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Frustrating Legislative Session Leads to Some Successes for New Mexico Seniors, AARP

While the 2012 New Mexico Legislative Session was frustrating for many – of the 744 bills introduced only 77 made it to the Governor’s desk – it wasn’t a complete loss for New Mexico’s 50 plus population.

“It was an unfulfilling session for almost all interest groups,” said Michael Donnelly, AARP New Mexico State Associate Director for Advocacy. “The only really good thing about the Session was there was really nothing negative that impacted New Mexico seniors.”

Since the 30-day legislative session is mostly focused on the state budget and legislation with an appropriation impact, it is no surprise that finances dominated both houses. House Bill 2, the state’s budget bill, did include some modest growth for senior programs and both lawmakers and Gov. Susana Martinez seemed to agree on shoring up funds for Medicaid.

“Senior programs, like many other services, have been hit hard by the recession and current economic conditions,” said Leonel Garza, AARP New Mexico Legislative Council Chairman. “It is AARP’s hope that as those conditions improve some of the funding these programs have lost can begin to be restored.”

“As money tightened for just about everyone, more and more people rely on community programs that offer assistance with basic needs and providers across the state have been having a hard time keeping up with the demand,” Garza said.

“AARP New Mexico was really optimistic that the Legislature would adopt the Executive’s budget recommendations, as well as the request by the New Mexico Aging Network, which receives funding through the Aging and Long Term Services Department, for programs such as senior meals and transportation,” he said.

The Aging Network had hoped to receive $3,038,631. HB2, however, contains $1,681,700 in new funding.

“It isn’t everything we were hoping for, but any increase at this point is a good thing and will be beneficial in getting people the help they need,” Garza said.
 
Another area AARP New Mexico has been concerned about is Medicaid, but before the session even began Gov. Martinez and lawmakers seemed to agree that the program needed additional funding. Of the $905 million budgeted for Medicaid in HB2, $38 million is an increase in funding over the previous year.
 
AARP was also pleased that several bills geared toward reforming the Public Regulation Commission also passed. The PRC regulates several industries including insurance plans and utilities.

“Anyone following the news knows that the PRC has had a series of troubling issues,” Donnelly said. “These bills let consumers have a voice in how the PRC should be shaped in the future and whether the people believe something different might have better results.”

The three bills that passed, House Joint Resolution 11, HJR16, and HJR17, all allow for state Constitutional amendments to be placed on the November 2012 ballot to change the setup of the PRC.
 
HJR 11 would call for an increase in both educational and professional qualifications for PRC Commissioners. HJR16 would move the Corporations Bureau, which charters and regulates businesses, out of the PRC and into the Secretary of State’s Office. HJR17 originally called for the governor to appoint the state’s Insurance Superintendent but was amended to have an Insurance Nominating Committee to nominate the superintendent.

Two other measures AARP New Mexico was following failed to make it out of committee:

  • Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Michael Sanchez, D-Valencia, would’ve provide some relief for homeowners facing foreclosures by loosening up formal negotiations and allowing more time for homeowners to seek a resolution before a home is foreclosed upon.
  • SB 6, sponsored by Sen. Dede Feldman, D-Bernalillo, would have established the State Health Exchange in order to create the system for insurance coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act. There is still some speculation that Gov. Martinez will create the exchange through an executive order later this year. However, the federal government has extended the deadline for states to create such an exchange by a year.

SB7, also sponsored by Feldman, would have governed non–Medicaid health plans and allow the state to define what a basic health plan includes.

The governor has 20 days following the Session’s end to sign the bills that made it through both houses.

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