Tamara Kay is an associate professor of sociology at the University of New Mexico. Gordon Lafer is an associate professor at the University of Oregon. Despite being dealt a death blow in the state Senate at the final hour during the last legislative session, proponents of right-to-work laws are at it again. What was most alarming about last year’s debate was how lobbyists manipulated facts to propel their pet bills through the legislature. The head of the Rio Grande Foundation (RGF), Paul Gessing, promoted bogus research reports to legislators and the public that no credible statistician or social scientist would ever put their name on, suggesting that right-to-work laws increase economic growth, jobs and personal income.
Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, responded to Gov. Susana Martinez’ State of the State address earlier on Tuesday afternoon with heated words. And he didn’t save all of his frustration for Republicans. See Also: Gov. Susana Martinez’s State of the State Address
“Once again, for the news media, especially the television news media, let me make it clear once and for all: You don’t need a passport to get on an airplane in the state of New Mexico,” Sanchez said to members of the media. “That’s false, and those reporters who report that are wrong.”
Sanchez then referred to how an official from the federal Department of Homeland Security wrote a letter to the editor in response to a November Albuquerque Journal editorial that stated New Mexicans would not be able to use a state driver’s license to board commercial flights “later next year” because of the state’s noncompliance with the federal Real ID Act. The federal government, at that point, had not provided a deadline for when New Mexico driver’s licenses would stop being valid in airports.
Gov. Susana Martinez pledged Thursday to put at least two non-budget items on the call this coming legislative session. Speaking on a panel with members of the local business community, Martinez said she will allow legislators to introduce bills on changing driver’s licenses and barring mandatory union agency fees as a condition of work, sometimes called right to work. Martinez has made ending New Mexico’s practice of allowing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants one of her top priorities for five years. But she took a notable shift in her rhetoric about the issue in her comments at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque, saying for the first time that she’d support a two-tiered system that still allows driver’s permits for undocumented immigrants. “An illegal immigrant should not receive a driver’s license that looks like mine or yours,” Martinez said.
Following a memorial for those lost in the attacks of September 11, union members gathered for a press conference to address issues regarding first responders and collective bargaining. The union members gathered in a conference room in an Albuquerque hotel on Friday afternoon. At issue was a case set to go before the U.S. Supreme Court. Friedrichs v. California Teachers concerns whether union employees are required to pay “fair share.” These are payments from non-union personnel who would benefit from union bargaining. Public sector union members and their supporters have argued that first responders will suffer without a strong collective bargaining unit.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]BETTY PATTERSON is President of the National Education Association, New Mexico, a statewide union for educators.[/box]
Several of the Governor’s highest priorities for this recently completed legislative session were on education issues. We agree emphasizing public education is appropriate. It is the single issue with the greatest impact on New Mexico’s overall future: public education. We wonder why education is given short shrift in coverage of legislative outcomes. Promoters of the wrongly-labeled “right to work” bills distracted legislators from the important work at hand to improve our schools. If passed, it would have increased the impact of poverty on the readiness of many students to learn, and it would have lessened the impact of teachers and other educators when raising our collective voice on education issues. Teachers and other education professionals should be heard. We applaud legislative champions who defeated the “Right to Work” bill, and laud those who made strengthening public schools their top priority in the first session of the 52nd New Mexico State Legislature. If next year’s session is also distracted by such unneeded and harmful legislation, we will rise again. Elections have serious consequences; the loss of a pro-public education majority in the House meant a great deal of effort defeating other very bad ideas such as vouchers and a budget that falls short. The budget has no salary increase for school employees other than new teachers and merit pay for teachers tied to the highly-flawed PED evaluation system. When teachers compete with each other for higher test-score results this hurts students in many ways. These negative impacts are compounded when schools are also “graded” based on standardized tests. Unfortunately, the Merit Pay plan remains in the budget.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]MICHAEL PADILLA is a Democratic state senator representing District 14 (Bernalillo) and currently serves as the Majority Whip for New Mexico’s state senate.[/box]
The 2015 Legislative Session now has less than a week to finish all its work, but there is still plenty of time to address the most pressing need in New Mexico today: more jobs. Early in this 60-day meeting of the legislature, Senate Democrats laid out our priorities through an ambitious ‘Ready to Work’ Jobs Plan. The plan creates 73,000 jobs over the next five years and stimulates greater economic activity across New Mexico. The plan is comprised of more than 50 bills introduced in the current session that promise new employment and economic activity in urban and rural areas of the state, across a broad range of occupations. Our plan also meets two significant challenges.
A Senate committee blocked the passage of two right-to-work bills on Tuesday evening. The Senate Public Affairs Committee voted to table two different bills aimed at barring employers from requiring union payments as a term of employment and from unions and employers agreeing to ‘fair share’ agreements from non-union workers who benefit from union negotiations. The committee heard HB 75 from Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan, and SB 183 from Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington. Roch’s bill went through a series of highly-attended committee meetings in the House and a House floor vote. This was the first committee for Sharer’s bill.
A Senate committee heard public comment on a handful of bills related to labor unions on Sunday afternoon. The Senate Public Affairs Committee heard two hours of public testimony on three different right-to-work bills and another aimed at changing how unions with limited members operate. Three other bills that were presented in the committee have ‘Employee Preference’ in the title and propose to allow employees the choice to pay for union negotiations or not. While it is already illegal for employers to require union membership as a term of employment, some employees have to pay what is known as ‘fair share’. Those in favor of right-to-work legislation have argued that employees should be able to choose whether they pay the union for representation.
An effort to bypass the committee process for right-to-work legislation failed on a party-line vote in the Senate on Thursday afternoon. Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle asked to move the right-to-work legislation to a committee of the whole instead of going through the traditional committee process and the three committees to which it was assigned. The bill was ultimately assigned to the Senate Public Affairs Committee, Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. Republicans have complained that the right-to-work legislation has yet to be heard since passing the state House on a near-party-line vote. The chairman of the Senate Public Affairs Committee, Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, said that it would be heard on Sunday and invited all the Senators to attend.
A prominent business group in the state raised the possibility of a special session following this year’s 60-day legislative session. The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce made this statement in the nightly legislative news roundup sent out on Tuesday night. “The business community doesn’t like the idea of a special session any more the the Legislature,” a section of the newsletter read, “but if that means we finally get a fair hearing or fair shot at some of the public’s most important and most favored initiatives… we’re in.” New Mexico Political Report reached out to the governor’s office throughout Wednesday afternoon to see if any such discussions had been held.