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Gov. signs bills extending protection for rape victims

SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez on Thursday signed into law a bill intended to give rape victims extended protection from being contacted by their abusers.

Martinez, who has a March 9 deadline to act on bills from the recent legislative session, also signed legislation that is aimed at making it harder for neighbors to successfully sue farms, ranches and dairies for being nuisances.

The rape law will allow judges to grant orders of protection for any length of time – including permanently.

And victims who request the orders won’t be required to appear in court to obtain them, under House Bill 27.

The legislation was dubbed Racheal’s Law after rape victim Racheal Gonzales, who has lobbied for it the past couple of years.

Gonzales was raped as a child by her father, who attempted to contact her after he was released from prison.

Martinez, a former prosecutor, said the new law is “an important step forward in supporting the victims of these heinous crimes.”

“I’m proud to sign this bill, and I thank Racheal for having the courage to stand up and speak up,” the governor said in a statement.

The agricultural bill, Senate Bill 72, says residents who move near an existing agricultural operation can’t bring nuisance claims against it – for odors, airborne irritants or noise, for example – unless the operation substantially changes in “nature and scope.”

Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, who sponsored it, said in a statement that the “right-to-farm” law “protects the ag industry from any unreasonable nuisance claims.”

Its supporters said it would prevent lawsuits by new neighbors who object to the smells or sights or sounds of an agricultural operation.

But it encountered opposition in the Legislature from critics who said the legislation would, for example, thwart a lawsuit by neighbors who had lived for decades next to a small family farm that used to keep a few dozen hogs but had recently been converted to a 2,000-hog factory farm.

Also signed by Martinez on Thursday were bills that:

  • Resolve a dispute over jurisdiction for malpractice lawsuits when health care is provided to New Mexicans in other states. Martinez said it ensures New Mexicans can continue to access out-of-state physicians by allowing doctors and patients to agree where lawsuits can be brought. (HB 270)
  • Allow Los Alamos County to decide whether the offices of treasurer, assessor, sheriff and county clerk should be made full time, rather than part time. The bill sets salary limits for the full-time positions. (HB 18)
  • Ensure that injured law enforcement officers receiving workers’ compensation continue to accrue service credit toward their pensions while they are off. (HB 43)
  • Allow people with disabilities to establish savings accounts that are exempted from federal means testing, so their eligibility for benefits from Social Security, Medicaid or other public programs would not be affected. (HB 61)

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