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Firefighter pension bill gets $30M in committee


A bill to equalize retirement pay for firefighters left the New Mexico Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee $30 million richer than when it arrived Wednesday, Feb. 3.

House Bill 90 is intended to ensure that firefighters and other emergency services workers who are on extended shifts get full credit for their accrued retired benefits. Committee members supported the bill, but worried about a projected $30 million deficit to the retirement fund. So, they passed a $30 million amendment.

Sen. George Munoz, D-Gallup, is the bill’s sponsor and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. That committee will make the determination if the $30 million remains before the bill is sent to the Senate floor, he said.

Drug programs

Drug addicts would be able to consume illegal drugs in a safe place, with sterilized needles, trained supervision and no fear of arrest under a bill passed unanimously Wednesday in the House Health and Human Services Committee.

House Bill 123 would allow local city and county governments to establish overdose prevention programs, in consultation with the state Department of Health. The program would not provide drugs, but would provide a safe place for their consumption, along with counseling and treatment services. The intent is to prevent overdoses and the sharing of used needles, said sponsor Rep. Debbie Armstrong, D- Albuquerque.

HB 46, a separate bill by Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Ranchos de Atrisco, would establish a two-year pilot program in which the state would supply a variety of injectable drugs for use in the treatment of opioid addiction. Both bills have cleared the House Health Committee. HB 123 now goes to the Judiciary Committee; HB 46 now goes to the Appropriations and Finance Committee.

Show me the money

Legislation that would allow college athletes to be paid for the use of their name, image or likeness, in violation of NCAA rules, cleared the Senate Education Committee Tuesday.

Senate Bill 94 would allow student athletes to hire a lawyer or agent to negotiate contracts for the use of their name or image, which is now prohibited by the NCAA. Officials at New Mexico State University noted, for the analysis on the bill, that the NCAA has lobbied Congress for a federal law that would supersede any state law regarding compensation for student athletes.

“Our student athletes deserve the opportunity to earn a living,” said sponsor Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, a former University of New Mexico football player. “While some athletes receive full scholarships, most do not. This legislation would allow them the freedom to benefit from their hard work.” The bill now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Walter Rubel can be reached at waltrubel@gmail.com.

Walt Rubel