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Friday, February 7, 2003

4 Terrorism Bills Get Boost

By Barry Massey
The Associated Press
    SANTA FE Attorney General Patricia Madrid and Health Secretary Pat Montoya expressed support Thursday for legislation updating government powers and procedures to cope with public-health emergencies and terrorist threats.
    A package of four bills was developed in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
    The legislation would:
   
  • Give the governor the power to order the evacuation of portions of the state during an emergency;
       
  • Map out procedures for public health emergencies, such as the isolation or quarantine of people during the outbreak of an infectious disease;
       
  • Create an exception in the public records law to prevent public access to some documents containing "tactical response plans or procedures ... the publication of which could reveal specific vulnerabilities, risk assessments or tactical emergency security procedures that could be used to facilitate the planning or execution of a terrorist attack";
       
  • Consolidate in one portion of state law various provisions regarding emergency powers and emergency management, including disaster relief. The House Consumer and Public Affairs endorsed the proposal on Thursday.
        The attorney general's office, Health Department and Department of Public Safety worked on the legislation during the past year and conducted public hearings across the state.
        "Instead of moving very quickly like other states to implement potentially ill-conceived laws in the wake of terrorist actions, New Mexico took a full year and took a careful and very deliberate approach," Madrid said at a news conference.
        Sen. Dede Feldman, D-Albuquerque, a sponsor of the public health law overhaul, said, "I hope this act never has to be used by the government. Unfortunately, though, times have changed."
        Robert Johnson, executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, commended the agencies for consulting with the foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, but he suggested that more work was needed on several of the measures.