Legislative Roundup, Feb. 6

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Feb. 6—Days remaining in session: 12

Temporary guardians: A bill designed to provide additional protections to New Mexicans vulnerable to exploitation received unanimous support Saturday from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 35 revises procedures for the appointment of temporary guardians and conservators for "alleged incapacitated people."

Changes include prohibiting a temporary guardian and conservator from selling or disposing of any property belonging to the person or from making a change to their housing or placement without explicit court authorization.

The bill also would impose a 10-day deadline to have a hearing on the appointment of a temporary guardian.

Supreme Court Justice C. Shannon Bacon said the judiciary is averse to time constraints but called hearing requirement "really important."

"This is meant to be the exception to the process, not the rule, and what happens now is, it's treated as the rule," she said, referring to temporary guardianships and conservatorships.

"This is meant to be an emergency proceeding where the regular process can't work, so with tightening up these rules related to the process, we believe that the courts can meet the moment of the 10-day rule and having the hearing quickly."

Bill stays in Judiciary: The Senate rejected a motion for a bill to bypass the Senate Judiciary Committee, where legislation has stalled or died in the past amid a backlog.

"We should respect the process," Sen. Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, who chairs the committee, said before the vote to remove Senate Bill 12 from one of its committee assignments.

The motion was rejected on a 23-12 vote.

The bill would, among other things, create a "missing Indigenous-persons specialist" within the state Attorney General's Office. The bill also would grant the AG's Office jurisdiction to investigate or prosecute cases involving missing Indigenous victims, according to a bill analysis.

In addition, the legislation proposes to appropriate $2 million into a fund where the AG's Office "would be entitled to give grants on a noncompetitive basis," Cervantes said.

"When a piece of legislation empowers the attorney general, it has legal implications," he said.

Mining bill goes forward: Members of the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee unanimously voted to approve legislation addressing toxic waste left at uranium mine sites in the state.

House Bill 164 would require the state Environment Department to coordinate efforts among various agencies to clean up and reclaim legacy uranium mine and mill sites. The bill appropriates $350,000 for first-year cleanup efforts.

D. Wonda Johnson, D-Crownpoint, told committee members about a "horrific" uranium spill that destroyed her grandparents' farm on the Navajo Nation when she was a child.

Quote of the day: "Are we going to arrest the Ayatollah with this bill?" — Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington, reacting to legislation that would add election officials to an already existing law that makes it a fourth-degree felony to intimidate election workers. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, told lawmakers Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver had received online threats linked to Iran after the 2020 election.