The Roundhouse, January 2011: Flanked by colorful bouquets, a pink and white corsage pinned to her dark blue suit, Gov. Susana Martinez invoked the blossoming of a new era for New Mexico in her first State of the State address. She was the nation’s first Latina governor, soon to be named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people. She had a plan for New Mexico and intended to execute it with a prosecutor’s precision. Her message: New Mexico was in a state of financial crisis. “No more shell games,” she announced to applause.
If state Sen. Bill Soules had his way, New Mexico would invest an extra $375 million in public schools right now. Where the cash-strapped state would find that money is another matter altogether. Soules, a Las Cruces Democrat, has once again introduced legislation calling for the state to follow the recommendation of a decadeold study and funnel hundreds of millions of dollars more into its public education system — one that generally ranks at or near the bottom in most national reports. But Soules’ bill doesn’t have a chance in the upcoming legislative session. And he knows it.
State legislators split along party lines Monday in advancing a proposed constitutional amendment that would use some of the $15 billion Land Grant Permanent Fund to help pay for early childhood education and other public education programs.
The House Education Committee voted 7-6 for a plan to fund pre-K programs with an extra 1 percent from the endowment. Democrats supported the measure and Republicans opposed it. “Fifteen-billion-plus dollars — that’s almost richer than Donald Trump,” said Rep. Christine Trujillo, D-Albuquerque, in voicing her support for the measure. Groups such as New Mexico Voices for Children have urged lawmakers for years to use a larger share of the money that flows into the $15 billion investment account from oil, gas and mineral extraction on state lands. The proposal, if approved by lawmakers this year and then by voters in the 2018 general election, would supply $39 million for early childhood education and another $91 million for K-12 public schools in 2020.
The word of the day on Saturday was ‘sweeps’ when it came to balancing the state budget. The House of Representatives voted 46-23 in favor of the bill that would ‘sweep,’ or transfer, money from other state accounts to pay for the state budget. The vote came shortly after the chamber passed the $6.3 billion state budget. Rep. Jimmie Hall, R-Albuquerque, described his bill as necessary to balance the budget, and said that the transfers were done in a prudent way. Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, called it, “”probably the toughest bill that there will ever be in the session.”
When the legislative session begins on Tuesday, Jan. 19, NM Political Report will be on hand for wall-to-wall coverage through adjournment at noon on Feb. 18. And, actually, legislation is already starting to be introduced. Pre-filing of legislation began on Dec.
The third time was the charm for archiving of webcasts of the House. A House rule change that would allow the archiving of House webcasts passed the House Appropriations and Finance Committee on Thursday afternoon on a unanimous vote. Legislative archiving of the webcasts is currently prohibited. The committee approved a version of the legislation that let the Legislative Council Service put archived webcasts online for up to five years. The committee was well acquainted with the rule change, as Thursday’s hearing was the third time Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, presented the bill to the committee.
Due to a shortage on Republican members, two House bills were sent into legislative limbo following tie votes in committee. One proposed a solution to truant students and the other would change how students can opt out of certain standardized tests. Both had tie votes on party lines, with Democrats supporting one and Republicans supporting the other. The House Education Committee heard from Rep. Jimmie Hall, R-Albuquerque, and Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard, D-Los Alamos. Hall presented HB 117 which would allow schools to work with the state’s Motor Vehicle Division in order to restrict driving privileges of some high school students.
A high profile bill to hold back third grade students who cannot read at grade level passed the House Education Committee on a party-line vote Tuesday morning. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, presented HB 41 along with her expert witness, Education Secretary-Designate Hanna Skandera. The proposed legislation would require school officials to closely monitor a student’s reading proficiency and retain them if it is not up to grade level by the third grade. Opponents of the bill addressed the committee with their concerns. A common sentiment among those who opposed the bill was that the focus needs to be on intervention and that retention is not the answer.