Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Governor: Looking for New Faces!

It's crunch time for Governor Bill Richardson.

There are only three days remaining for the Governor to make a decision to sign or veto a number of bills sent to him at the end New Mexico's legislature on March 21st.

Today, he signed eight bills on trips to Albuquerque and Roswell.

The governor says he's saving the most "contentious" bills until the last because he wants to make sure he understands public sentiment and their fiscal impact on an already tight state budget. (Although he didn't waste a lot of time signing the death penalty repeal once it reached his desk.)

Richardson also spent a minute telling us what qualities he's looking for in individuals seeking to replace County Commissioner Deanna Archuleta if she accepts an offer to become a Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Interior Department. Hint: He's looking for new faces.

In this audio post, Gov. Richardson says he still hasn't made up his mind on a bill that would place new limits on state workers who are "double dipping."

Earlier, at a memorial highway dedication for slain Sheriff's Deputy James McGrane Richardson told me he would sign the "double dipper" legislation if it reached his desk. But, he received a letter from NM Attorney General Gary King yesterday that warned the governor that some parts of the bill would not meet constitutional measure.

Currently, employees who retire must wait 90 days before going back on the state payroll. The bill he's considering now will force retirees to wait at least one year before being rehired and cap their salaries at $30,000.

At the end of the audio post above, we asked Gov. Richardson what qualities he's looking for in a candidate to replace Deanna Archuleta. He say's there's no shortage of people asking for the job. Joe Monahan and other bloggers have hinted former commissioners Lenton Malry and Tom Rutherford want the post. Other's have speculated that APS Board member and attorney Marty Esquivel is interested in the Commissioner's position.

Last weekend, we were the first to tweet that AMAFC Board member Danny Hernandez is seeking the appointment. Barbara Wold at Democracy for New Mexico also has a post here on Hernandez's ambitions.

Meanwhile today, the Governor signed a total of eight bills during trips to Albuquerque and Roswell.

Photo Credit: MG Bralley

Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez joined Governor Bill Richardson and International Association of Fire Fighters General President Harold A. Schaitberger at bill signing in downtown Albuquerque on April 8, 2009.

The first bill signed on Wednesday protects the health and lives of New Mexico’s firefighters, an important ignition interlock bill and two auto theft bills.

“Senate Bill 303, The New Mexico Occupational Disease Disablement Act, is an important measure that says ‘Thanks’ to our firefighters, the more than 1,300 men and women who risk their lives and health for the safety and well-being of the rest of us,” said Governor Richardson.

Richardson said, "Under SB 303 we will now have important occupational safeguards for our professional firefighters who expose themselves to stressful and disease-causing situations. Under this law, when firefighters become ill, they will be able to focus on treatment and care as opposed to litigating the causes of the disease or illness. Some of the diseases covered include a number of cancers, heart injury and stroke. New Mexico joins 42 other states with important presumptive causation laws for firefighters."

Senator Michael Sanchez sponsored SB 303.

Getting Tougher on DWI.

The Governor also signed Senate Bill 275. It requires DWI offenders to complete their court ordered mandate or six months of ignition interlock prior to getting their full driver’s license privileges back. Offenders will no longer get their license back until they have an interlock installed into a vehicle.

“No more excuses – if you don’t get an interlock because you don’t have a car --you wont be getting your license back until you get an interlock – period,” said Governor Richardson.

The Governor signed two important, duplicate, auto theft bills today, House Bill 31 (Rep. Bill Rehm) and Senate Bill 26 (Sen. Mary Jane Garcia). Both chambers passed the bills and both had bipartisan support. HB 31 and SB 26 increase the penalties for taking, receiving and embezzling vehicles.

There are a number of new, increased penalties under this law – including up to 9 times stiffer penalty for stealing or receiving a stolen car. Under the current law offenders only face 1 year in prison which will now be increased to up to 9 years. Taking or receiving a vehicle worth more than $20,000 is now a 2nd degree felony. A car worth less than $20,000 and more than $2,500 is now a 3rd degree felony and a car worth less than $2,500 is a 4th degree felony. And repeat offenses will now see stiffer penalties. And the new law includes tougher penalties for embezzlement and specifically targets chop shops.

“Auto theft is often linked to other crimes like robbery, drugs and identity theft,” said Governor Richardson. “So not only are we getting tougher on auto theft, we are also cracking down on crime in New Mexico.”

[Updated: 4/11/2009]

Bonus Audio: Governor's remarks to school children at Comanche Elementary before signing three education bills.

And Secretary of Public Education Veronica Garcia's comments on the bills and what she thinks about APS Board members excepting themselves from Character Counts! rules that apply to school children in their trust.

To see a full list of the action Governor Richardson has taken on the 2009 Legislative Bills, signed, vetoed and still pending, click here

Photo credit: MG Bralley

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