New N.M. Laws Aid Firefighters,

Gov. Bill Richardson has signed two important pieces of legislation: The first will assist fire departments, and the other is intended to help prevent violent crimes.

On Tuesday, Richardson officially signed "Katie's Law."

Now, in addition to those convicted of some felonies in New Mexico, anyone arrested for certain crimes will have to provide the state with DNA samples.

The law stems from the rape and murder of Katie Sepich, which remains unsolved more than two years after it occurred.

Sepich's parents lobbied for the new law, saying it could lead to the earlier arrest of serial rapists and murders, who could otherwise keep committing those crimes.

Also signed into law was legislation that increases funds for volunteer and rural fire departments from $24 million to $30 million.

The money comes from the State Fire Protection Fund, which is financed by a tax on some insurance premiums.

Dona Ana Fire Chief Dennis Pacheco says it will help all firefighters, but especially volunteer fire departments like his.

Firefighters are in line to receive a 20 percent increase which will average about $12,000 dollars for the Dona Ana Fire Department. After that, they will receive $2.5 million over 10 years.

"It's just going to help the residents of Dona Ana County a lot more. If there's an emergency, they're going to be able to attend quicker, and they're going to have the qualifications ... it puts our community in a safer place," said Dona Ana County resident Michelle Montoya.

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