January 16, 2018

Legislative Roundup, Jan. 17, 2018

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The seal of the state of New Mexico in the House

Days remaining in session: 29

Dream team: The State of the State address started Tuesday with a whistle and chanting.

Advocates for immigrants unfurled banners calling for passage of the Dream Act and shouted slogans as Susana Martinez stepped to a lectern to begin the governor’s annual speech.

Martinez, of course, does not have any sway over the act, which is federal legislation proposed to create a path to citizenship for young people who were brought to the United States as children without authorization.

Felipe Rodriguez, 23, a student at The University of New Mexico, said the group chose to protest at Martinez’s final State of the State address because of the governor’s track record.

“Susana Martinez has been a very anti-immigrant governor,” he said. “She has tried to pass bills that will take away some of our rights, like getting a driver’s license, so we really want to let Susana Martinez know, now that she’s on her way out, that it’s not OK to mess with the immigrant community because we’re part of New Mexico and we’re part of every city here.”

Another protester, Isaac De Luna, said the group decided to protest at Martinez’s speech because it didn’t want to let the governor have a comfortable final year in office. The governor’s term ends Dec. 31.

Lawmaker joins protesters

After the protesters were escorted out of the Capitol by state police, they were joined by Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero, D-Albuquerque. She encouraged the protesters to keep fighting for their and their families’ interests.

“I’m an elected official, and I chose to stand with you [on the House floor] because it’s very important to send this message, send it strongly not just to Congress but the governor because the governor, for eight years, has held back the progress of our families,” Roybal Caballero said in Spanish. “We are the poorest state in the nation, and for a governor, having that authority in her hands and not doing anything about it, leaving the state in the same situation as when she was elected, that indicates that she became governor for political purposes, not to serve the community.”

Swipe at new whip

Martinez, in her State of the State address, criticized comments last year by the new majority whip of the state Senate, Democrat Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque.

Stewart spoke in 2017 during a national conference in New Orleans about the state’s lack of effectiveness in teaching low-income children.

“We don’t know how to teach kids from poverty,” Stewart said. “They come with no skills. Well, they have street-fighting skills. They’ve got a lot of skill. They’re just not academic skills.”

Martinez referred to Stewart’s comment this way: “I have heard impoverished kids demeaned, that they can’t learn because they only know how to street fight. But they’ve proven doubters wrong time and time again.”

Stewart said afterward that Martinez in two terms had done nothing to help teachers in their professional development.

“It seems to me that she took a sentence out of a three-day conference,” Stewart said. “Shame on her for not understanding what that conference was about.”

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The New Mexican

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