Although “hope springs eternal,” state Sen. John Arthur Smith isn’t optimistic a special session will happen this year. “As of noon today, we’ve gotten no feedback from the executive branch,” Smith, D-Deming, and a key negotiator to any deal that would bring legislators back to Santa Fe to pass a capital outlay bill, told New Mexico Political Report Wednesday afternoon. Smith said if legislators can’t strike a deal before a creeping deadline of Monday, May 18, all bets are pretty much off. That’s because New Mexico’s next fiscal year starts July 1, and bond sales for state infrastructure projects need 30 days to advertise before then. If the legislature approves a new capital outlay late, Smith said the state will lose bond capacity on new projects outlined in a deal.
The House got the message that a long-time lawmaker was not present because of medical reasons on Thursday morning. House Minority Floor Leader, Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, took a moment let lawmakers know that he had “some sad news.” Egolf said Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela, D-Santa Fe had not been around for a few days. He said Varela’s wife asked that Egolf let the body know that Varela would be going in for a “procedure” and that everyone keep him in their thoughts. Egolf did not say what procedure Varela would undergo. Varela will undergo the procedure Thursday night, according to a House Democratic spokesperson.
In a bit of unusual parliamentary debate, the Republican House majority voted to blast a bill out of committee, just one day after the chamber approved the committee assignment by unanimous consent. “What a difference a day makes,” Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Espanola, after the House approved changes to committees of several other bills. Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Logan, started the process to remove the bill from the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, which is also known as blasting. It would take a call of the House and over an hour of debate before the bill was blasted out of committee on a party-line 36-32 vote. The legislation in question was HB 41, a bill that would require any third grade student who could not read at grade-level by the end of the school year to repeat the third grade.
The first minimum wage bills of the session were quickly tabled in the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee by the Republican majority. There were two pieces of legislation, one by Rep. Lucky Varela, D-Santa Fe, and one by Rep. Miguel Garcia, D-Albuquerque. Each would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour but had different timetables for doing so. Both bills were tabled on a party-line vote with the four Republicans on the panel voting to table the legislation and the three Democrats on the panel voting against tabling. Garcia told New Mexico Political Report following the hearing that he was not surprised by the committee’s action.
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. Minimum Wage
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.