NM Legislative Roundup March 10th

Days remaining in session: 11

Recruiting doctors:

Doctors who are also veterans would be exempt from paying a $400 medical-license fee under a bill (SB441) approved unanimously by the Senate on Monday.

“As a lot of our veterans will be return from Iraq and Afghanistan, we can use this as a tool to recruit medical doctors to come to New Mexico and serve rural New Mexico and other underserved areas,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort, R-Sandia Park, said.

The measure applies to veterans who are honorably discharged and now goes to the House for consideration.

Denish says DNA law successful:

Lt. Gov. Diane Denish said Monday the so-called Katie’s Law, which requires DNA testing for felony arrests in New Mexico, is popular and spreading to other states.

The law, which took effect here in 2007, has led to 58 DNA matches.

“There are rare occasions when personal tragedy can lead to profound and positive change. We paid tribute today to one such occasion,” Denish said in a statement.

“I was proud to lead the effort to pass Katie’s Law. Preventing any crime is ideal, but stopping repeat offenders is vital — that is where we know an innocent life can be spared.”

According to katieslaw.org, the measure is named for Katie Sepich, a 22-year-old New Mexico State University student. In 2003, she was raped and strangled, her body set afire and left at an old dump site. DNA material found under her fingernails was entered into a database, with the hope that her killer eventually will be found.

Lobbyist’s registration questioned:

The Secretary of State’s Office is asking lobbyist Marco Gonzales to explain why he lobbied on measures at the Roundhouse before he was a registered lobbyist.

Gonzales said he sent his lobbyist authorization form Feb. 25 along with a check and thought the registration form was sent as well. He re-sent the registration form Friday after learning that the form wasn’t on file with the secretary of state.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network asked the Secretary of State last week to look into the situation.

James Flores, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, confirmed Gonzales wasn’t registered until Friday but that he sent his lobbyist authorization form in late February.

Overdose prevention:

After seeing a picture in a newspaper of a woman who died of a heroin overdose only hours after being released from jail, Rep. Sandra Jeff, D-Crownpoint, decided to take action. She sponsored House Memorial 38, which requests detention-center improvements aimed at minimizing detainee overdoses after release. The measure got unanimous approval from the House on Monday.

In a news release from House Democrats, Jeff said, “When I first saw Amber Archibeque’s picture on the front page and read her story, I was heartbroken. It was such a needless loss of a life and I knew something needed to be done. … This bill starts the process of drug overdose prevention after release. Next year I plan to get funding for outreach and prevention programs.”

Under the proposal, it is requested that naloxene and overdose-prevention literature be provided to detainees with histories of opioid use before or upon release and that detainees be educated about the risk of relapse and overdose in order to prevent needless loss of lives; detention centers ensure that detainees are released in safe locations during daylight hours with adequate access to a telephone and to transportation; and detention centers establish resources that support detainees with substance abuse problems during and after detention, including providing medication-assisted treatment, substance abuse treatment and discharge planning.

Looking ahead:

With two weeks left in the session, count on some long days. But expect lawmakers to get out early one day: on March 18th, legislators will head to The Party, now known as The Dinner. The annual event is a Who’s Who of state lawmakers.