SENATE BILL 244
54th legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - first session, 2019
Gerald Ortiz y Pino and Miguel P. Garcia
RELATING TO LEGAL SERVICES; ESTABLISHING A PROGRAM TO INCREASE LEGAL SERVICES FOR ACEQUIAS, LAND GRANTS-MERCEDES AND LOW-INCOME RESIDENTS OF COLONIAS; ESTABLISHING A WAIVER OF TUITION FOR SERVICE PROGRAM; CREATING A FUND; CREATING A COMMISSION.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO:
SECTION 1. [NEW MATERIAL] SHORT TITLE.--This act may be cited as the "Community Governance Attorney Act".
SECTION 2. [NEW MATERIAL] DEFINITIONS.--As used in the Community Governance Attorney Act:
A. "acequia" means a political subdivision organized pursuant to Chapter 73, Article 2 or 3 NMSA 1978;
B. "colonia" means a community as defined in the Colonias Infrastructure Act;
C. "commission" means the community governance attorney commission;
D. "community governance attorney" means an attorney with a legal practice that is focused on the requirements and challenges faced by small political subdivisions and unincorporated communities, including the promulgation of land and water use ordinances, contracting and the collection or payment of taxes and fees;
E. "course of study" means a law student's legal education, including clinical and internship programs and preparation courses for the state bar examination;
F. "department" means the higher education department;
G. "fund" means the community governance attorney and conditional tuition waiver fund;
H. "land grant-merced" means a political subdivision organized pursuant to Chapter 49, Article 1 or 4 NMSA 1978;
I. "participant" means an individual who has applied to participate in, has been accepted into and has signed a contract agreeing to the terms of the program;
J. "program" means the community governance attorney and conditional tuition waiver program;
K. "secretary" means the secretary of higher education;
L. "university" means the university of New Mexico school of law; and
M. "waiver" means a loan to cover tuition, fees and a reasonable living stipend that is forgiven in whole or in part if the participant renders service as a community governance attorney.
SECTION 3. [NEW MATERIAL] COMMUNITY GOVERNANCE ATTORNEY AND CONDITIONAL TUITION WAIVER PROGRAM CREATED-- ADMINISTRATION--RULEMAKING SELECTION PROCESS--REPAYMENT.--
A. The "community governance attorney and conditional tuition waiver program" is created and shall be administered by the department. The department shall:
(1) promulgate rules for implementing the program and for a reasonable living stipend in consultation with the university; provided that the maximum living stipend shall be based upon the availability of funds and information provided by the university regarding the current cost of attendance at the university;
(2) publicize the program to law students and to prospective law students;
(3) collect and manage repayment from students who do not meet their obligations under the program; and
(4) solicit and accept funds for the program, including grants and donations.
B. Participants shall enter the program in their final year of law school. The department shall select participants according to rules it promulgates and, in consultation with the commission, shall create a standard process for law students to apply to participate in the program.
C. The department shall award no more than two new waivers a year, in addition to renewing existing waivers for eligible participants, subject to the availability of funding.
D. Participation in the program shall be evidenced by a contract between the participant and the department. The contract shall provide for the payment of a participant's waiver and shall be conditioned upon the participant fulfilling the program obligations and meeting the university's standards for satisfactory academic progress. An applicant to the program shall sign the contract prior to being accepted into the program.
E. The contract shall include the following terms for repayment of the waiver:
(1) interest shall accrue upon termination of the participant's course of study at the following interest rates:
(a) eighteen percent per year if the participant completes a course of study and no portion of the principal and interest is forgiven pursuant to Subsection F of this section; and
(b) seven percent per year in all other cases; and
(2) the maximum period for repayment shall be ten years, commencing six months from the date the participant completes or discontinues the course of study.
F. The contract shall provide that the department forgive fifty percent of a waiver for each year that a participant is employed full time as a community governance attorney with a salary of not more than fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) per year.
SECTION 4. [NEW MATERIAL] COMMISSION--DUTIES.--
A. The "community governance attorney commission" is created. The commission shall be composed of five members as follows:
(1) the secretary or the secretary's designee;
(2) the dean of the university or the dean's designee; and
(3) three members appointed by the governor; provided that one member shall be a member of an acequia, one member shall be a current or past member of the land grant council and one member shall be a current or past member of the colonias infrastructure board and a resident of a colonia.
B. Staff and meeting space for the commission shall be provided by the university. The commission shall elect a chair and such other officers as it deems appropriate and shall meet at the call of the chair. Members of the commission shall receive per diem and mileage pursuant to the Per Diem and Mileage Act and shall receive no other compensation.
C. The commission shall:
(1) make recommendations to the department on applicants for the program;
(2) advise the department on the adoption of rules to implement the provisions of the Community Governance Attorney Act;
(3) pursuant to the Procurement Code, solicit proposals for disbursement from the fund for legal services;
(4) enter into contracts for expenditure of the fund for the purpose of providing community governance attorney services for acequias, land grants-mercedes and low-income residents of colonias on issues regarding the governance of colonias. The contracts shall be entered into with the university or with nonprofit organizations whose mission is to provide a range of free legal services to low-income New Mexicans. No contract shall provide funding in excess of one-half of a full-time community governance attorney position, and each contract shall be executed only with service providers that have secured sufficient matching nonstate funding to provide a full-time position; and
(5) adopt such rules as are necessary to carry out the provisions of this section.
D. The department, pursuant to rules of the commission, shall administer the contracts and programs provided for in this section.
SECTION 5. [NEW MATERIAL] FUND CREATED--DISBURSEMENT.--
A. The "community governance attorney and conditional tuition waiver fund" is created in the state treasury. The fund shall consist of money appropriated, donated or otherwise accruing to the fund. All payments for repayment of waivers and penalties shall be credited to the fund. Balances in the fund shall not revert to any other fund at the end of a fiscal year.
B. Expenditures from the fund shall only be used to make waivers to participants in the program, to pay contracts for community governance attorney services and to pay the administrative expenses associated with the program and collection activity on its behalf; provided that no more than five percent of the annual expenditures from the fund shall be for administrative costs. The department shall require an annual accounting from each organization receiving funds pursuant to this section.
C. All waiver loan payments shall be by warrant drawn by the secretary upon vouchers signed by the designated representative of the department. All disbursements from the fund for community governance attorney services shall be by warrant drawn by the secretary of finance and administration pursuant to vouchers signed by the secretary of higher education or the secretary's designee. Money in the fund is subject to appropriation by the legislature to the department for the purposes of carrying out the provisions of the Community Governance Attorney Act.
D. Money disbursed pursuant to this section shall not be used by a recipient to:
(1) support lobbying, as defined in the Lobbyist Regulation Act; or
(2) bring suit against the state.
SECTION 6. EFFECTIVE DATE.--The effective date of the provisions of this act is July 1, 2019.
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