Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Senate OKs Plan for Health Emergencies
By Deborah Baker
The Associated Press
SANTA FE The New Mexico Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a homeland security plan for dealing with public health emergencies that it had rejected nearly two weeks earlier.
The first time around, the legislation got only 10 votes. On Tuesday, the measure passed 37-1.
"I hope we never have to use this bill," said Sen. Dede Feldman, D-Albuquerque, the sponsor of the legislation that was previously defeated.
"But I think the events of the past couple of days have convinced many of us we ought to have it in place just to give us a framework."
The House-passed bill which went back to the House because of changes the Senate made provides protections for residents that are lacking now if the governor were to declare martial law.
For example, residents who were quarantined would be able to see lawyers, demand hearings and have access to family members, the media and spiritual advisers.
The bill, which outlines procedures for isolation or quarantine, also includes job protections for people who are quarantined and unable to go to work. And it provides for compensation for health facilities involved in public health emergencies.
Sen. Shannon Robinson, D-Albuquerque who led the charge against the bill in early March said the state needs a system in place to handle public health emergencies.
(Today) "we're going to be at war. I think that changes the dynamic," Robinson said.