Wrangling continues on raising New Mexico minimum wage

A proposal to raise New Mexico’s minimum wage drew opposition from business organizations and workers rights groups alike on Monday. Co-sponsored by House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, House Bill 442 would appear to be a compromise that boosts the statewide minimum hourly wage to $9.25 from $7.50, less of an increase than some Democrats have proposed. But a section of the bill that would strip local governments of the power to adopt certain labor regulations, such as the Work Week Act previously proposed in Albuquerque, drew sharp criticism from workers rights advocates. And business groups as well as some Republicans argued that $9.25-an-hour would still be too high. The bill would also raise the hourly minimum wage for tipped employees such as waitresses to $3.70 from $2.13.

Bill would stop NM National Guard from aiding in ICE immigration actions

One state legislator acted quickly after news that Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly authored a draft memo calling to mobilize National Guard troops in several states, including New Mexico, to apprehend those in the country illegally. State Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, introduced legislation that would keep New Mexico National Guard troops from conducting immigration operations. Related: Reported plan to use National Guard to apprehend immigrants included NM

“In New Mexico, we will not order our dedicated National Guard members, many of whom would be asked to deport their neighbors and possibly relatives, to participate in ripping families apart and terrorizing our immigrant communities,” McCamley said in a statement. “I hope and trust that our governor would support this legislation that protects New Mexicans from the divisive and hateful policies of the current presidential administration.”

Related: Bill would stop NM National Guard from aiding in ICE immigration actions

The Catholic Church in the state denounced the idea of using National Guard troops to apprehend those in the country without documents. From the AP:
Allen Sanchez, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Friday the Roman Catholic Church in the nation’s most Hispanic state would strongly oppose any effort to use National Guard troops to find and deport immigrants.

Dems eye tax reforms to balance 2018 budget

A framed newspaper clipping adorns the wall outside the office of New Mexico Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth. The piece, dated May 25, 2002, serves as a reminder of the time when Republican Gov. Gary Johnson, who had vetoed 700 bills in six years, finally overplayed his hand. One of those vetoes was the $3.9 billion spending plan for the coming fiscal year, a 1.1 percent increase over the previous year. Johnson, a fiscal hawk, said the plan didn’t go far enough to control the growth of Medicaid. With just a few weeks left in the fiscal year, the Democratic Party-controlled House and Senate called themselves back to Santa Fe for a special session to override the veto and keep the government operating.

Pot proposal advances in House but faces uncertain future

Adults over 21 would be able to legally buy, possess and smoke marijuana under a bill that survived its first hearing Saturday in the state House of Representatives. The Consumer and Public Affairs Committee voted 3-1 to advance the bill without a recommendation. Sponsored by Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, House Bill 89 moves ahead to the House Judiciary Committee. His proposal would tax and regulate recreational marijuana, as is done in eight other states, including neighboring Colorado. It would earmark 40 percent of taxes from cannabis sales for education and designate other proceeds to government programs.

But don’t spark up yet.

‘Aid in dying’ bill advances after emotional hearing

Emotional and personal stories filled a legislative hearing room Friday morning before lawmakers voted on party lines to pass a bill to allow aid in dying. The House Health and Human Services Committee voted in favor of HB 171, which would allow terminally ill patients the choice to end their own lives through a lethal dose of prescribed medication. Before the vote, several lawmakers were in tears when discussing personal stories about the issue. Committee Chair Debbie Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, told the committee she cared for four friends and family members as they approached death. Armstrong recounted sleeping at the foot of her friend’s bed, waking every few hours to administer pain medication.

Lobbyists spent more than $85,000 in first weeks of session

Members of New Mexico’s citizen Legislature only receive $164 per day for expenses, plus mileage, during the session. But there are other perks to the job. For instance, the industry group called Ski New Mexico last week handed out VIP membership cards to 110 of the 112 state lawmakers, entitling them to two free days of skiing at any of eight ski areas in the state. The total value of the cards was $27,500, according to a lobbyist expense report filed this week by George Brooks, executive director of Ski New Mexico. That expense represented a large portion of the $85,000-plus that lobbyists and the organizations that hire them have reported spending on meals, parties, receptions and gifts for legislators and others so far in the session, which began just over two weeks ago.

Heinrich slams Trump refugee order when speaking to Legislature

As customs officials detained travelers and protesters flowed into airports around the country, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich took to Twitter to register his opposition to President Donald Trump’s ban on refugees. “I will not stand aside as the values that created the greatest nation on earth are trampled,” New Mexico’s junior senator wrote Saturday night, adding the tag “#NoBanNoWall.” The response to Heinrich from some on social media users was swift: Tweets are cheap. Do something. In a speech Monday to the New Mexico Legislature, Heinrich responded in harsher terms to the president’s order.

Lawmakers push for ‘aid in dying’ in NM

Michael McCamley liked to plan. It was part of his job in the U.S. Army and according to his son, state Rep. Bill McCamley of Dona Ana County, that instinct to plan for the unexpected extended to family matters, including death. In 2010, doctors diagnosed the retired lieutenant colonel with a rare, terminal disease similar to ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. After discussing it with his family, the elder McCamley decided to fill out an advance directive stating that he was not to be kept alive artificially if and when that time came. “Everyone knew what the situation was and what his decision was,” Rep. McCamley said.

Measure to create new ethics commission clears first hurdle

With the state wracked by successive corruption scandals involving top officials, several lawmakers seem to agree that this is the year for ethics reform in New Mexico. A committee of the state House of Representatives gave a boost to those hopes Thursday by advancing a bipartisan proposal to establish an independent ethics commission through a constitutional amendment. The commission would have the power to investigate complaints of misconduct by public officials, candidates, lobbyists and contractors. The complaints would be public, and the commission’s opinions could be appealed to the state courts. Campaign finance reform advocates and good government groups have fought for years to create such a body.

Lawmakers say legal pot could help boost state revenues

Two state legislators who will try to convince fellow lawmakers and the governor to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana for adults in New Mexico said Wednesday that they will stress the economic benefits of their idea. Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, described marijuana legalization as the best solution for the state’s ongoing budget problems.

Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, said New Mexicans are spending millions of dollars on illegal marijuana, money that “goes to Mexican drug cartels.” Legalizing marijuana would keep that money — as well as what New Mexicans spend on legal cannabis in Colorado — in this state, McCamley said. Plus, he said, marijuana would generate new tax revenue. The pro-marijuana forces have more going for them than in previous years.