affairs Committee and heads to House Judiciary.

Small or Payday Loans

House Bill 99, Lowers Allowable 175 Percent Interest Rate on Loans, sponsored by Representatives Susan Herrera and Patricia Roybal Caballero, would lower the interest rate on small loans, also known as payday loans, from 175 percent to 36 percent. Passed House Consumer and Public Affairs and heads to House Judiciary.

House Bill 149, Small Loans, sponsored by Representatives Susan Herrera, Patricia Roybal Caballero, and Joy Garratt, would raise from $5,000 to $10,000 the amount considered a small loan and lower the interest rate of such loans from 175 percent to 36 percent. Assigned to the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee and House Judiciary. No hearing yet.

Senate Bill 66, Small Loan Interest Rate Caps, sponsored by Senators William Soules and Katy Duhigg, would place an interest rate cap of 36 percent on small loans up to $10,000 with a higher cap in certain cases. Passed the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee and heads to Senate Judiciary.

Broadband
Senate Bill 93, Broadband Access and Expansion Office, by Senators Michael Padilla and Liz Stefanics, Creates the Broadband Access and Expansion Act and The Office of Broadband Access and Expansion, administratively attached to the Department of Information Technology (DoIT) with a director appointed by the Governor; to study broadband access and implementation. Received a Do Pass by Senate Tax, Business and Transportation and heads to Senate Finance.

This story is provided by AARP New Mexico. Visit the AARP New Mexico page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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