SANTA FE – Faced with an approaching deadline and a multimillion-dollar price tag, backers of legislation to overhaul the state’s troubled guardianship system presented dueling substitute measures late Wednesday in a hurried attempt to pass at least some significant changes this year to improve transparency and permit families more involvement with their protected, incapacitated loved ones.
Sen. James White, R-Albuquerque, offered to amend his mammoth bill that incorporates a new model guardianship law promulgated by the national Uniform Law Commission into two parts, delaying enactment for at least a year.
But a group of state district judges, mostly from Bernalillo County, helped devise a smaller substitute sponsored by Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto, D-Albuquerque. That proposal, which is still evolving, would allow the judiciary to implement changes by July 1 that would open currently closed guardianship hearings to the public, expand the list of parties who would be notified, require bonding for conservators and rein in guardians’ authority to limit visitation of those deemed incapacitated.
“It’s a question of what can we do right now? What can we phase in? And what makes sense to ensure we’re going to have the funding (for the future)?” Ivey-Soto said.