From the Roundhouse: Close to HomeJanuary 28th, 2014 at 6:59 pm by Alex Goldsmith under N.M. Politics
There’s signs around the Roundhouse that the legislative machine is starting to churn a little bit faster this week with committees already taking action on several significant bills.
But for the most part we’re still in the calm before the storm, the time when there are more new ideas being introduced than current bills getting weeded out through the committee process.
When our part-time lawmakers bring those ideas forward, sometimes it’s because of an issue they campaigned on or are passionate about… other times they’ve been approached by an advocacy group that convinces them it’s a good policy proposal that they should be passionate about.
In the case of Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, a bill he’s running this year that he brought forward Tuesday is something he’s passionate about because it’s close to home.
Pacheco was an APD officer for more than a quarter century before he was elected in 2012. His new legislation is called the Line of Duty Injury Act, a bill that fixes what he and many others see as a clear injustice in current law.
Last October Christopher Chase ambushed an APD officer, stole his police unit and began firing an assault rifle out of the window at any police officers he ran across. Chase shot 3 APD officers but most seriously injured Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputy Robin Hopkins before he was killed amid a hail of police gunfire.
Just one week ago, Corrales police officer Jeremy Romero was pursuing a speeding vehicle going around 100 mph when he crashed and flipped his car seriously hurting himself.
Both Romero and Hopkins are still recovering from their injuries.
And while they’re recovering, their respective agencies aren’t paying into their pension funds and the clock stops on their service time. That’s a key number because it’s used to calculate when an officer can retire and how much their pension will be when they do. Their pay is also slashed while they’re away from work too.
When I interviewed Pacheco on his bill today, he called it a type of “double victimization”. The officer gets hurt actively trying to keep the public safe and has to deal with the medical and mental health problems that can come from the kind of trauma being ambushed or attacked can cause. Then, as a direct result of that already bad circumstance, the officer loses out on service credit and gets a pay cut.
The Line of Duty Injury Act aims to right that wrong by allowing public safety agencies to give service credit to police officers, firefighters, corrections officers and even CYFD caseworkers who are hurt while performing a “non-administrative public safety function”.
The bill does not make the practice mandatory and gives the departments themselves discretion to determine which employees qualify to get the benefit. Getting a life-threatening paper cut while filling out public records or crashing a fire truck into a light pole after enjoying four or five beers would not qualify.
“Recovering from these kinds of injuries is a job,” Pacheco said during our interview.
Whether you agree or disagree with what Pacheco is trying to do, it’s always interesting to see a lawmaker intimately and personally connected to the legislation they’re trying to put forward.
INTERESTING BILL OF THE DAY
When there’s no posted highway speed limit, how fast do you drive?
SB 209, sponsored by Sen. Pat Woods, R-Broadview, clears that up in the case of county roads. Right now state law puts an assumed limit of 30 mph on highways that run through in a business or residential district. Otherwise the assumed highway speed limit is set at 75 mph.
County roads currently aren’t covered and Sen. Woods’ proposal would set the assumed speed limit at 55 mph.