The session is in full swing and legislative committees are already deliberating and moving bills along through the capitol. As of Thursday the 28th, there are 316 individual pieces of legislation that have been filed by lawmakers. The bills range from critical necessities like business relief and exempting Social Security from taxation, to outright harmful like tapping the Land Grant Permanent Fund and new taxes.
At this point in the session most bills are subject to change, but we’re seeing a few bills begin to make headway in the legislative process. SJR 5 is a positive move forward for schools from Senator Gregg Schmedes.The bill would protect public and charter schools from being burdened with unfunded mandates. The bill passed the Senate Rules Committee on a 6-3 vote on Wednesday and would become a constitutional amendment that goes to voters if it continues to make progress.
Senate Bill 39, sponsored by Sen. Bill Tallman, has passed through the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee on a 5-2 vote. This bill should be opposed by anyone who wants transparent and open government. If passed this bill would allow for applicants to for high-level government jobs, such as police chiefs, city managers and school superintendents to do so with complete anonymity. The bill’s sponsor argues this will help NM attract better talent. Opponents have called the bill a win for secretive government practices, and argue rightly so that “A bedrock principle of democracy is that citizens have the right to know how their government is being run,” said Melanie Majors, executive director of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government.
Senator Mimi Stewart has proposed Senate Bill 40, a mandate that would extend the learning time for all NM students by adding 25 days to the school calendar. The bill also mandates schools to provide after-school programming and 80 hours of teacher professional development. SB 40 cleared the Senate Education Committee on a 7-1 vote. Senator Craig Brandt was the only dissenting vote. “We already have a huge shortage of teachers in our state,” he said. “By forcing them to teach even longer and a longer school year, especially around the border areas, they’re just going to leave to go to another state. … That’s just going to make that problem even worse.”
HJR 1 is picking up steam in the latest effort to raid the Land Grant Permanent Fund. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Moe Maestas, Rep. Javier Martinez, and Elizabeth Thomson. The House Commerce and Economic Development Committee gave it a 6-4 approval vote and it now moves on to the House Education Committee. If the bill makes it all the way through the session it won’t need a signature from the Governor, but instead goes to voters for the final say.
NMBC will keep you updated on the session as much as possible over the remaining 50 days via this news feed, our social media and weekly newsletters. But if you want to keep up with us and the happenings of the legislature in live time, we encourage you to check out the NMBC Bill Tracker. It contains an active list, by category, of all the bills we’re tracking and actively working on.