Legislative changes primarily in law enforcement

Kevin Wilson

The state’s 2011 Legislature, for lack of a better example, was a lot like the first quarter of a football game between two teams who had never seen film on each other before taking the field.

Between a budget shortfall, the first session for Gov. Susana Martinez and other factors, it was a year with few sweeping laws outside of law enforcement.

“A big piece of what happened, there was a lot of gamesmanship in this session,” said Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis. “It was a new (House of Representatives) with a significant minority presence and a new governor.”

With few exceptions, Thursday is the effective date for laws passed in this year’s session.

The law that grabbed the most attention was “Katie’s Law,” an existing law enforcement tool that was bolstered. Under the law, DNA samples are collected from persons arrested for any felony.

The law will only allow DNA samples to be analyzed with probable cause, presence of a warrant or failure of the defendant to appear for a hearing.

The law was created for a New Mexico State University student whose killer was not discovered until he was convicted of another crime and his DNA matched evidence on her body.

“I think it’s the strongest law for DNA testing,” Harden said. “I think New Mexico should lead the way on that type of legislation, because that’s where it originated. It’s something I definitely believe is a law that should be a benchmark for other states.”

Other laws dealing with law enforcement include:

Senate Bill 134: As of March 31, the day Martinez signed the legislation, synthetic drugs were added to the list of controlled substances.

House Bill 196: With a judge’s authority, children can testify in places other than an open courtroom. Lawmakers were concerned the courtroom may be an intimidating environment for small children.

Senate Bill 476: As an alternative to 60 hours of college credit, a person can qualify to be a state police officer with two years of military service or law enforcement service for another agency.

Senate Bill 9 (addition): The time period for driving with an instructional permit or a provisional license increased by an additional 30 days for each traffic violation committed by the minor while driving with the permit or provisional license.

Other laws for 2011 include:

House Bill 391: Penalties for leaving gates open where livestock graze will go from $5-$10 to $250-$1,000.

Senate Bill 11: Food service establishments can allow pet dogs in designated outdoor dining areas, if they meet requirements.

House Bill 485: It is illegal for a person to knowingly advertise, describe, label of offer for sale New Mexico chile peppers or products containing them, unless the peppers were grown in New Mexico. Enforcement duties lie with the New Mexico State University board of regents, which can issue cease and desist orders.

Senate Bill 472: The Public Education Department grade schools on an A-F scale, with criteria agreed upon beforehand between superintendents and the department.

Senate Bill 272: Grades 3-4 will now have an A-F grading scale.

Senate Bill 337: The election law allows for municipalities to offer “central vote locations,” a place where voters can go regardless of their actual precinct. Voting will be available both at the precinct and at the central vote location. One central vote location on election day, in addition to precincts.

House Bill 187: As a means of addressing a state dentist shortage, expanded-function dental auxiliaries will be authorized to work under the direct supervision of a dentist. Community dental health coordinators can function under the general supervision of a dentist. Also, the scope of practice of dental hygienists will be expanded.

Senate Bill 209: Water utilities can recover the cost of the acquisition of water resources through an adjustment clause rather than through a rate change hearing. New Mexico American Water will be able to lease water, starting July 1.