Wednesday, February 26, 2003
Panel OKs Security Department
By Kate Nash
Journal Capitol Bureau
SANTA FE House Majority Whip James Taylor is working to create a state government department he hopes never has to be used.
But the people who would work in the New Mexico Homeland Security Department probably will have jobs to do.
"It would be for forest fires or terrorist attacks," Taylor, a South Valley Democrat, said of the bill he is sponsoring, House Bill 686.
The bill would set up a Cabinet-level department that would oversee emergency preparation and response to such events. Members of the House Government and Urban Affairs Committee on Tuesday approved the bill.
The measure combines and coordinates powers from divisions within state agencies including the state fire marshal, the departments of Public Safety and Health as well as the Environment Department.
The bill, which carries a $250,000 appropriation, is the first step in setting up the department.
Gov. Bill Richardson has chosen former state Sen. R.L. Stockard of Farmington to head the department.
Stockard said he envisions the department as a central organizing post for emergency responses that are fragmented under current law.
"Passage of this legislation is a significant step," he said. The bill "will make the state of New Mexico better prepared to plan for and respond to events, whether man-made or natural."