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Thursday, February 27, 2003

Around the Roundhouse

The Associated Press
   
Bill Lets Gov. Oust Commissioners
    SANTA FE The governor could remove members of the State Transportation Commission at will under legislation the Senate endorsed on Wednesday.
    Under current law, the highway commissioners can be removed only for incompetence, neglect of duty or malfeasance in office and then only with the approval of the Senate.
    The bill says that the commission, which the governor appoints, "shall serve at the pleasure of the governor."
    Opponents said the change was aimed at giving Gov. Bill Richardson cover for what he's already done ask his appointees to sign undated letters of resignation.
    Sen. Roman Maes, D-Santa Fe, said he sponsored the bill because he is upset that highway commissioners have ignored constituents "not just mine, but others."
    The bill passed 23-17 and went to the House.
   
Bill Earmarks Museum Money
    SANTA FE A proposal to provide a permanent source of financing for renovation and maintenance of state museums was approved Wednesday by the House.
    Under the measure, a share of the governmental gross receipts tax estimated to be about $550,000 next year would be earmarked to the Office of Cultural Affairs for museum and state monument projects.
    Supporters said the state's museums are in disrepair because of a lack of money.
    The legislation was approved unanimously and sent to the Senate.
   
Taxpayer Rights Plan Gets an OK
    SANTA FE The House has approved a proposed "taxpayer bill of rights" that calls for the state to pay the legal expenses of people and businesses who prevail in tax disputes.
    Much of the legislation restates existing rights of taxpayers and procedures used by the Taxation and Revenue Department.
    The bill unanimously passed the House on Wednesday and was sent to the Senate.
   
Senate OKs DWI Statute Change
    SANTA FE The Senate has unanimously approved a bill to lower the maximum legal blood-alcohol content for commercial drivers from .08 to .04.
    The measure (SB 242) goes to the House.
    The bill is intended to comply with federal DWI requirements.
   
Bomb Scare Bill Goes to Senate
    SANTA FE People who commit bomb scares in New Mexico could have to pay lost wages for businesses shut down after a scare under a bill approved by the House and sent on to the Senate.
    Under current law, calling in a bomb scare is a fourth-degree felony. But an amendment to the law, sponsored by Rep. Dan Silva, D-Albuquerque, would allow a judge to sentence someone convicted of making a bomb scare to reimburse businesses for any "economic harm."
    The measure (HB 100) covers things such as lost wages and overhead costs during a time a business may be shut down.
   
DNA Measure Headed to House
    SANTA FE The state Senate has sent the House a measure 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.
    "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. Senate passage was unanimous.