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Gov signs bills for ATVs on roadways, court-ordered mental health treatment

SANTA FE – Local governments could allow off-highway vehicles on paved roadways under a new law signed by Gov. Susana Martinez, who urged officials to use the authority “sparingly” and carefully weigh the risks.

Martinez, acting on the last of the bills from the recent legislative session, also signed a measure allowing judges to order people with a history of severe mental illness into outpatient treatment programs.

The governor used her veto pen, as well, before Wednesday’s deadline, axing a handful of bills, including one that would have funneled the money from unclaimed lottery prizes directly into the lottery’s scholarship program.

All told, Martinez signed 92 bills passed during the session that ended Feb. 18 and vetoed nine.

National consumer advocates, including a federal Consumer Product Safety Commission member, pleaded with the governor to veto the off-highway vehicle bill. They said all-terrain vehicles and off-highway vehicles are not made for paved roads and are inherently dangerous on them.

Under Senate Bill 270, municipalities or counties would have to pass ordinances allowing their use and the State Transportation Commission would decide whether to permit them on state roads.

Martinez said in a message to the Legislature that such vehicles should not be allowed “in most cases, and on most roads.” But in some cases, their use could benefit farms, ranches and dairies, as well as the tourism industry, she said.

The Assisted Outpatient Treatment bill would allow state district judges to order people into mandatory treatment programs – which could include medication, therapy or drug testing, for example – after a petition from family members or others and a hearing. They would have to be at least 18, with a mental illness diagnosis and history of not following through with treatment.

Cities and counties would have to opt into the program to participate, under Senate Bill 113.

New Mexico is the 46th state to authorize assisted outpatient treatment, according to the Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center.

Martinez also signed business-backed House Bill 283, under which an employer’s history with the unemployment insurance fund will be used in calculating its contribution rates. The legislation also caps year-to-year rate increases at 2 percent.

Martinez acknowledged the U.S. Department of Labor has said the state’s program would be out of compliance if the 2 percent cap were adopted, but she said New Mexico will fight that ruling through a dispute resolution process.

Other legislation signed by the governor – House Bill 206 and Senate Bill 215 – allows the Department of Transportation to use design-build procurement – one firm doing both design and construction – for certain large highway infrastructure projects.

In a veto message on the lottery measure, Martinez said she vetoed Senate Bill 79 because it would have harmed the state lottery. Currently, unclaimed prize money – estimated at $2 million to $3 million a year – is available to invest in new games and larger payouts, she said. Putting that money instead into the lottery tuition fund would reduce lottery activity and what’s available for scholarships, she said.

The governor also vetoed a bill increasing from $30 to $50 monthly what the state may underwrite for the use of ignition interlocks by indigent offenders.

“If these individuals could afford a car, fuel, and alcohol when they were caught driving drunk, then they can afford the various, reasonable consequences of a DWI offense,” she said in her veto message.