Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed 31 bills into law Wednesday, including legislation strengthening New Mexico’s health insurance exchange and opening the door for the state to import wholesale drugs from Canada.
The governor significantly ramped up the pace of lawmaking, as she signed more than twice as many bills in one day as she has since the session ended. She has now signed 46 bills, more than half of the 88 passed by the Legislature, and has not vetoed any.
Lujan Grisham signed a quartet of health-related bills at a news conference, including legislation that aims to make medicine more affordable for New Mexicans. Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, and Rep. Debbie Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, will allow the state to apply for federal approval to import medications from Canada, where prescription drugs are on average 30 percent cheaper.
“My goal is to make health care so much more cost-effective and affordable for New Mexicans,” Lujan Grisham told reporters at a Roundhouse signing ceremony.
Lujan Grisham also put pen to paper on House Bill 100, sponsored by Armstrong and Rep. Micaela Cadena, D-Mesilla, which gives the state’s health insurance exchange more autonomy in helping uninsured residents gain access to affordable health insurance plans.
The bill is aimed at protecting the state exchange and residents’ access to health insurance regardless of the future of the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a major challenge to that law, also known as “Obamacare.”
“It does absolutely no good to have an insurance plan if you can’t afford to use it,” Lujan Grisham said. “This will have a meaningful impact on insuring New Mexicans more comprehensively.”
Also signed was House Bill 292, which puts a limit on copays and out-of-pocket expenses for insulin, and Senate Bill 131, which raises the legal age to buy cigarettes and e-cigarettes to 21.
The governor had strong words for drug manufacturers that have increased costs for insulin.
“It is outrageous and disgusting and this is the way we fight back to an industry that makes record profits on the backs of very sick individuals and families,” she said. “States all over the country should follow our lead and do exactly what we’re doing.”
House Bill 292 makes out-of-pocket expenses for insulin in New Mexico the lowest in the country, capping them at $25 per prescription for a 30-day supply.
A slew of bills unrelated to health became law as well. They included House Bill 341, which maintained a relatively low profile during the session but could have a significant impact on state finances in coming years.
The legislation allows the transfer of money from the state’s enormous Tax Stabilization Reserve fund into its operating reserve if the latter drops to less than 1 percent of total appropriations. Proponents said during the session the measure would fix a structural issue created when the rainy-day fund was set up and would even help the state avoid calling a special session when it’s not necessary.
The operating reserve, a sort of holding account for the general fund that provides a buffer in case there’s a revenue shortfall, is projected to hold less than 1 percent of total appropriations at the end of the 2021 fiscal year, a balance that would trigger a transfer under the new law.
Additionally, Lujan Grisham signed House Bill 117, which allows municipalities to collect a lodgers’ tax for stays longer than 30 days. The legislation is aimed at generating more revenue for areas of the state that have seen a dramatic increase in long-term stays, especially parts of southeastern New Mexico presiding over a massive oil and gas boom.
Also chaptered into law was House Bill 21, which prohibits private employers from requiring nondisclosure agreements in out-of-court settlements related to workers’ complaints of sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation on the job. Senate Bill 185, which creates five new judgeships in the state, also made it to the finish line.
Also of note was legislation allowing the public to immediately view records pertaining to claims against the government, removing a requirement that the state must wait 180 days before publicly disclosing such information. Lawmakers said during the session they were compelled to introduce Senate Bill 64 after millions of dollars in secretive settlements were made during the administration of former Gov. Susana Martinez, many of which were found to have been carried out without adequate investigation or documentation.