House rejects charter school moratorium in tie vote

The House on Thursday rejected a two-and-a-half-year moratorium on licensing new charter schools in New Mexico. Thirty-four House members voted to pass House Bill 46, which would have prohibited a chartering authority — the state or a local school district — from accepting or approving any new applications until Jan. 1, 2020. But 34 representatives also voted against it. In a tie vote, a bill fails.

House OKs bill calling for more disclosure in solar sales

Solar energy companies would have to provide more information about the cost and energy savings on residential solar systems under a bill that passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday night by a large bipartisan margin. The House voted 56-6 to pass House Bill 199, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Rodella, D-Española. The bill now goes to the Senate, which last week approved a similar measure, Senate Bill 210, sponsored by Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants. Rodella told fellow House members that most solar companies have not been a problem. “But a few bad actors ruin it for everyone,” she said.

House panel snubs out legal pot

Legal recreational marijuana won’t be coming to New Mexico anytime soon. The House Business and Industry Committee voted 9-1 on Monday to block a bill that would have legalized, taxed and regulated marijuana for adults over 21. The hearing lasted for more than two hours, but it became apparent during the debate that the measure would fail. The bill sponsor, Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Las Cruces, tried to persuade the committee by telling members that marijuana legalization in New Mexico is inevitable. “This is going to happen, whether it’s this year or 10 years from now,” McCamley said.

House panel approves NM ‘sanctuary’ bill

A state House of Representatives panel approved a bill to bar local law enforcement agencies in New Mexico from enforcing federal immigration laws. The bill, which according to a fiscal analysis would prohibit state resources from being used against anyone “whose only violation is being in the United States illegally,” passed on a party line 3-2 vote in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee. The two “no” votes came from state Reps. Monica Youngblood of Albuquerque and Bob Wooley of Roswell. Both are Republicans.

Internet sales tax receives bipartisan support

Republicans and Democrats on Monday threw their support behind a proposal to collect gross receipts tax from major internet retailers such as Amazon and eBay. Legislators have considered several similar proposals in recent years, but backers of House Bill 202 hope that the state’s budget crisis, a changing legal landscape and bipartisan support will send this measure to Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. She has steadfastly opposed all proposals to raise taxes. But other Republicans who have been similarly wary of anything that sounds like a tax increase said during a meeting of the House Business and Industry Committee that they see the bill as ensuring fairness for small businesses competing with internet companies that do not have to pay the state’s 5 percent gross receipts or local taxes. “It’s really just closing a loophole,” said Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque.

Education chief pushes change in teacher evaluations

State Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera said Monday she will push for legislation to reduce the amount of weight that student test scores play in teacher evaluations. Skandera’s announcement represents a step back — albeit a small one — from her long-running push to tie teacher effectiveness to student test scores. It received a mixed response from leaders of one state teachers’ union. Skandera said she is responding to input that the Public Education Department received during a statewide listening tour to solicit feedback on what the state can do to prepare for implementing the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act guidelines, which go into effect next summer. “We wanted to be responsive.

Partisan clash erupts over Legislature’s own spending

Passage of a “feed bill” to cover the costs of the New Mexico Legislature typically is a slam dunk, unanimously adopted as the first order of business at each annual lawmaking session in Santa Fe. But in an environment where partisanship can flare up in myriad ways, even that piece of legislation has become a battleground. Gov. Susana Martinez on Friday night vetoed funding for the Legislature, taking on Democratic lawmakers less than two weeks into a 60-day session so far dominated by debate over the state’s budget crisis. In a veto message, Martinez denounced Democrats for rejecting a proposal from Republicans in the state House of Representatives to reduce spending by the legislative branch at a time when other limbs of state government are being forced to get by with less. “Despite repeatedly declaring that we’re in a ‘constitutional budget crisis,’ the Senate and House Democrats continue to find ways to protect themselves and their budget — even as they have squeezed money out of other areas of government,” wrote Martinez, a Republican.

N.M. high school graduation rate up to 71%

New Mexico’s high school graduation rate rose to 71 percent in 2016, the highest percentage since the state began tracking four-year rates in 2008, Gov. Susana Martinez announced Monday. The rate jumped 2½ points from the previous year and increased in 48 of the state’s 89 school districts in 2016, including Albuquerque, Las Cruces, Rio Rancho and Santa Fe. “With more students graduating high school than ever before, New Mexico is better preparing our kids to enter the workforce, college and beyond,” Martinez said at a news conference at the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce. The governor used the occasion to again push her plan to end the practice of so-called social promotion — moving students forward to the next grade — for third graders who cannot read proficiently. The graduation rate for Santa Fe Public Schools in 2016 was 71 percent, up from 66.8 percent for the previous year.

House sends death penalty reinstatement to the Senate

After a three hour debate before the sun rose on Thursday morning, the House voted to bring the death penalty back to New Mexico on a narrow vote. The 36-30 party-line vote came after emotional testimony and debate, largely from Democrats. The proposal now heads to the Senate, though it appears very unlikely that the chamber will take up the effort before the end of the special session. Rep. Monica Youngblood, R-Albuquerque, introduced her bill by listing the five police officers who were killed while on duty in the last 18 months, then listing some of the children who were murdered in recent months. Her proposal would only apply, Youngblood said, “When a child is murdered, when a law enforcement officer is murdered or a corrections officer is murdered.”

The debate came after two hours of debate on an appeal by Democrats that the public was not given enough time ahead of time to be told the House would consider the bill.

Effort to bring back death penalty advances

A bill aimed at bringing back the death penalty in New Mexico passed the House Appropriations and Finance committee along party lines after five hours of scrutiny from skeptical Democratic lawmakers. Missing on Monday evening, when compared to a previous committee hearing on the subject,was the emotional and tearful testimony from families of victims of criminals. The House Appropriations and Committee’s contentious tone started from the very beginning when Chairman Larry Larry Larrañaga, R-Albuquerque, encouraged panel members to only speak about the fiscal aspects of the bill. Rep. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, called the request “inappropriate.”

“I’m going to call this for what it is,” Steinborn said. “A farce.”

The committee amended the bill to change controversial language, including removing the word “retarded” from the bill.