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Dems: No funds for DUI blood tests

Gov. Susana Martinez witnessed another one of her legislative priorities fail Saturday in committee.

House Bill 49, designed to prosecute individuals arrested for driving under the influence of a controlled substance such as cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin, would have allocated more funding for law enforcement officials to draw blood samples from those suspected of being under the influence of drugs. The bill did not cover marijuana.

“This bill would have given us more tools to fight this epidemic, but instead it now sits on a committee table,” Rep. Bill Rehm (R-Albuquerque) said. “I urge those who sit on the House Judiciary Committee to reconsider and vote as they have in the past.”

The Legislative Finance Committee said the bill would incur testing costs of more than $190,000.

Rehm was one of seven Republicans who supported the measure in the House Judiciary Committee. Eight Democrats voted to table the bill.

Most Democrats in the committee said current laws are suitable enough to prosecute individuals.

The bill would also require drivers caught behind the wheel with any amount of alcohol in their systems or under the influence of drugs to drive with an ignition interlock for a probationary period. But a legislative report said there is no way to determine if people are on drugs based on their breath.

Corruption crackdown Martinez supported a bipartisan effort to create provisions that would allow law enforcement agencies to prosecute corrupt government officials.

House Bill 378 contains key provisions that enhance prison sentences for public officials convicted of corruption and prohibits anyone convicted of fraud from lobbying or doing business with the state. The bill would prevent corrupt officials from receiving their state pensions.

“We are sending a clear signal that there will be severe penalties for any public servant who puts their own personal gain ahead of the interests of the people of New Mexico,” Martinez said. “It’s time to treat corruption for what it is — a crime that abuses the public trust and wastes taxpayer money.”

Sen. Tim Keller (D-Albuquerque) and Rep. Nate Gentry (R-Albuquerque) sponsored the bill.

Several legislators stood behind Martinez during a news conference as she announced her support for the bill. She also supported creating a public corruptions unit within the Department of Public Safety.

The measure to crack down on corruption was one of Martinez’s priorities that she outlined during her State of the State speech, and it was a key component of her campaign platform.

“Public officials are not above the law,”Martinez said. “Unfortunately, our state’s reputation has been tainted in the past because elected and appointed officials have misused their office for personal gain.”

Keller continues fighting corruption

Sen. Tim Keller (D-Albuquerque) sponsored legislation that would remove the governor from the State Investment Council, which manages New Mexico’s $15 billion permanent fund.

The legislation is in response to a federal investigation into investment deals supported during Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration.
The Senate approved the bill 38-2 and sent the bill to the House for consideration.

The legislation also changes legislative appointments to the council.
A group of House and Senate leaders appoint legislators to the council who are usually rank-and-file party members.

Under the bill, House and Senate Democratic and GOP leaders will appoint a member to the council. The proposed changes will take effect in 2013.

“The proposed overhaul of the council is to lessen the potential influence of politics on investment decision making,” Keller said.

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