2-3 Legislative tidbits

Days remaining in session: 15

Whistle blowers

A measure before the full Senate aims to protect public employees who report illegal and unethical conduct.

“The right to come forward with important information regarding unethical or illegal conduct is vital to restoring public faith in government,” said Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort, R-Sandia Park, sponsor of SB 96.

Beffort said the bill makes it illegal to blacklist or retaliate against an employee who reports illegal or unethical conduct.

Gov. Bill Richardson last year vetoed a similar measure.

Hispanic Education Act

The Senate Education Committee has approved the Hispanic Education Act (SB 132). Among other things, the bill would implement educational systems intended to help Hispanic students close the achievement gap with students of other ethnicities. It also requires the Hispanic Education Office to keep statistics on Hispanic education in the state.

“When we’re experiencing high school completion rates of 56 percent for Hispanic students and 71 percent for non-Hispanic students, something is not working,” said Sen. Bernadette Sanchez, D-Albuquerque, the bill’s sponsor. “We need to better understand what is happening to cause this disparity and to make schools and institutions of higher education more accountable.

The bill moves on to the Senate Finance Committee.

Missing persons

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a measure (SB 55) intended to make more efficient the state’s handling of missing persons cases.

“This bill that passed Senate judiciary should keep law enforcement on its toes and requires that data be input in a more timely bases immediately, if not sooner,” said Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, the bill’s sponsor.

The measure consolidates current missing-persons laws with the aim of creating a more comprehensive system to find those who go missing, Rue said.

In addition, the bill requires law-enforcement training about reporting and investigating missing people.

Looking ahead

• The Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee today will hold a special tax policy study session at 2 p.m. in room 303. Experts from the Taxation and Revenue Department, the Department of Finance and Administration, the Legislative Finance Committee and from the University of New Mexico Law School are expected to testify in advance of the committee hearing several tax-related bills.

“The information is vital because when we are looking at trying to balance revenue enhancements with budget cuts, tax changes can have unforeseen and adverse affects on other aspects of our economy,” Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose, the committee chairman, said.