The first day to prefile any legislation was December 15 of last year. What followed was a flurry of proposed legislation that ranged from raising the minimum to addressing the state’s long battle over driver’s licenses and who should or shouldn’t get one. Here’s a rundown on just a few key bills that were filed last month.
Increasing the minimum wage is a divisive subject. Republicans have opposed increases and Democrats have generally been in favor of a higher earning minimum wage.
This year, there are already two different bills that address the state’s minimum wage. It’s not uncommon for duplicate bills to come out of each of the houses chamber. One bill comes from the House and is sponsored by Reps. Luciano “Lucky” Varela, D-Santa Fe, and House Minority Whip Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D- Albuquerque.
House Bill 20 proposes an increase to $10.10 per hour with language that would allow for annual increases based on the consumer price index. In the Senate, Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, introduced a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $8.30 per hour. Sanchez’s bill does not include a possible future increase and also allows employers to pay trainees less for up to six months.
Republicans have said they support a smaller minimum wage increase.
Third Grade Retention
Holding students back who can’t read at grade-level by the third grade has been one of Susana Martinez’s top priorities since becoming governor. Democrats have largely been opposed to the legislation.
Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, is an educator and has long been a proponent of reading proficiency. Since 2013, Kernan has introduced a version of her Senate Bill 66 which would retain students who are not proficient in reading by the third grade.
This year her retention bill would require students to take remedial classes if they cannot read by kindergarten, first or second grades. If the student cannot read proficiently by third grade, the student would be retained and have to go through “intensive remediation.” A duplicate bill, House Bill 41, was filed on the House side by Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque.
Another Martinez priority has been repealing the law that allows undocumented immigrants to earn drivers licenses. With a federal mandate over identification looming over the state, many New Mexico lawmakers say that the state’s driver’s licenses need to be compliant with the federal government’s regulations.
Rep. Paul Pacheco, R-Albuquerque, has sponsored a bill that would establish a two-tiered system for driver’s licenses. House Bill 32 would create two different types of driver’s licenses. Some foreign nationals, depending on their immigration status, would be allowed a driver’s license that would be recognized by the state, but not by the federal government.
This would allow foreign nationals who are in the country legally to obtain a license without a social security number while New Mexico complies with the federal Real ID Act.
Right-to-work legislation is another divisive issue both across the state and the country. Republicans are generally in favor of it and Democrats are generally against it. Those in favor say labor unions should not require all employees to pay union dues. Those against right-to-work laws say labor unions are designed to help protect workers and their wages. Between the House and Senate, there are five right-to-work bills filed do far.
Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, filed two bills that would make it illegal for unions to require employees to pay dues. One bill is aimed at public employee unions and the other at private sector unions. Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan, and Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, filed duplicate legislation that resembles Rue’s bill regarding public employees. Roch also announced that he and other legislators filed legislation that would bar both public and private sector unions from requiring dues from employees.
Firearms Transfer Act
Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque, has sponsored legislation that would require background checks on certain gun sales or ownership transfers in New Mexico for each of the two past legislative sessions.
In 2013, HB 77 passed the House, which was then controlled by a Democratic majority, before dying in a Senate committee. Last year, Garcia’s HB 44 had a much shorter life span and never made it on to the House floor.
HB 11 — Sunday and Christmas Day Sales of Alcohol: McCamley (D)
Summary – Would allow alcohol to be sold on Sundays and Christmas Day between 7:00 a.m. and 2:00 a.m. for some establishments and between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. for others, the same hours as other days.
HB 27 – Employment of Former PRC Employees – Egolf (D)
Summary – Former Public Regulation Commission employees cannot hold a position with a regulated entity (this previously only applied to commissioners).
HB 33 Pipeline Safety Act Civil Penalties – McCamley (D)
Summary – Eliminates the maximum fine for pipeline safety infractions.
HB 37 Pregnant Worker Accommodation Act – Chasey (D)
Summary – Prevents employer discrimination against pregnant employees. Employers must provide adequate accommodations for pregnancy or childbirth.
HB 61 – Voting verification procedures – Smith (R)
Summary – Specifies acceptable forms of ID and voter verification; also for registration.
HB 62 – Voter registration info verification – Smith (R)
Summary – Would allow the Secretary of State to share voter information for the purposes of verifying voter lists.
SB 58 – Campaign Public Financing changes – Wirth (D)
Summary – Defines what a contribution is; lowers the dollar threshold from $500 to $100 to qualify for public finance. Prohibits public funds from uncontested races; changes the amount allowed for matching funds.
SB 94 – Industrial Hemp Farming Act – McSorley (D)
Summary – Would establish a process for growing hemp; would appropriate money for enforcement.[box]