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Saturday, February 15, 2003

Around the Roundhouse

Staff and Wire Reports
    HOUSE PASSES TAX BREAK FOR VETS
    SANTA FE A proposal to give property tax relief to low-income disabled New Mexicans was approved unanimously by the House.
    The bill by Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, would freeze property valuations of homes owned by a disabled person with yearly income of up to $18,000.
    Garcia said the proposal would provide some New Mexicans with a greater opportunity to own a house. He said it also would help safeguard existing homeowners who are disabled against large tax spikes when expensive housing is built in older neighborhoods and that boosts all property valuations.
    The bill goes to the Senate for consideration.
   

    REPEAT DWI BILL CLEARS 1ST PANEL
    SANTA FE Legislation allowing the vehicles of repeat drunken drivers and those who drive on revoked licenses to be seized and forfeited has cleared its first House committee.
    The bill, sought by Gov. Bill Richardson, would have to get the endorsement of a second committee before it reached the full House for a vote.
    Richardson says the forfeiture provisions could keep repeat drunken drivers off the road and perhaps make the state eligible for some additional federal highway money.
    Richardson's crime adviser, former Bernalillo County District Attorney Bob Schwartz, told the Business and Industry Committee that forfeitures would not be mandatory.
    "It's another tool the state may use if, in fact, it's effective under the circumstances," he said.
    In Albuquerque, just the threat of forfeiture has been effective for example, to get offenders into treatment programs, he said.
   

    SENATE APPROVES FOREST FIRE PANEL
    SANTA FE A proposal by Gov. Bill Richardson to establish a permanent task force on forest fire planning has won Senate approval.
    The legislation would create an 11-member panel made up of representatives of state and federal agencies, fire departments, local and tribal governments.
    The task force would be responsible for identifying areas of the state most vulnerable to forest fires, develop standards for building codes and local ordinances to help reduce fire threats and consider fire prevention measures, including thinning of forests.
    Senate President Pro Tem Richard Romero, D-Albuquerque, who sponsored the measure, said the task force would make an annual report.
   

    DNA TESTING GETS SENATE OK
    SANTA FE The state Senate has agreed unanimously to revive the procedures for convicted felons to use DNA evidence to try to prove their innocence.
    They would file petitions with state district courts, which could order DNA tests done and supervise the proceedings.
    Depending on the outcome of the testing, courts could set aside convictions, dismiss charges, grant new trials or order other relief.
    "This bill will ensure that we don't put people in prison who shouldn't be there," said Senate Judiciary Chairman Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, the bill's sponsor.
   

    BILL GIVES WWII VETS DIPLOMAS
    SANTA FE Veterans who left high school to serve in World War II could receive diplomas under a bill approved by the House.
    The bill (HB 125), which the House approved on a 70-0 vote, goes to the Senate.
    Rep. Brian Moore, R-Clayton, said he sponsored the bill after talking to World War II veterans in his district.