Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, said that Susana Martinez needs to admit her mistakes and outlined the Martinez initiatives that Senate Democrats would oppose.
Sanchez made his remarks in the Senate Democratic response to Martinez’s State of the State Address.
See New Mexico Political Report’s report on the State of the State address here.
“It really takes courage to admit that you’re wrong,” Sanchez said. “The governor needs to that she’s wrong on education and right-to-work. And she’s dead wrong.”
Right-to-work was something that particularly drew the ire of Sanchez.
He called the initiative “smoke and mirrors” and said that it was just a way to distract from what he said are Martinez’s failed economic policies of the last four years.
He said that site selectors have told him that emphasis on right-to-work represents “old thinking” and that they are “looking for location, they’re looking for people who want to work, they’re looking for excellence.”
When asked if the Senate Democrats could stop the legislation opposed by most Democrats and unions in the state from passing, Sanchez just said, “I’m a very good counter.”
Sanchez has been a frequent opponent of Martinez and one of the Democratic stopgaps against Martinez’s initiatives. As Senate Majority Leader, Sanchez can decide what legislation is heard on the Senate floor and when.
Third grade retention is legislation that has been one of Martinez’s main education initiatives over the past four years and this year is no different. It is also legislation that most Democrats opposes — and this year seems no different.
“It has been proven through other studies that those students who are not reading as proficiently as others do, in fact, succeed,” Sanchez said.
He mentioned something that Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, said in past legislative sessions, that studies have shown that near 85 percent of those who don’t read at the third-grade level in the third grade still end up graduating from high school.
While bipartisanship has been a buzzword this year, Sanchez said that he hadn’t seen much evidence of Martinez’s bipartisanship in the past.
“I have seen ‘Michael you either do it this way or else,'” Sanchez said. “‘Michael you either pass this bill or else.'”
Another bill that Martinez has repeatedly pressured Democrats to pass — without much success in the Senate — is one that would repeal New Mexico’s law that allows undocumented immigrants to earn drivers licenses.
Martinez has said in the past that it attracts crime from around the world. Sanchez said Tuesday afternoon that it is a matter of helping children in the state.
“We’re going to fight as hard as we can to protect all the children of the state of New Mexico, including the children of undocumented immigrants in our state,” Sanchez said.
He said it was a matter of letting undocumented immigrants drive their children, nearly 100,000 of whom are United States citizens according to Sanchez, to school and to doctor’s appointments.
Sanchez repeatedly invoked the word “courage” as part of his response, echoing a theme of Martinez’s State of the State.
“I ask the governor, then, if you have courage, governor, then why don’t you close the gunshow loophole?” Sanchez asked. “Why don’t you put locks on firearms at home? Whey don’t you come out strong in terms of people who can get weapons. It takes courage over politics, governor.”
Sanchez did indicate that he agrees with Martinez on one thing — the closing fund and Job Training Incentive Program, or JTIP, funding.
He said that came from the Legislative Jobs Council and his support, and so likely Democratic support, indicate smooth passage for that funding.
When asked if the Senate would be the place where legislation goes to die, Sanchez joked, “Bills have always come to die in the Senate.”
Sanchez was joined at the response by Senate Majority Whip Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque, and Senate Caucus Chair Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque.