Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez said he was disappointed that job creation bills weren’t a focus of the session, but still outlined a number of legislatives successes this year.
Overall, Sanchez said he believed the Senate did well this year.
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“We did the right thing for the people of the state of New Mexico and what is good for the people of the state of New Mexico,” Sanchez said when asked about wins or losses in the session.
“It’s not about winning or losing,” he said. “It’s about doing what is right.”
One of the main successes that Sanchez cited was a compromise on driver’s license legislation that will make New Mexico REAL ID compliant while still allowing those who cannot prove they are in the country legally to drive.
When it came to the main priority of House Republicans, and seemingly Gov. Susana Martinez, Sanchez said he felt that they addressed crime in the right way.
“We addressed the issue of a crime in a thoughtful way to protect against unintended consequences,” Sanchez said.
He cited the proposed constitutional amendment sponsored by Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, and Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, that would allow judges to keep those deemed dangerous in jail until they face trial. The compromise would also let those who would be held until trial only because they could not afford bond be released on their own recognizance.
He also cited legislation to increase penalties for DWI for an 8th or subsequent offense, making it punishable by 12 years in prison.
Of crime bills that passed the House, in some cases with wide bipartisan support, Sanchez said the Senate took the responsibility at looking closer at what they would do.
“What I think we did what the House failed to do is vet those bills properly,” Sanchez said, noting that the Senate has always been “the more deliberative” body.”
He also mentioned the bill increasing penalties for possession of child pornography, saying that the Senate introduced the exemption for sexting by older teenagers to make sure the bill could pass the chamber.
“This was a response to the strong concerns expressed by our committee members and the public,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said he wished that the governor had sent messages allowing the Legislature to discuss job creation bills, which he said are necessary because of the state’s high unemployment rate and stagnant economy.
“I really believe that we need to start concentrating on our small business people again,” Sanchez said. He noted a bill he introduced that would have earmarked some LEDA funding for small businesses.
On the floor shortly after adjourning sine die, Sanchez gave a somewhat nostalgic speech. When asked about it and if it meant he was not running again, Sanchez said he was collecting petitions to run again.
He mentioned that he knew some Senators would not be returning and mentioned Sens. Sue Wilson Beffort, R-Sandia Park, Carroll Leavell, R-Jal, and John Ryan, R-Albuquerque.
Leavell is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer and was not present for the final day of the session.