New Mexico adopts laws on veterans aid
SANTA FE — Initiatives aimed at improving educational opportunities, rural cemeteries and state-contract preferences for military veterans were signed into law Friday by New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.
The Republican governor signed a package of five bills at an American Legion hall in Albuquerque.
One new law will allow taxpayers to voluntarily donate money from their state income tax returns to a fund that helps pay for rural veteran cemeteries.
Martinez says that will build on funding approved in 2014 for state veterans cemeteries in Fort Stanton, Gallup, Angel Fire and Carlsbad.
New Mexico is home to two national cemeteries in Santa Fe and Fort Bayard. Among the newly planned cemeteries in rural areas, a state-owned facility at Fort Stanton is under construction with the help of more than $5 million in federal funding.
The check-off for tax returns previously went to a fund for the national cemeteries and has generated about $400,000 since 1987.
Additional legislation signed Friday overhauls procurement preferences for veteran-owned small businesses that pursue state contracts.
The law simplifies preference calculations to give bids from local, veteran-owned business a uniform 10 percent advantage. The preference is limited to businesses with annual gross revenues of up to $3 million for up to 10 years.
The preferences have the potential to increase taxpayer costs in some instances.
Another new law was designed to make it easier for people in the military to earn college credit for skills and training they receive while on duty.
It directs the state Department of Higher Education to establish a consistent policy for awarding college credit for military training at state colleges and universities.
State analysts say a new policy on credits may help reduce college costs and boost graduation rates.
A law sponsored by Democratic Reps. Stephanie Garcia Richard of Los Alamos and Jeff Steinborn of Las Cruces aims to ensure veterans and dependents qualify for in-state tuition by clarifying that “veteran” includes anyone enlisted, drafted, inducted or commissioned in the U.S. military.