Analysis

Synopsis:

 House Bill 284 (HB 284) provides an administrative hearing process for certain actions of the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD). HB 284 requires the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) to reimburse the administrative hearings office for the costs of a contract hearing officer. HB 284 allows a hearing officer, at any hearing, to administer oaths and to issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and the production of relevant evidence. HB 284 requires the findings of fact and conclusions of law of the hearing officer to be made and served upon all parties of record within thirty calendar days following the hearing. HB 284 requires the administrative hearings office and the hearing officer to maintain the confidentiality of any information provided during the hearing that would have otherwise been confidential pursuant to the Children's Code. HB 284 establishes procedures.

Analysis:

 House Bill 284 (HB 284) enacts and changes sections of the NMSA 1978.

New Law:

HB 284 enacts a new section of the Children's Code, titled:
•	Children, Youth and Families Department-Administrative Hearing-Procedures.

HB 284 allows a court-appointed special advocate, child, child's attorney, custodian, foster parent, guardian, guardian ad litem, Indian tribe, parent, pre-adoptive parent, relative, fictive kin, mental health provider, school staff or protective services division worker of a child in department custody to request an administrative hearing for any CYFD decision involving the following: 

•	(1) the revocation or suspension of a foster home license; 

•	(2) the removal of a child from a foster home; 

•	(3) a dispute relating to the reimbursement of expenses; or 

•	(4) any dispute in which a court-appointed special advocate, child, child's attorney, custodian, foster parent, guardian, guardian ad litem, Indian tribe, parent, pre-adoptive parent, relative, fictive kin, mental health provider, school staff or Protective Services Division worker alleges that an action of the CYFD conflicts with an existing law or CYFD policy or rule. 

HB 284 requires a person seeking an administrative hearing pursuant to this section to serve the CYFD and the administrative hearings office with: 
•	a written protest requesting such proceeding no later than thirty calendar days following the date of the mailing or verbal notification of the action proposed to be taken by the CYFD. 

HB 284 requires every protest to identify the following; provided that the person may supplement the protest at any time prior to a hearing: 

•	(1) the identity of the person seeking relief and any relevant parties to the protest; 
•	(2) the action or inaction that is in dispute; 
•	(3) the grounds for the protest; 
•	(4) the affirmative relief that is requested; and 
•	(5) a summary statement of the evidence expected to be produced supporting each assertion. 

HB 284 requires all administrative hearings brought pursuant to this section to comply with the procedures provided in Sections 7-1B-11, 7-1B-12 and 32A-4-33 NMSA 1978.


New Law:

HB 284 enacts a new Section 7-1B-11 NMSA 1978, titled:
•	Children, Youth and Families Department-Administrative Hearing-Procedures.

HB 284 requires an administrative hearing brought pursuant to Section 1 of this 2021 act to commence: 
•	no later than thirty calendar days following the appointment of the hearing officer as provided in Section 7-1B-12 NMSA 1978 or as stipulated by the parties or otherwise ordered by the hearing officer upon a showing of good cause. 

HB 284 allows a hearing officer, at any hearing, to administer oaths and to issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and the production of relevant evidence. 

HB 284 requires the hearing officer, after affording the parties the opportunity to submit proposed findings and conclusions of law, and based solely upon the record in accordance with the Administrative Hearings Office Act and the Administrative Procedures Act, to:
•	make findings of fact and conclusions of law on all material issues of fact, law or discretion, stating the basis for each; provided, 
•	that the findings and conclusions will be supported by substantial evidence. 

HB 284 requires the findings of fact and conclusions of law of the hearing officer to be made and served upon all parties of record within thirty calendar days following the hearing. 

HB 284 requires the hearing officer's findings of fact and conclusions of law to be binding on the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) and constitute a final agency decision, which may be appealed pursuant to Section 39-3-1.1 NMSA 1978. 

HB 284 requires the administrative hearings office and the hearing officer to maintain the confidentiality of any information provided during the hearing that would have otherwise been confidential pursuant to the Children's Code.


New Law:

HB 284 enacts a new Section 7-1B-12 NMSA 1978, titled:
•	Children, Youth and Families Department-Administrative Hearing-Hearing Officer.

HB 284 requires the chief hearing officer of the administrative hearings office to select the hearing officer to preside over the administrative hearing held pursuant to Section 7-1B-11 NMSA 1978; provided that the selected hearing officer will: 

•	(1) be licensed and in good standing to practice law in New Mexico or another state; 

•	(2) have at least three years' cumulative experience in an area relevant to the specific written protest; and, 

•	(3) not currently be employed by or represent, or belong to a law firm that currently represents, the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD). 

HB 284 requires the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) to reimburse the administrative hearings office for the costs of a contract hearing officer.


Changed law: Hearing Officer Code of Conduct-Independence, Section 7-1B-6 NMSA 1978.

Changed Subsection (C):

The administrative hearings office will:

•	New: conduct all administrative hearings requested pursuant to the provisions of Section 1 of this 2021 act and Sections 7-1B-11 NMSA 1978 and 7-1B-12 NMSA 1978.


Change Law: Confidentiality-Records-Penalty, Section 32A-4-33 NMSA 1978.

New Subsection (C):

•	Any hearing commenced pursuant to Section 1 of this 2021 act will be conducted in a sealed proceeding.

•	Only the parties to an administrative hearing, or their representatives, will be permitted to participate. 

•	All testimony provided and all records of the CYFD that are compelled by subpoena, produced, relied upon or referred to, regardless of whether the testimony or record is offered as an exhibit, will not be disclosed to anyone other than the parties to the administrative hearing or to the court in an underlying child welfare case. 

•	After an administrative hearing has concluded, the hearing officer will return all records produced during the proceedings to the producing party. 

•	Anyone who receives documents or information pursuant to an administrative hearing will be prohibited from disclosing those documents or the information contained in those documents to any third party.



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