February 5, 2015

Bill sponsor’s outlook grim for an independent Public Education Commission

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A bill that would allow the New Mexico Public Education Commission to become an independent entity was stalled on a 6-6 vote Thursday morning.

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The bill would separate the commission from the state’s Public Education Department. According to the sponsor of HB 74, Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, the bill would give the commission more power to hire staff and make decisions on approving state chartered schools.

The 6-6 vote officially puts the bill into limbo, but it is likely dead for the year.

Currently, the PEC provides an advisory role to the Education Secretary Designate Hanna Skandera. The commission also has some say in the creation of state chartered schools.

The PEC does not have its own independent staff, but instead utilizes staff from the PED’s Charter School Division.

The debate from Republican side of the committee was limited to two members.

Reps. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, and Jim Dines, R-Albuquerque, were the only two Republicans to raise questions or concerns about the proposed legislation before voting against it.

Youngblood raised concerns that the bill would create more unnecessary bureaucracy by creating new positions and costs. She added that not all elected officials get to hire their own staff.

“I don’t have any power over my staff either,” she said.

Dines’ comments were limited to a series of questions about the current state of the commission. He asked if the group has a meeting place and if it has staff already being utilized. Trujillo and her expert witness answered yes to both questions.

After five of the six Democratic members of the committee raised their questions, the committee voted on a motion to pass the bill.

The committee’s chair, Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell, was excused from the meeting in order to present a bill in another committee. With Espinoza gone, the vote was even.

Deputy Chair, Dennis Roch, R-Logan, told the committee the bill would “roll over” and go into “limbo.”

Trujillo had two words for her thoughts on the bill’s future.

“It’s dead,” she told New Mexico Political Report.

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