SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Thursday, February 2 brings a new day of lawmaking. Among the many ideas up for committee discussion today are: requiring standards for environmentally efficient appliances and an attempt to better educate voters. On top of that, keep an eye out in the near future for discussion around front-end license plates for New Mexico’s drivers.

Clean appliances

What do computers, commercial ovens, air purifiers, and urinals have in common? They’d all be regulated under a bill proposed by Rep. Kristina Ortez (D-Taos).

House Bill 185 would create energy and environmental standards for these sorts of appliances. Under the bill manufacturers and distributors of such appliances would be subject to unannounced inspections by the state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

Voter education

Voting is essential to the function of government across New Mexico. But in recent years, debates and discussions over the integrity of elections have risen.

To address the issue, Rep. William “Bill” R. Rehm (R-Abq.), is proposing the state create a “voter education and elections task force.” He laid out the idea in House Bill 86.

The task force would figure out the best ways to educate voters on electoral procedures, voter registration, and election safeguards. The task force would also look into ways to increase voter accessibility.

Front plates

If you’ve ever driven in neighboring Colorado or Texas, you may have noticed something different about their cars. They have both front and back license plates.

Now, a new bill is suggesting New Mexico join the dozens of other states that require two plates. House Bill 56, sponsored by Reps. Bill Rehm and Gail Chasey (D-Abq.), was originally scheduled for committee debate today. It’s been moved back on the calendar, but it’s still a bill worth keeping an eye out for.

Motorcycles, state government vehicles, school busses, and a handful of other vehicles would be exempt. But most cars and trucks would require two license plates under the bill.

Arizona and New Mexico are among about 19 states that currently do not require front plates. But Arizona once did – they got rid of that requirement in the 90s, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

This isn’t the first time New Mexico has considered front plates. Rehm sponsored a similar bill in 2018. At the time, the Public Safety Department noted that requiring front plates could help catch criminals: “The requirement of a front and rear registration plate enhances the ability to identify vehicles from either the front or the rear of the vehicle,” they said in an analysis.

“In many instances, vehicles used in the commission of a crime are unidentifiable due to the positioning of the vehicle or direction of travel. By adding the additional plate to the front of vehicles, there will be more opportunity for law enforcement to gather specific information about the vehicle or receive information from witnesses. This information can then be used to identify the registered owner of said vehicle to further enhance investigation of the crime committed,” the Department of Public Safety noted.

In case you missed it: Debates over water and educational funding

Debates are getting more intense around the Roundhouse as key bills enter committees. Recently, one bill that spurred strong emotions was a bill to end “preliminary approvals” of water leases.

For years, New Mexico’s Office of the State Engineer has been granting “preliminary” water leases when operations, like construction jobs, need water. But a bill aims to end the loophole that has allowed the approvals before the leases have had a chance to be challenged.

The bill garnered both strong support and strong opposition; as usual, a wide range of interests, both public and private, had an interest in this water bill. For more on that debate, check out this KRQE News 13 story.

Another bill that drew strong emotions was a proposal to let parents apply state funds to private education for their children. The sponsor, Sen. Craig Brandt (R-Rio Rancho), framed it as a way to address the educational issues the state has faced for years. But some Democratic senators thought it was the wrong way to approach the issue. For more on that debate, check out this KRQE News 13 story.