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Legislation involving nurses, police important to region

Consultant Hubert Quintana says he will talk regularly with legislators in the coming weeks to discuss issues of concern to the 26 municipal and county governments that participate in the Southeastern New Mexico Economic Development District / Council of Governments. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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An issue about interstate agreements for licensed traveling nurses has some leaders associated with a regional economic development group urging state legislators to act quickly.

“There is a really serious issue that all of us are facing,” said Hubert Quintana. “We may be faced with a very, very serious problem when it comes to nursing services in our hospitals. That, of all things, should be very, very high on our legislators’ mind and the governor’s mind.”

Quintana, a consultant with the Southeast New Mexico Economic Development District and Council of Governments based in Roswell, will meet with legislators during the upcoming session that begins Tuesday to discuss issues important to the group.

The district represents 26 municipal and county governments in Chaves, Eddy, Lincoln, Otero and Lea counties.

Quintana talked about the group’s legislative priorities during the Friday annual meeting of the district’s board of directors held on the Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell campus.

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Some of the group’s top concerns were taken from the priorities set by the New Mexico Municipal League.

Those include securing up to $18 million in general obligation funding for public libraries, seeking legislation that would have money in the Law Enforcement Protection Fund distributed to law enforcement academies for police training rather than kept by the state, comprehensive tax reform and protections for sellers or lessees if purchasers or lessors wrongly obtain a Nontaxable Transaction Certificate as a way to get discounts on taxes.

Quintana also said that he intends to monitor two bills that deal with reform of the state’s capital outlay process and to voice support for any bills that might be introduced that will allow retired police officers to return to active duty while keeping their retirement pay to help cities deal with law enforcement personnel shortages. He said that leaders with the cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe had indicated that they want to work for such legislation.

“Every community that I know of does have gaps, holes in the number of officers needed,” he said. “There are a lot of police officers out there were are willing to come back if the conditions are right.”

But the issue that garnered the most attention of the group concerned traveling nurses.

Quintana said that he recently had been alerted by Chaves County Manager Stanton Riggs to the need to renew legislation covering the services of out-of-state nurses.

Licensed nurses from other states work at Eastern New Mexico Medical Center, Lovelace Regional Hospital and Artesia Regional Hospital, he said after the meeting, adding that hospitals throughout the state rely on traveling nurses to deal with nursing shortages.

New Mexico legislators have until the end of the day on Jan. 18 to transition to the new agreement governed by an interstate commission, according to the commission website.

States that enact legislation to participate in the compact agree to allow registered nurses with licenses from one of the participating states to obtain a multistate license and work as a registered nurse in any of the other participating states.

According to the New Mexico Board of Nursing website, only four states, including New Mexico, that are among the original 26 states in the compact have yet to sign legislation to transition to the new agreement.

The deal also impact nurses with licenses from New Mexico, according to the commission website. Unless the legislature implements the new agreement, New Mexico nurses will not be able to participate in the multistate agreement but would have to obtain a new license for each state they wanted to work in.

The New Mexico Board of Nursing indicates that it expects that the legislation will be introduced on the opening day of the session. Senate Bill 1, which deals with the issue, has been sponsored by Gay Kernan (R-Hobbs), Stuart Ingle (R-Portales) and Howie C. Morales (D-Silver City). It was pre-filed in mid-December.

“Three days is plenty of times is to get it done, if they understand it is important and not a partisan issue. It is one of those things that should have been done three years ago,” said Robert Corn, the government representative on the group. “It is potentially a very critical thing, from what I understand.”

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.