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Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Around the Roundhouse

Staff and Wire Reports
   
Separate Vote on Unification Possible
    SANTA FE Voters in the unincorporated parts of Bernalillo County would get a separate vote in the ongoing process to unify the county and Albuquerque governments, according to a constitutional amendment proposal introduced Tuesday.
    Under House Joint Resolution 21, voters could decide in a special election later this year whether to amend the New Mexico Constitution to allow rural residents to have a separate vote.
    The plan for unification now calls for a single, countywide vote this fall.
    But Rep. James Taylor, D-Albuquerque, said the single vote would downplay the importance of the rural residents.
    "I think county residents were bambazooled and disenfranchised (with the single vote)," said Taylor, the House majority whip.
   
Teen Curfew Stuck in Committee
    SANTA FE A bill to allow cities to enact teen curfews is stuck in the Senate Public Affairs Committee.
    Members of the committee on Tuesday failed to send the bill on to another committee, kill it or table it temporarily.
    Debate during a hearing on the measure (SB 179) centered on whether the proposal would criminalize teens.
    "The purpose of the bill is not to criminalize any activities. It's just to provide reasonable restraints on minors," said Sen. William Payne, R-Albuquerque, the bill's sponsor.
    But others said late-night activities by teens are not the biggest problem.
    "This is not the time of day that children commit crimes. The peak times are between three and six" in the evening, said David Schmidt, director of the New Mexico Council on Crime and Delinquency.
    Albuquerque had a teen curfew in the early 1990s but a District Court decision ruled that it conflicted with the Children's Code. Payne's measure would amend the code.
   

    Houses OKs Limit on Copying Fees
    SANTA FE A proposal to limit the fees for copying public records was approved unanimously by the House on Tuesday.
    The measure by Rep. Dona Irwin, D-Deming, would restrict fees to no more than the actual costs of copying documents and would require electronic data to be provided "by the means least expensive to the public."
    Currently, the law imposes a cap of $1 a page. However, the legislation would eliminate that.
    Robert Johnson, executive director of New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, said in an interview that some governmental agencies have attempted to charge the $1 maximum per-page fee.
    The proposed change in law, he said, should lower copying fees, potentially to a few cents a page. Actual costs include paper, toner and some labor for a government worker to copy a document, he said.