Days remaining in session: 36
Tribal officers: State Rep. Carl Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, has introduced a bill that would tighten the rules that apply to tribal officers who are deputized by local and state law-enforcement agencies. Among the more significant changes proposed in House Bill 306 is a requirement that the tribe, nation or pueblo whose officers receive a commission to enforce state laws -- such as speed limits -- on or off tribal land be required to provide liability and property damage insurance for their own officers.
The bill also proposes specific jurisdictional boundaries for law enforcement working in and around the Navajo Nation and Jicarilla Apache reservations. It also would require that tickets written by tribal police for non-Native people be adjudicated in a state magistrate court, not tribal court.
The bill has personal significance for Trujillo, whose father, Luciano "Lucky" Trujillo, told The New Mexican in October that he was considering filing a lawsuit over his treatment at the hands of pueblo officers during his March 2011 arrest on DWI and assault charges. The elder Trujillo, 68, said the officers punched him in the chest so hard that he was taken to the hospital for treatment.
The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office pulled the commissions from Pojoaque Pueblo officers last fall due to an ongoing disagreement over which entity should be responsible for the cost of any litigation that results from actions taken by pueblo officers. The two entities are still negotiating the terms of an agreement.
Hospital staffing: Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, is sponsoring a bill that would require hospitals to follow certain rules when determining the staffing levels.
HB 445, which is supported by the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees local District 1199, would require hospitals to create committees made up primarily of health care workers to set staffing levels that would take into consideration certain criteria, including the number of patients needing care and the severity of their injuries.
The bill also would require the hospital to provide staffing level details to the Department of Health, which would be responsible for auditing and publishing that data periodically. The proposed law also includes a provision that would make it legal for nurses to refuse to work shifts that aren't staffed according to established staffing levels and provide whistle-blower protection for nurses who report violations.
District 1199 officials have clashed repeatedly with management at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center over the issue of staffing.
Professional licenses: A bill that would give members of the military and their spouses a break on obtaining professional licenses in the state is headed to the Senate Judiciary Committee after a unanimous endorsement Thursday from the Senate Public Affairs Committee.
Senate Bill 258, sponsored by Sen. Bill Burt, R-Alamogordo, would allow expedited occupational and professional licensing for military members and spouses, as well as veterans, who are licensed in other states.
Burt said in a news release that the legislation would require the applicant to submit satisfactory evidence that the applicant holds a license that is current and in good standing and that the licensing requirements were substantially equivalent to New Mexico's requirements.
Concealed carry in liquor establishments: People with concealed carry permits would be able to take their handguns into restaurants that have full liquor licenses under HB 137, approved 6-4 by the House Business and Industry Committee on Thursday.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Zach Cook, R-Ruidoso, expands existing law, which already allows permit holders to take handguns into liquor stores and restaurants with beer and wine licenses. The substitute bill approved by the committee would not allow concealed carry at nightclubs. It maintains an existing provision that allows any business to opt out by posting a sign prohibiting firearms.
Steve Aiken, a certified concealed carry instructor with the National Rifle Association, said the law already prohibits permit holders from being under the influence of alcohol while carrying a weapon. He estimated 30,000 New Mexicans currently have concealed carry permits, which require them to take a class and pass a certification test every two years. He said it is safer for permit holders to keep their guns on them when they go to restaurants rather than lock them in their cars. "The greatest number of firearms stolen are taken out of locked cars," he said.
Andrea Reed, from Cook's Lincoln County district, opposed the bill, though she isn't against guns. "But where is it appropriate to have them?" she asked after the vote. "Where do people who would rather see less guns go?"
Lobbyist Allison Smith said her client, the New Mexico Restaurant Association, also opposes the bill because it increases the responsibilities of servers.
Liquor sales to DWI offenders: Under an amended HB 87 approved Thursday by the House Business and Industry Committee, people convicted of DWI or required to use an ignition interlock would be banned from buying alcohol.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, would require special wording on a DWI offender's identification card or interlock card that notes they are prohibited from purchasing booze at retail stores.
The state Taxation and Revenue Department estimates it will cost $50,000 to $200,000 to modify the IDs.
According to the Department of Transportation, more than half the DWI-related fatalities in 2011 were caused by repeat DWI offenders.
The bill moves next to the House Judiciary Committee.
o Friday is African American Day at the state Legislature.
o House Speaker Kenny Martinez will be interviewed by Lorene Mills on Report From Santa Fe, which airs at 8 a.m. Sunday on KNME, Channel 5. The radio version of the show airs at 9:30 a.m. every Monday on Albuquerque radio station KANW-FM, 89.1 FM.