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Financial Issues Dominate 2012 30-Day Session

The 2012 Legislative Session began Jan. 17 and because of both current economic conditions and the fact that it is a 30 day session; lawmakers are mostly focusing on economic issues.

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AARP New Mexico’s priorities for the Session will also be mostly money oriented but will be centered on senior programs and services as well as consumer protections.

AARP’s priorities for the session include restoring funding to the New Mexico Aging Network so that senior programs will continue to serve the state’s older population
Before the session began, Leonel Garza, AARP New Mexico State Legislative Council Chairman, presented testimony to the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, emphasizing the fact that these programs are vital to the communities they serve and that there is an increase in demand for these services as the economy forces more people to seek assistance.
“Senior Community programs are seeing an increased demand for meals, transportation and in-home support services,” Garza said. “To meet this demand these programs have made other cuts while protecting core services but they’re reaching a breaking point. It’s time to return these funds so these needs can be better addressed.”

AARP New Mexico will also be monitoring how the state plans to fund Medicaid.

“AARP wants to make sure that people enrolled in the Medicaid programs aren’t going to face steeper co-pays,” said Michael Donnelly, AARP New Mexico Associate State Director for Advocacy. “Luckily, at this point, the budget recommendations currently being made for Medicaid and Medicare by both the Legislature and Gov. Martinez seem to put those fears to rest but we will be closely watching funding recommendations for those programs as the budget process proceeds.”

AARP will also be working against an idea proposed by Gov. Martinez during last year’s session to have insurance companies serve on the state Health Insurance Exchange, which could lead to conflicts of interest.

Other bills attracting AARP’s interest so far include:

  • Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Michael Sanchez, D-Valencia, which would provide some relief for homeowners facing foreclosure by loosening up formal negotiations and allowing more time for homeowners to seek a resolution before a home is foreclosed upon.
  • Senate Bill 6, sponsored by Sen. Dede Feldman, D-Bernalillo, creates the State Health Exchange, which would create the system for insurance coverage under the new federal Affordable Care Act.
  • Senate Bill 7, also sponsored by Sen. Dede Feldman, would govern non-Medicaid health plans and allow the state to determine what a basic health plan becomes.

Senate Joint Resolution 2, sponsored by Sen. Tim Keller, D- Bernalillo, and Rep. Brian Egolf Jr., D-Santa Fe, would seek to amend the state Constitution to establish terms and qualifications of individuals who serve on the Public Regulation Commission – most notably, changing the terms of service from being elected by the public to being appointed by the governor.