Thursday, March 24, 2005


As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
March 24, 2005

The music stopped in the Senate Finance Committee.

Early this year, Gov. Bill Richardson proposed the state establish a state music commission, modeled after similar music agencies in Texas and Louisiana "to protect, promote and archive music in New Mexico."

Senate Majority Whip Mary Jane Garcia, D-Dona Ana, introduced a bill for the administration to create a 7-member commission under the Department of Cultural Affairs, charged with developing a musical directory of services, venues and performances in the state, as well as proposing projects designed to "protect New Mexico's musical traditions or promote the music industry in New Mexico."

Senate Bill 167 asked for $100,000 for the commission.

However, the bill never made it out of Senate Finance.

Some might argue this was for the best.

After all, had the bill made to a Senate floor debate, it's doubtful that Sen. Joe Carraro, R-Albuquerque (who entertained the Roundhouse with his version of "That's Amore" on Italian-American Day) and Sen. Shannon Robinson, D-Albuquerque (who sang a verse of Johnny Cash's "Dirty Old Egg-Suckin' Dog" during the Dangerous Dog Act debate) could have resisted temptation to display their musical, uh talents.

While the bill died in committee, the budget that eventually passed the Legislature and was signed by the governor, does contain an appropriation of $25,000 earmarked to promote New Mexican music.

Stuart Ashman of the Department of Cultural Affairs, said Wednesday that the state Arts Commission will appoint a committee to consult with music promoters and preservationists to determine what the state should do with the money.

"What we'll probably come up with is a Web site to promote music," Ashman said. The site would include listings of musicians, venues, festivals, music education programs, etc.

Loie Fecteau, executive director of the Arts Commission, said the state already funds many music-related projects - documenting and preserving the rural folk music traditions of the state as well as contributing to music organizations like the New Mexico Symphony, the Santa Fe Jazz Festival and the Silver City Blues Festival.

Legislating the news: This last session is unusual in at least one regard. Usually some lawmaker introduces a bill to take away the newspaper industry's exemption from the state gross receipts tax. Quite often, this bill is introduced by a legislator who is angry over bad publicity.

There was no tax-the-papers bill this time, but there were at least four bills aimed at the newspaper business.

SB 164, sponsored by Robinson, would have required that papers exempted from the gross receipts tax "publish the name and hometown of each dead or wounded service personnel that resulted from combat or overseas deployment." This didn't make it out of Senate Corporations and Finance Committee, which Robinson chairs.

But the three other bills actually passed the House, only to die in various Senate Committees.
HB 253, sponsored by Rep. Larry Larranaga, R-Albuquerque, would have required all general circulation newspapers published in the state to print obituary notices for free. This passed the House 40-15 but died in Senate Corporations and Transportation. (Earlier this year, The New Mexican began publishing front-page death notices for free.)

HB 849, sponsored by House Speaker Ben Lujan, as passed by the House (52-12) would have allowed the state General Services secretary to set the rate for legal advertisements purchased by state and government agencies. This died in Senate Judiciary.

HB 850, also sponsored by Lujan, would have required newspapers to provide accidental injury insurance or workers' compensation insurance to those who sell papers on the streets. This too died in Senate Judiciary.

Speaking with forked tongues: Tongue splitting is still legal in New Mexico. SB 364, sponsored by Sen. Lee Rawson, R-Las Cruces, would have regulated body art and would have outlawed the practice of tongue-splitting never made it out of committee.

It died in Senate Judiciary, which was also the burying ground for SB 80, sponsored by Sen. Rod Adair, R-Roswell, which would have required parental consent for minors wanting tattoos or piercings. Adair had another bill (SB 81) to prohibit body art for minors, but it stalled in Senate Public Affairs.

The tattoo/nose-ring bill that made it the furthest was HB 478, the Body Art Safe Practices Act, sponsored by Rep. Rhonda King, D-Stanley. This would have required licenses for tattoo artists and piercers and established state standards for the industry. This passed the House 63-0, but withered in Senate Judiciary.

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