To protect and serve police dogs
Today could be a landmark day for Socorro resident Susie Jean, who will be at the state Capitol to make a final push to get a bill passed through the Legislature that would make it easier for law enforcement agencies to purchase protective vests for dogs.
At 9 a.m. on Wednesday, March 16, Jean will help present two vests to the Las Vegas Police Department during a press conference at the Roundhouse. Later that day she’ll have the opportunity to address the Senate, which will be voting on the bill.
“I’m hoping it’s going to pass this year,” said Jean, who has made two previous efforts to get the bill through the Legislature.
The bill would change the purpose of the law enforcement protection fund to allow for the purchase of protective equipment for police dogs.
“As it exists, the law gives officers and police department funds for equipment, but it doesn’t have anything to do with canines,” she said. “Canine vests cost $1,500 to $2,000 and this would add them to equipment that can be accessed through that fund.”
HB 90 was introduced by Rep. Don Tripp, R-Socorro. It passed the House without a dissenting vote on Feb. 10. The bill has since passed through the Senate Judiciary Committee, which sent it on to the Senate floor.
Jean said she’ll be introduced by Sen. Howie Morales, D-Silver City, and then get a chance to address the Senate.
“I’m going to tell them how important it is for police dogs to be equipped with vests, and passing this bill would make New Mexico a model for other states to follow,” she said.
Jean said she started championing the cause after seeing a TV show that told the story of a police dog being shot and killed. Since then she’s raised money to purchase vests and worked with police departments around the country to get their dogs armored.
Jean said it would mean a lot to her for the amendment to be passed on Wednesday.
“I’ve vested 600 dogs in 41 states, 32 of them in New Mexico, and what a milestone it would be for me to get this bill passed here,” she said. “This has been a passion of mine for nine years and to get it passed in New Mexico, where I live, would be incredible.”
Another Tripp-sponsored bill that made it to the Senate floor is HB 42, which amends the Rural Electric Cooperative Act to allow for mail-in voting at the district level.
The RECA currently allows voting my mail only for co-op-wide elections. The amendment would enable co-ops to allow mail-in voting at district elections, but it would not require them to do so.
Tripp introduced the bill after members of Socorro Electric Cooperative passed a bylaw calling for mail-in voting to be implemented for all elections.
After the House voted in favor of the bill on Feb. 17, it passed smoothly through both the Senate’s Rules and Corporations and Transportation committees last week.
“Hopefully, we’ll see that one pass the Senate before the end of the session,” Tripp said on Monday, the first day of the final week of this year’s 60-day session.
The legislative session ends Saturday, and Tripp said lawmakers are scrambling to finish off this year’s business.
“Everything is accelerating right now, and everyone is getting down to work,” he said.
The biggest thing looming right now, Tripp said, is the budget, which was in the hands of the Senate on Monday.
“They’ll add amendments the House will probably not concur with; it will probably go to conference committee,” predicted Tripp, who serves on the Appropriations and Finance Committee and Legislative Finance Committee, which drafted the original bill.
Tripp said HB 79, another bill he sponsored, passed the Senate last week and is now on the governor’s desk. It provides for an appropriation of $20 million from the tobacco settlement permanent fund to the program fund for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, something Tripp said was necessary to balance the budget.
Tripp said three other bills he introduced probably wouldn’t make it through the legislative process before the end of the session. One addressed complaints for interfering with acequias, another had to do with interstate management compacts for endangered species, and the other would give procurement preference to veterans.
Contact T.S. Last