The Senate Public Affairs Committee passed a stripped-down version of Sen. Jacob Candelaria’s bill to change whistleblower protections for government employees. Candelaria removed language from his original version following criticism from New Mexico Ethics Watch and others.
Candelaria’s amended bill would put a new requirement in the law that government employees exhaust certain administrative remedies prior to filing a whistleblower claim in court and would shorten the statute of limitations to 300 days from two years to file such claims.
Candelaria said the bill would “at least give public bodies and whistleblowers the chance to sit down at the table to try to resolve the issues.”
Representatives of state and municipal governments, as well as New Mexico State University, spoke in support of the bill. Grace Phillips, general counsel for the New Mexico Association of Counties, testifying as Candelaria’s expert witness, said it is common for counties to face whistleblower claims in employment cases because the current law is vague. Those claims cost taxpayers, Phillips said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and the New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association opposed the bill, saying they want to keep strong protections in the law for public employees who file whistleblower claims.
The bill now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
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