SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Susana Martinez signed legislation into law on Tuesday to aid New Mexico veterans, including requiring the state to expedite occupational licenses allowing military service members and their spouses to work in jobs ranging from nursing to dentistry.
The new law applies to current members of the armed forces, their spouses and recently discharged veterans with professional licenses from other states who are seeking to work in New Mexico. It will cover a wide range of licensed professionals such as barbers, architects and veterinarians as well as health care providers, including physicians, pharmacists, dentists and physical therapists.
“When military families and recent veterans move to New Mexico, we have to make it easier for them to support themselves and get to work,” the governor said in a statement after signing the legislation during a ceremony in Albuquerque at the New Mexico Veterans’ Memorial.
Under the new law, which takes effect July 1, state boards and agencies are to issue a license “as soon as practicable” if the applicant shows they have a valid occupational license from another state and has met minimum credentialing requirements similar to those in New Mexico.
The governor also signed a measure to allow members of the military to suspend utility, telecommunications and cable television services without being required to pay a reconnection fee when they return home from a deployment of more than 30 days. The measure takes effect June 14, and applies to members of the National Guard, reserves and armed forces.
“These men and women have just sacrificed to serve our country. They shouldn’t have to deal with any financial burdens of re-establishing basic necessity services once they come home,” said Martinez.
Also signed was a measure to establish a new scholarship program to help war veterans attend a New Mexico college or university, including to obtain a master’s or doctorate degree. However, the Legislature didn’t provide money for the program. A House committee eliminated $150,000 that initially had been proposed for the program.
The new law establishes a fund that will hold any future appropriations by lawmakers or gifts and donations.
The proposed scholarships are to cover tuition, books and fees, and are intended for veterans who served in recent conflicts, including Iraq and Afghanistan. The state already has a scholarship program for Vietnam War veterans.
Supporters of the legislation have said that veterans are likely to exhaust their federal educational and training benefits before completing most college degree programs. There are nearly 6,700 veterans in New Mexico receiving education benefits, according to a Legislative Finance Committee analysis of the legislation.