The state House of Representatives on Saturday approved a bill seeking to create bigger prizes in the state lottery, but not before heavily amending the measure to protect the lottery scholarship fund for college students. House Bill 147, sponsored by Rep. Jim Smith, R-Sandia Park, cleared the House on a vote of 37-30. It eliminates a requirement that the lottery turn over 30 percent of its gross revenue for scholarships. The lottery staff and lobbyists for lottery vendors said scrapping the funding requirement actually would one day lead to significantly more money for scholarships. Democrats and Republicans alike were skeptical of that claim.
The state minimum wage will increase to $9 an hour from $7.50 by April 2018 if Gov. Susana Martinez signs a bill that has been passed by both houses of the Legislature. The House of Representatives on Thursday night voted 41-27 to pass Senate Bill 386, sponsored by Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants. The bill would increase New Mexico’s hourly minimum wage to $8.25 in October, then to $9 in April 2018. It also would allow employers to have an $8 training wage for employees for 60 days, which would go into effect in October. The minimum wage for tipped employees, currently $2.13 an hour, would rise to $2.38 in October, then to $2.63 in April 2018.
The House on Thursday rejected a two-and-a-half-year moratorium on licensing new charter schools in New Mexico. Thirty-four House members voted to pass House Bill 46, which would have prohibited a chartering authority — the state or a local school district — from accepting or approving any new applications until Jan. 1, 2020. But 34 representatives also voted against it. In a tie vote, a bill fails.
Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence spent his Tuesday Albuquerque town hall defending the character of his party’s controversial presidential nominee in wake of constant negative headlines. So did a few other local Republicans who spoke at the event, including Congressman Steve Pearce and State House Majority Whip Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas. Pearce said he was won over during the Republican National Convention with a few “dramatic revelations of the character of Donald Trump.”
Among them was Trump’s “disarming and revealing” words about his evangelical Christian supporters. “He said, ‘I’m getting support from the evangelicals and I’m not sure I deserve it,’” Pearce said. “That’s what I am looking for in politicians who will be transparent.”
Archiving is finally coming to the webcasts of the New Mexico State Legislature. Well, archiving of House proceedings, anyway. A House rule change proposed by Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, passed unanimously on Tuesday night. The proposal called for archiving of the House proceedings beginning in the next legislative session and keep those archives for five years. “I think this is just such a big step for us to increase the transparency of this body,” Steinborn said.
—In an apparent protest to a memorial highlighting fair pay for women, two House Republicans left the floor during a vote on the legislation. Memorials do not enact any law, but are generally used to draw attention to a person or organization. House Memorial 39, sponsored by Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, declared today Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Day in honor of Lilly Ledbetter, a women’s equality activist and namesake of the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. After Rep. Debbie Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, introduced the memorial in Chasey’s absence, Armstrong requested the House vote unanimously on the memorial, a common occurrence for this type of legislation. Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, objected to voting unanimously and requested a roll-call vote, most likely to show who did or did not vote.
A national conversation about criminal justice reform and employing convicted criminals is making its way back to New Mexico. After an unsuccessful attempt to pass legislation that would prohibit asking applicants about past criminal convictions, Sen. Bill O’Neill, D-Albuquerque, brought the discussion to an interim legislative committee on Tuesday. O’Neill and Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas, fielded questions and concerns from the committee. Rep. Rick Little, R-Chaparral, said he was concerned about the hiring of teachers and faculty who might be working with children. He cited the recent Albuquerque Public School scandal involving a former deputy superintendent.
Two bills drafted to impede access to certain abortion procedures were set aside on Sunday by Democrats in the state Senate Public Affairs Committee, a move that likely signals the end of both measures during this session. Party-line votes tabled both HB 390, sponsored by Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, and HB 391, which was carried by Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas. While the drafters worked in close collaboration, the bills would impact the provision of abortion services in markedly different ways. HB 390 proposed a ban on abortions of pregnancies at 20 or more weeks gestation and included language Herrell said made exceptions for “physical harm if the woman’s health is in jeopardy” or if a woman asserts the pregnancy resulted from rape, incest or sexual abuse. Described by some supporters as a “parents’ rights” measure, HB 391 would require the formal notification of a parent or legal guardian of any minor female seeking an abortion.
More than six hours of bitter debate on the House floor Friday night culminated in the approval of two bills that, if enacted, will place limitations on abortion services and potentially affect the provision of medications such as emergency contraception. Representatives voted 42 to 26 to pass HB 390, the Late-Term Abortion Ban sponsored by Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, on to the Senate. That bill would bar abortions after 20 weeks except in certain cases, such as if the pregnancy was due to rape or incest. Another Republican-heavy margin, 39 to 28, sent HB 391, a bill from Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas, to the Senate for further consideration. Baldonado’s bill requires abortion providers to notify the parent or legal guardian of any minor female seeking a procedure.
Two bills seeking limits on abortion are poised for debate in New Mexico’s House of Representatives. A look back at weeks of charged discussions on the issue indicates that under a superficial veneer of two opposing “sides” lies a spectrum of experiences and beliefs, all of which could all play into the ultimate fate of the proposals. Anti-abortion legislation has been proposed session after session in Santa Fe since the passage of Roe v. Wade, but this year, the momentum feels markedly different. After a new Republican majority took the helm in the House for the first time since the 1950s, anti-abortion activists vowed to hold lawmakers’ feet to the fire. Conservative legislators have expressed confidence they can squeeze votes they need from the Democratic-controlled Senate to send abortion restrictions to Gov. Susana Martinez’s desk for her signature.