SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE SUBSTITUTE FOR
SENATE BILL 404
56th legislature - STATE OF NEW MEXICO - first session, 2023
RELATING TO HIGHER EDUCATION; ENACTING THE VETERINARY LOAN REPAYMENT ACT; MAKING AN APPROPRIATION.
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 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 residents of New Mexico. Applicants shall declare their intent to practice as veterinarians or veterinary technicians within designated veterinary shortage areas of the state.
C. The department shall designate areas of New Mexico in which there is an insufficient number of veterinarians or veterinary technicians to meet the demand for veterinary services.
D. The department shall assist selected veterinarians and veterinary technicians in locating practice positions in designated 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 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) preference in making awards shall be to individuals who have graduated from a New Mexico post-secondary educational institution;
(3) recruitment awards shall be made to eligible participants who agree to relocate to an approved veterinary shortage area;
(4) 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;
(5) award amounts may be modified based upon available funding or other special circumstances; and
(6) an award shall not exceed the total veterinary education indebtedness of any participant.
C. 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; and
(3) personal loans from friends or relatives.
D. 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 two-year period of service, quarterly reporting requirements and other policies established by the department.
E. Recipients shall serve a complete year in order to receive credit for that year. The minimum credit for a year shall be established by the department.
F. If a veterinarian or veterinary technician does not comply with the terms of the contract, the department shall require immediate repayment plus interest as provided in the repayment contract, if applicable.
G. 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] FUND CREATED--METHOD OF PAYMENT.--The "veterinary loan repayment fund" is created as a non-reverting fund in the state treasury. All money appropriated for the veterinary loan repayment program shall be credited to the fund, and all payments for penalties or repayment of awards received by the department shall be credited to the fund or shall be deposited with the department's administrative agent. All payments for loan repayment awards shall be made upon vouchers signed by the designated representative of the department and upon warrant issued by the secretary of finance and administration.
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 cities 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. APPROPRIATION.--Five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) is appropriated from the general fund to the higher education department for expenditure in fiscal year 2024 and subsequent fiscal years to fund loan repayment awards pursuant to the Veterinary Loan Repayment Act. Any unexpended or unencumbered balance remaining at the end of a fiscal year shall not revert to the general fund.
SECTION 10. EFFECTIVE DATE.--The effective date of the provisions of this act is July 1, 2023.
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