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The Latest: Vetting begins for recreational marijuana bill

February 8, 2019

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The Latest on action in the New Mexico Legislature (all times local):

4:00 p.m.

Initiatives to increase state educational spending, authorize recreational marijuana sales and ban animal traps on public land are being vetted by the New Mexico Legislature over the weekend.

The Saturday committee hearings are designed to accommodate intense public interest in the proposals. It’s the first public hearing on a bill to regulate and tax recreational cannabis.

The arrival of a Democratic governor and expanded Democratic majority in the Legislature this year has rekindled efforts to allow recreational marijuana use and increase spending on education from the state’s $17 billion educational trust fund through a constitutional amendment.

The proposed $170 million annual increase in withdrawals from the Land Grant Permanent Fund has yet to reach a floor vote. Approval by the Legislature would send the measure to a statewide vote.

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2 p.m.

Medical insurance companies are pushing back against a bill that would open up New Mexico’s Medicaid program to paying customers.

America’s Health Insurance Plans lobbyist Brent Moore told a legislative panel Friday that medical insurance companies are concerned that a Medicaid buy-in system could erode the market for individual health insurance for those without access to subsidies or an employer-sponsored plan. He also said private insurance providers worry that low Medicaid reimbursement rates could drive away medical providers.

Democratic Representative and bill sponsor Deborah Armstrong of Albuquerque says the initial goal is to help uninsured patients. She acknowledged the potential for a Medicaid buy-in plan to shift costs onto the individual market as it expands.

A committee vote on the bill was delayed until Monday because of minor amendments.

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