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    New Mexico to Reconsider C-Store Security Rules

    Opposition claims expense of new regulations could put small stores out of business.

    SANTA FE, N.M. -- Faced with challenges from the convenience store industry, New Mexico regulators will reconsider regulations they enacted earlier this year that require better security for clerks working late-night hours, reported the New Mexican.

    In response to a legislative memo demanding safety improvements in New Mexico's convenience stores, the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board in March passed regulations requiring stores open between 5 p.m. and 5 a.m. to keep two employees on duty or take other precautions, such as placing single employees behind bullet-resistant glass.

    The New Mexico Petroleum Marketers' Association, a group that represents the convenience store industry, appealed the regulations to the state Court of Appeals this summer. The industry group maintained that regulations adopted by the Environmental Improvement Board were substantially different from the draft regulations it had considered before its March hearing.

    Negotiations were ongoing on Friday between the state and the New Mexico Petroleum Marketers Association about a possible agreement on the contested regulations. Neither side would divulge details, saying that a deal may be presented to the board today.

    "We're still trying to work on the issue and protect workers any way we can," said Jon Goldstein, New Mexico Environment Department spokesman.

    Sen. Richard Martinez (D-Española) sponsored the legislation directing the Environment Department to draft the original regulations for proposal to the board. He has said he was prompted to act out of concern over murders, rapes and other crimes committed against lone store clerks working the midnight shift.

    Martinez said Friday that it's vitally important that the state retains strong regulations to improve workplace security and not cave in under industry pressure. "I think it's very important, if these regulations are going to save lives," Martinez said. "So many people have gotten killed during robberies because so many of these stores didn't have protection for their employees."

    Sen. Dianna Duran (R-Alamogordo) issued a statement saying that the regulations as originally adopted by the board might prove so expensive that they would force smaller convenience store operations out of business. "Many convenience store owners told me that they may have to shut down their businesses because of these regulations," Duran said. "If they are forced to close, residents would have to travel many miles for goods and services because, oftentimes, the small, privately owned convenience stores are the only place to shop."

    The new regulations already require security alarms in all stores, video cameras on the inside of all stores and a clear line of sight outside the stores for clerks. They also require either time-lock safes or money-drop safes so clerks don't have access to large amounts of money that might attract robbers.

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