HOUSE BILL 474
56th legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - first session, 2023
RELATING TO HIGHER EDUCATION; ENACTING THE VETERINARY LOAN REPAYMENT ACT.
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 "Veterinary Loan Repayment Act".
SECTION 2. [NEW MATERIAL] DEFINITIONS.--As used in the Veterinary Loan Repayment Act:
A. "department" means the higher education department;
B. "loan" means a grant of money to defray the costs incidental to a veterinary education, under a contract between the federal government or a commercial lender and a veterinarian or veterinary technician, requiring either repayment of principal and interest or repayment in services;
C. "veterinarian" means a person having the degree of doctor of veterinary medicine or its equivalent from a veterinary school or a person who has received a medical education in veterinary medicine in a foreign country and has thereafter entered the United States and fulfilled the requirements and standards set forth by the American veterinary medical association and has passed all examinations required by the board of veterinary medicine prior to being issued any license to practice veterinary medicine in this state; and
D. "veterinary technician" means a skilled person certified by the board of veterinary medicine as being qualified by academic and practical training to provide veterinary services under the supervision and direction of the licensed veterinarian who is responsible for the performance of that technician.
SECTION 3. [NEW MATERIAL] DEPARTMENT POWERS AND DUTIES--PARTICIPANT ELIGIBILITY--QUALIFICATIONS.--
A. The department may grant an award to repay loans obtained for veterinary educational expenses of a veterinarian or veterinary technician upon such terms and conditions as may be imposed by rules of the department.
B. Applicants for the veterinary loan repayment program shall be licensed or certified to practice in New Mexico as veterinarians or veterinary technicians and shall be bona fide citizens of the United States. Applicants shall declare their intent to practice as veterinarians or veterinary technicians within designated rural veterinary shortage areas of the state.
C. The department shall make a full and careful investigation of the ability, character and qualifications of each applicant and determine fitness to become a participant in the veterinary loan repayment program.
D. The department shall designate rural areas of New Mexico in which there is an insufficient number of veterinarians or veterinary technicians to meet the demand for veterinary services.
E. The department shall assist selected veterinarians and veterinary technicians in locating practice positions in designated rural veterinary shortage areas.
SECTION 4. [NEW MATERIAL] DELEGATION OF DUTIES.--The department may delegate to other agencies or contract for the performance of services required by the provisions of the Veterinary Loan Repayment Act.
SECTION 5. [NEW MATERIAL] AWARD CRITERIA--CONTRACT TERMS--PAYMENT.--
A. Prior to receiving an award, the veterinarian or veterinary technician shall file with the department a declaration of intent to practice as a veterinarian or veterinary technician in areas of New Mexico designated as rural veterinary shortage areas by the department.
B. Award criteria shall provide that:
(1) amounts shall be dependent upon the location of the practice, the applicant's total veterinary professional education indebtedness and characteristics of the practice;
(2) recruitment awards shall be made to eligible participants who agree to relocate to a designated rural veterinary shortage area;
(3) highest priority shall be given to participants in practices in which veterinary vacancies are difficult to fill and practices that require after-hours calls at least every other night;
(4) award amounts may be modified based upon available funding or other special circumstances; and
(5) an award shall not exceed the lesser of fifty thousand dollars ($50,000) or the total veterinary education indebtedness of any participant at the time the award is granted.
C. Prior to receiving an award, the veterinarian or veterinary technician shall enter into a contract with the department that applicant will complete three years of veterinary practice in a designated veterinary shortage area. The contract shall provide that one-half of the award amount shall be paid to the recipient after eighteen months of practice and one-half of the award amount shall be paid after three years of practice.
D. The following education debts are not eligible for repayment pursuant to the Veterinary Loan Repayment Act:
(1) amounts incurred as a result of participation in state loan-for-service programs or other state programs whose purpose states that service be provided in exchange for financial assistance;
(2) scholarships that have a service component or obligation;
(3) personal loans from friends or relatives; and
(4) loans that exceed individual standard school expense levels.
E. The loan repayment award shall be evidenced by a contract between the veterinarian or veterinary technician and the department acting on behalf of the state. The contract shall provide for the payment by the state of a stated sum to the veterinarian's or veterinary technician's debtors and shall state the obligations of the veterinarian or veterinary technician under the program, including a minimum three-year period of service, quarterly reporting requirements and other policies established by the department.
F. Funds for loan payment awards approved by the department shall be made from the health professional loan repayment fund.
G. If a veterinarian or veterinary technician does not comply with the terms of the contract, the department shall assess a penalty of up to three times the amount of award disbursed plus eighteen percent interest, unless the department finds acceptable extenuating circumstances for why the veterinarian or veterinary technician cannot serve or comply with the terms of the contract. If the department does not find acceptable extenuating circumstances for the veterinarian's or veterinary technician's failure to comply with the contract, the department shall require immediate repayment plus the amount of the penalty.
H. The department shall promulgate rules to implement the provisions of this section. The rules may provide for the disbursement of loan repayment awards to the lenders of veterinarians and veterinary technicians in annual or other periodic installments.
SECTION 6. [NEW MATERIAL] CONTRACTS--ENFORCEMENT.--The general form of the contract required shall be prepared and approved by the attorney general and signed by the veterinarian or veterinary technician and the designated representative of the department on behalf of the state. The department is vested with full and complete authority and power to sue in its own name for any balance due the state from any veterinarian or veterinary technician on any such contract.
SECTION 7. [NEW MATERIAL] CANCELLATION.--The department may cancel any contract made between it and any veterinarian or veterinary technician for any reasonable cause deemed sufficient by the department.
SECTION 8. [NEW MATERIAL] REPORTS.--The department shall make annual reports to the governor and to the legislature, prior to each regular session, of its activities, the loan repayment awards granted, the names and addresses of loan repayment award recipients, the names and locations of the practices of loan repayment award recipients who are serving in designated veterinary shortage areas of the state pursuant to the Veterinary Loan Repayment Act and the name of each loan repayment award recipient who is not serving in a designated veterinary shortage area, the reason the person is not serving and the amount owed and paid on the loan and loan repayment award.
SECTION 9. EFFECTIVE DATE.--The effective date of the provisions of this act is July 1, 2023.
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